One of Us: Ramona Africa, MOVE Member

On the 30th anniversary of the MOVE bombing, its sole adult survivor talks about the events of that day, her Catholic-school upbringing and Liam Neeson.

Illustration by Andy Friedman

Illustration by Andy Friedman

My name is … Ramona Africa. My mother named me Ramona, and Africa comes from my membership in MOVE. It symbolizes the origin of life, which is, of course, Africa.

I am a … committed revolutionary, which is not synonymous with violence in any way. It’s a commitment to putting things right.

I grew up in … West Philadelphia. I’ve lived in Philadelphia all my life. Now I live in Southwest Philadelphia.

My neighbors … love us. My brothers and sisters do work for them. We’re good neighbors. We cut their grass. We shovel their walkways.

On Primary Day this month … I will continue to do what I’ve always done: not pay attention. I haven’t voted in more than 35 years. People vote in all these elections and what has it gotten them?

I went to high school … at West Philadelphia Catholic Girls’ High at 45th and Chestnut. I went to Catholic school all of my life, and I think it had quite a bit to do with who I became. I went there for the better academic education, but what affected me most was the racism and the so-called discipline.

The thing most people get wrong about MOVE … is that we demand that people believe as we believe.

To support myself these days … I lecture, especially at the universities, because they have the funds to pay.

The furthest I have ever been from Philadelphia … is Morocco and all over Europe. In March I went to Geneva to the U.N., to speak out about human rights.

I get around … using public transportation. I don’t drive. It’s too nerve-racking.

People who think MOVE is a cult … don’t understand what a cult is. If MOVE is a cult, then God is our cult leader. We believe in everything that God stands for.

I wear my hair this way … because it’s the way Mother Nature intended. I don’t do anything to it. Even an Afro is not natural, because you have to pick that Afro out. I don’t need a pick, comb, brush. None of that.

When I look at the kids in Philadelphia today … I feel sorry for them, because they have absolutely no direction or guidance at all. They are chasing something they will never be able to catch up with, no matter how much money they end up making.

This year I will turn … 60. I love that I made it.

The most beautiful place in Philadelphia is … the parks — certain parts of Fairmount Park, Valley Green and the Wissahickon. Definitely not the urban areas.

When people tell me to run for public office … I say no way. I don’t want to be in a position to make decisions for people. People need to make their own decisions. You see how these presidents age? No person is meant to carry that weight.

Other than raw foods, I like to eat … chocolate. But mostly I eat eggs, yams and greens.

My most vivid memory from May 13, 1985 … is the children hollering that they were coming out and being met with gunfire.

When I want to relax … I listen to music. R&B, jazz, classical rock. I like to go to the movies. The last one I went to was Non-Stop, with Liam Neeson. It was great. Action-packed.

I have never had kids because … it just wasn’t in the cards. But I would love to have children of my own.

My tombstone should read … “freedom fighter.”