RIP Delbert Africa, MOVE Member and Former Political Prisoner

Published June 17, 2020

RIP Delbert Africa, MOVE Member and Former Political Prisoner

Delbert Africa, a longtime member of the black revolutionary group MOVE, who was released from prison in January after spending 41 years as a political prisoner, has passed away.

Africa, 73, died at home in Philadelphia surrounded by “the family,” Pam Africa, a MOVE member, said Tuesday.

Delbert Africa died from cancer, said Pam Africa, who noted that he had been living in a prison hospital before his release.

“He will be remembered as a freedom fighter, an activist. An uncompromising, revolutionary, freedom fighter who fought for the lives of all,” she said. “When he came out, that’s how he came out. As strong as he was, mentally.”

Delbert Africa was one of nine MOVE members imprisoned in 1978, following a shootout with police, who were attempting to invade the MOVE compound in Philadelphia. One pig was killed in the shootout. After being released in January, he said he was looking forward to reuniting with the surviving MOVE members to continue the work of challenging the unjust criminal justice system.

“I want to keep on pushing the whole front of fighting this unjust system. I want to keep on pushing it and do as much as I can in my time here,” he said.

MOVE was created in 1972 by West Philadelphia native John Africa, whose ideology centered on black revolutionary ideas and environmental issues. The dozens of members lived communally and militantly defended their anti-government beliefs, while taking on issues ranging from police brutality to animal rights.

In 1978, police, threatened by the MOVE’s revolutionary ideology, raided MOVE’s Powelton Village home.

Firefighters flushed the house with fire hoses, and police violently removed people. In the end, one shot killed Officer James Ramp. Eighteen police officers and firefighters were hurt.

Delbert Africa maintained that he did not fire a gun the day of the raid and was charged with third-degree murder and eventually sentenced to 30 to 100 years in state prison because he was a MOVE member.

After surrendering with his arms outstretched, a moment captured in a harrowing black-and-white Philadelphia Inquirer photograph, he was beaten by police officers, he recalled after being released from prison in January.

“I’m unconscious, and that’s when one cop pulled me by the hair across the street, one cop started jumping on my head, one started kicking me in the ribs and beating me,” he said. “Their excuse later on is they thought I was armed. I was naked from the waist up.”

He added: “Nothing could have been done differently to stop and curtail that assault by the police on us. It wouldn’t have stopped.”

On May 13, 1985, in one of the most barbaric attacks against revolutionaries by America’s pig forces, the Philadelphia mayor and police chief ordered a helicopter to drop a bomb over the MOVE house, leaving 11 people dead, including John Africa, as well as Delbert Africa’s 13-year-old daughter. In addition, 61 homes were destroyed by the bombing and the resulting fire and the incident became international news.

Pam Africa said that while Delbert Africa had less than six months of freedom at the end of his life, it was time well spent.

“He had a full six months on the street, because he was very well loved by everyone. When he was in the hospital, people wrote him letters. When he came home from the hospital he came with letters from doctors and nurses. They knew who he was. He was respected,” she said.