My Philadelphia Story: Ramona Africa

MOVE member, survivor of the May 13, 1985, bombing; 49; West Philadelphia

My friends call me Mona.

I was a Temple political science major, intending to go to law school, when I met John Africa, the founder of MOVE.

We have many members, but I’m not going to put out specific numbers for security reasons.

MOVE was founded on a simple principle: the respect and protection of life and actively opposing anything that exploits, enslaves, poisons, murders or harms it.

Wait a minute. You called me a Philadelphian. I’m not a Philadelphian. I can’t feel allegiance to this city.

I live at 45th and Kingsessing, the headquarters of MOVE. I’ve been there since I was released from prison in 1992.

I eat a lot of raw foods. Cooked foods is an addiction.

I travel a lot. I’ve been all over Italy, Germany, France, Belgium. I’ve been to England, South America, Spain. … I’ve spoken at Harvard, UCLA, Vassar.

I have never been to Africa.

If you want to know what schools pay for speeches, ask people like Bill Clinton. … They pay these astronomical fees to people that don’t need it.

People talked about Bill Clinton, that he was the great liberal hope. Meanwhile, while he was campaigning, he ran back to Arkansas to make sure that a man was executed. A man that had mental problems. So how is he different from Bush? People get fooled by personalities.

This government tried to give the impression that May 13th happened because of complaints from neighbors. … When did this government become so concerned about black people complaining about their neighbors?

We take our kids to the park, if it’s a nice day. We are revolutionaries, but we still laugh, we get together as a family and talk and have fun.
I was burned severely on my arms, my legs, my back. To this day, people have told me that I could get cosmetic surgery. But I don’t want that. I want to be reminded of what was done to me.

People confuse violence with self-defense. If you are ­attacked and you don’t defend yourself, you’re endorsing the ultimate form of violence, which is masochism, suicide.

Most people know me by sight. I go to the market — ­usually the Pathmark on Grays Ferry — to shop for food. And people are surprised that I go out food-shopping. They’re shocked that I answer my phone. But I don’t have a maid.

I was awarded $500,000 from the City of Philadelphia. Eleven of my family members were murdered, the government dropped a bomb on me, took deliberate aim and shot at me. And that’s worth $500,000? People get awarded millions just for spilling hot coffee on themselves.

I watch some television, but we’re a serious revolutionary organization, and I’m not interested in telling people about some TV show.

Yeah, it’s fair to say that Law & Order’s not high on my list.

I do not own a gun.

The government killed [former MOVE associate] John ­Gilbride. Didn’t no ordinary person do that. It had the stench of special operations. Maple Shade, New Jersey? At that time? Nobody heard anything? It’s unbelievable. That’s if he’s dead.

Mayor Goode? I haven’t spoken with him. NPR wanted
to do a radio program with us. But he would not do
a show with me.

My only regret in life is that I was not born into MOVE.

We are not looking for justice from the system that caused this situation, but … when the vibration you put out is right and strong and good, that’s what you get back. And when it’s wrong and weak and sick, that’s what you get back. Nobody gets away with anything.