Black Liberation Activist Freed After 40 Years in Prison
“It is a beautiful day,” his wife, Debbie Sims Africa said. She was the first member of the Move Nine group to be released on parole last year.
“It’s kind of surreal that I’m sitting on the porch with my son and his family — my wife is here,” Mike Africa Sr. told teleSUR. “A couple of hours ago I was sitting in a jail cell. I’m just trying to take it all in and get my bearings.”
Move, based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S., was founded in 1972 in resistance to police brutality and environmental destruction. Nine members were arrested in 1978 during a police raid, becoming known as the Move Nine.
“I feel like I´m in an out of body experience right now,” his son, Mike Africa Jr. told teleSUR. “I was never really 100 percent sure (he was being released) until he was actually in my car going home.”
The written decision from the board states that Mikel Africa Sr. was granted parole due to good behavior and the “positive recommendation made by the Department of Corrections,” his “demonstrated motivation for success” and his “acceptance of responsibility for the offense(s) committed,” local paper The Philadelphia Tribune reports.
“The example just speaks for itself,” Mike Africa’s wife, Debbie Sims Africa told teleSUR of her husband’s release. “Everything that our family has worked so hard for … we’re home — or two of us are home, at least.”
Their arrest took place during a police raid on the Move organization’s headquarters in Powelton Village. The order came from the mayor at the time, Frank Rizzo, who was the former police commissioner.
A police officer, James J. Ramp, was shot and killed during the siege. All Move Nine members arrested were charged with third-degree murder and conspiracy. However, there was a notable absence of evidence linking any of them to the shooting.
Sims Africa was pregnant with her son and had a 23-month-old-daughter a the time. She gave birth to Mike Africa Jr. in a prison cell in 1978. The two were separated when he was a week old. They were reunited last year after nearly four decades. Today, her husband joins them.
Sims Africa was 22 years old when she, her husband, and seven others were arrested. Her release last year, the result of a 10-year campaign to free her and other Move Nine members, was seen as a breakthrough moment for those who were incarcerated during the Black liberation movement in the U.S.
Seven years after their arrest, police bombed the Move headquarters on May 13, 1985. In the attack, 13 people died including five children. More than 250 people were rendered homeless and 60 homes destroyed. It was the first and only time an aerial bombing was carried out domestically by U.S. police.
Five members remain in prison, including Delbert Orr Africa, Eddie Africa as well as Janine and Janet Africa, who were both up for parole at the same time as Debbie Sims Africa but were denied.
Two members died while incarcerated, Merle Africa in 1998 and Phil Africa in 2015. Chuck Africa is expected to be up for parole in November. “We’re hoping he gets the same result and we’re putting forth the same effort,” Mike Africa Sr. said.
All participants of the group have assumed the last name Africa as a mark of unity.
The family, together for the first time in 40 years, plans to move and dedicate their time to community-focused programs, such as the Seed of Wisdom foundation started by their son to promote healthy lifestyle choices for children and the teachings of John Africa, the founder of Move.
“John Africa’s revolution is still going on and it’s just going to continue to go on and little by little it’s still happening. There’s still a lot of work to be done and we intend to move forward with it,” Debbie Africa said.