MOVE Philosophy Lives On In Survivor
(I have been a fan of Brian Hickeys writing for years and I was very happy to hear that he wanted to interview me for this piece he was writing on MOVE. Please check out his website at brianphickey.com)
MOVE Philosophy Lives On In Survivor
(From Philly Metro)
Last Tuesday, I left my house with a BlackBerry, digital camcorder and iPod. The irony? For the 25th anniversary of Ramona and Birdie Africa being the lone survivors at 6221 Osage Ave., I was heading downtown to discuss the tenets of MOVE, specifically their anti-technology platform, with Ramona.
From any perspective, May 13, 1985 remains complex and troublingly incendiary. But, I wasn’t going to let that anti-technology reality get lost amid a deluge of blame-assigning stories re-chronicling how Mayor Wilson Goode dropped a bomb, police officers’ bullets sentenced some of Ramona’s “family” to death by flame and torched homes were so shoddily rebuilt that fissures are still tangible today. While the items in my pockets betrayed the sentiment, I agreed that many people are more consumed by electronic trinkets than concern for their fellow man. That philosophy feels prophetic today.
“We had, have, a strong belief in life, not technology, and that’s in direct conflict with a system that doesn’t care about life at all,” she said. “Their god is money. That’s all they care about. Our work now is to encourage people who were conditioned by the system to come back to valuing life. That’s why they felt threatened enough to try to exterminate MOVE. They always dismissed us as crazies because they have no defense against the principles of John Africa.”
The intense hour-long conversation veered from nameless enemies, terrorism, cancer and asthma being caused by greed-governed polluters and a manipulated media to cop-killing crime scenes being demolished within hours of death (she says to keep the MOVE 9 in prison since ’78) and the need for revolution. Is it crazy to see traces of MOVE in the Tea Party movement? I think not.
All of this isn’t to say that Ramona can spurn technology: “We’ll use any means available, whatever it takes to spread our message.” She just doesn’t respect its unchecked omnipresence; she says it’s emblematic of why she’s leery about a nation’s uncertain future.
“It’s gotten frustrating that people won’t rise up and take a stand. There are people out there (including cops) who want to do good things, but it doesn’t take long to figure out that they’re not allowed to,” says Ramona, who held a press conference today yesterday at Friends Center. “We just won’t let the system force beliefs on us and they’re not going to stop until the people make them stop.”
One former MOVE member still working for change
Former MOVE member Tony Allen now calls himself “a cult-buster” dedicated to keeping the memory of slain MOVE-ite John Gilbride alive and drawing attention to the “dangerous sect” via antimove.blogspot.com. He talks to Metro about his MOVE life and afterlife.
What was the “good” MOVE life like?
There was a strong familial aspect, hugs, encouragement, kindness,
people concerned about your problems. What MOVE tried to be was a
replacement traditional family.
And “bad” MOVE life?
The whole thing was to break bonds with society and replace it with
bonds to them. The ideal they held up was you’re completely dependent
upon the group. There’s nothing on the outside at all; the only truth
is the truth of (founder) John Africa, anything else is a falsity.
They break you down and build you back up in their image of what a
person should be for the group’s benefit, not the individual’s.
It was a means to an end, though. The leaders of the group now
embrace, in totality, the lifestyle they claim to abhor.
Why did you leave?
I got involved through the Mumia issue. In the mid-90s,
minute-by-minute, day-by-day, I became enmeshed in that life. You
don’t look at it as different … but one day you just wake up said say,
‘I have some wacked out ideas’ so you step back and look at it.
I was moving away from them for some time, but the big issue was when
John Gilbride was killed. (The MOVE member/ ex-husband of Alberta
Africa with whom he was in a nasty custody battle, was slain
execution-style outside his Maple Shade, NJ apartment in 2002. The
case remains unsolved). From the moment I heard that, I knew things
were bad, and the only thing that made sense was that it was MOVE.
That was hard to deal with.
I was subtle (in distancing myself), got in touch with a reporter (and
shared my story publicly in 2004). There were some thinly-veiled
threats, “You never know who’s going to get it next.” But every time,
I put it out publicly. I had their whole email list.
What will you be thinking about on May 13, 2010?
The kids that died. That’s so tragic. They weren’t MOVE members, just
little kids who became victims. What the neighbors went through. How
sick people in MOVE were to think what they were doing was right. It’s
an amazing waste of human potential; there are some smart people, but
they’re just wasting away. What a complete waste.