Interview with Pam Africa & Ramona Africa
‘Freedom must take priority over everything’
Published Aug 21, 2008 11:22 PM
Two leading members of the Philadelphia-based MOVE organization, Pam Africa and
Ramona Africa, spoke at a public meeting in Detroit on Aug. 2 on the continuing
efforts to free Mumia Abu-Jamal and the MOVE 9.
This public event, held at the Dr. Charles H. Wright Museum of African American
History, was initiated by the Michigan Emergency Committee Against War &
Injustice and was co-sponsored by several other organizations, including the
Detroit Green Party, Detroit Solidarity and the Detroit Coalition Against
Police Brutality, and Bishop Thomas Gumbleton of the Archdiocese of the
Pam Africa, representing MOVE and the International Concerned Family and
Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal, has been leading the global struggle in support of
the award-winning journalist, who was a founding member of the Black Panther
Party in Philadelphia. Abu-Jamal has been a staunch supporter of MOVE since the
Abu-Jamal has been on death row since 1982 after he was falsely accused of and
railroaded for the murder of Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner in
December 1981. Since 1995 there have been two death warrants, signed by former
Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge, for the execution of Abu-Jamal. Only
international mass outrage forced a stay, keeping Mumia Abu-Jamal alive over
Two recent federal appeals court decisions in the Third Circuit denied Mumia a
new trial and a rehearing by the full panel. That consequently upheld a 2001
federal ruling that vacated the death penalty and sentenced Jamal to life in
prison without parole. Despite the 2001 ruling, Jamal remains on death row.
Ramona Africa spoke on recent developments involving the denial of parole to
the MOVE 9, who have been incarcerated since Aug. 8, 1978, when MOVE family
members were attacked at their Powelton Village home by hundreds of
During the assault on the MOVE residence, an officer, James Ramp, was killed.
The evidence presented during their trial could not prove that any of the MOVE
9 defendants fired the shot that killed the policeman.
Earlier this year the nine political prisoners were denied parole after serving
their minimum terms for the 30- to 100-year sentences handed down after their
The Aug. 2 meeting was chaired by Andrea Egypt and Kevin Carey of MECAWI.
Solidarity statements were delivered by Derrick Grigsby, co-chair of the
Detroit Green Party and candidate for State Representative in the 7th District,
and Diane Feeley, a veteran labor activist and representative of Detroit
Additional comments were made by Roberto Guzman on the plight of the Cuban 5,
Cuban nationals currently serving long sentences in the United States for their
attempts to prevent terrorist attacks on Cuba by CIA-backed
counter-revolutionary organizations based in Florida.
Sandra Hines of the Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality and MECAWI spoke
on the status of Rev. Edward Pinkney of Benton Harbor, who is currently serving
a 3- to 10- year sentence in Michigan for defense of working-class and poor
African Americans in Berrien County.
Roderick Casey of Ypsilanti spoke for the Committee for Correctional and
Judicial Reform on the need for representative juries in the state of Michigan.
Casey was beaten, arrested and sentenced to 75 days in jail for protesting his
treatment in an emergency room hospital.
Interview with Pam and Ramona Africa
During the Africas’ visit to Detroit, this writer sat down with them to
discuss various aspects of their organizations’ work as well as important
episodes in their own personal development:
Abayomi Azikiwe: What should people know about the case
against the MOVE 9?
Ramona Africa: MOVE people who were in the Powelton Village
residence on Aug. 8, 1978, are totally innocent. There were nine people charged
and convicted in the killing of one cop. How can nine people be responsible for
firing one gun? More importantly, the bullet that struck the cop was fired in a
downward trajectory. All our family members were in the basement of the
AA: What excuse did the parole board give for not releasing
the MOVE 9 this spring?
RA: They did their minimum sentences. This year they were
asked to admit guilt. They refused to admit guilt because they are not
responsible for the death of the officer. Guilt or innocence is not the issue.
Neither is the serious nature of the crime because this was taken into
consideration at the time the sentences were handed down.
This reminds me of my case when the Philadelphia police bombed our
family’s home on May 13, 1985. Eleven people were killed, including
children. The entire neighborhood was burned to the ground because the fire
marshal ordered the department not to put out the flames.
I was charged with riot and assault. I was in my own home, minding my own
business, yet I was charged with riot. I was convicted and given 16 months to
seven years in prison. They told me after 16 months that if I severed all ties
with MOVE I could go. I told them to go to hell. Freedom must take priority
over everything. I would prefer to do other things, but it is not an
Not being a revolutionary will never protect you. Amadou Diallo was not a
revolutionary, but he was still victimized. So if you are getting oppressed
anyway, you should fight back. This is the only way we can beat the oppressors
back. The important thing to do is to contribute whatever you can to the
AA: Pam, what is the status of the struggle to free Mumia
Pam Africa: We are continuing to put out information on the
case. Mumia is in his last phase of appeals. The Third Circuit Court of Appeals
decided not to follow the law when they denied Mumia a new trial. There was a
vote where the majority decided to rule against Mumia. What is right is right.
It has nothing to do with a vote. Then an appeal for a rehearing before the
entire panel was denied.
However, we will continue to rely on the people throughout the world. John
Africa, the coordinator of MOVE, told us in 1981 that the case of Mumia
Abu-Jamal would one day be known all over the world. We have been able to stop
several attempts to kill Mumia. Even Judge Albert Sabo, who was known for not
granting stays of execution, was forced to do so in August of 1995 because of
mass demonstrations throughout the world in support of Mumia.
By denying Mumia his freedom or a new trial, they are attempting to place him
in prison for life without the possibility of parole. This is totally
unacceptable. Mumia is innocent and must be released.
Our schedule is full with work in support of Mumia’s freedom. In the next
few weeks we will be traveling to Washington, D.C., Ohio, Denver and Mexico
We have to put out our own information through newspapers, leaflets and
meetings like this. The media does not speak for us. Before I came into MOVE, I
lived down the street from them in Philadelphia. I saw the good work they did
and the nice people they were. Yet I choose to believe what I saw on television
and read in the papers, which told lies about the organization, saying they
were bad for the community.
It was the example set by John Africa and MOVE that brought me around the
organization. We are still here despite all the efforts to lock us up and kill
our family members.
We have been with Mumia from the time he was a journalist in Philadelphia. We
were there when he was almost killed by the police, and we were the first to
build support for his freedom. And we are still working on his case today.
Abayomi Azikiwe is the editor of the Pan-African News Wire. PANW articles have
appeared in publications and websites throughout the world.
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