For the better part of the last three weeks, members of the Black liberation group MOVE and their sympathizers expressed a growing concern over their inability to speak with sickly member Delbert Africa after he was transferred from SCI Dallas to a nearby hospital.
Those fears were somewhat put to rest on Friday when MOVE members Carlos Africa and William Africa spent two hours with Delbert Africa, 68, in a visiting room at the prison. The two were part of a group of about 30 MOVE members and sympathizers who made a trip to the Luzerne County prison on Friday to demand to see him.
“We just wanted to put eyes on him and speak with him,” Carlos Africa said. “He’s weak. He’s got a lot of tubes hooked up to him and his legs are swollen because he’s having kidney issues. He’s got a long way to go. But for some reason, the prison had been keeping us in the dark about his health.”
Delbert Africa is one of nine MOVE members sentenced in the August 1978 shooting death of Philadelphia police officer James Ramp during a shootout between MOVE and police.
Janine Africa, who was released from prison earlier this year after serving 41 years in connection with Ramp’s shooting, said that officials at SCI Dallas stopped communicating with MOVE members on or about July 24. A week later, MOVE members were notified that Delbert was being transferred to nearby Geisinger Medical Center to receive treatment. He returned to SCI Dallas on Wednesday.
“They would not tell any of us where he was and how he was doing,” Janine Africa said. “We know now that he is back at SCI Dallas. But we haven’t seen his medical records yet and that’s a problem.”
Carlos Africa said SCI Dallas can release the medical records only to next of kin, and none of the MOVE members are related to Delbert Africa by blood or marriage. Delbert Africa’s daughter, Yvonne Orr, lives in Chicago and is scheduled to visit her father this weekend, Carlos Africa said.
A spokesperson at SCI Dallas would not comment on the situation other than to say, “His counsel is in touch with our counsel and they are communicating at this time.”
MOVE members are suspicious of SCI Dallas because fellow member Phil Africa, who was born William Phillips and married to Janine Africa, died at the prison in January 2015. He had been treated at a nearby hospital and died shortly after his return to the prison. He was 59 at the time and the cause of death was listed as natural causes.
“His death was not natural,” Pam Africa said of Phil Africa. “This was an example of how the system hates MOVE and will do anything to try to stop MOVE.”
Merle Africa, also one of the MOVE 9, died under similar circumstances in 1998 while he was being held at SCI Muncy. He was 47.
Another reason for suspicion, Janine Africa said, is that Delbert Africa is scheduled to appear before the Pennsylvania Parole Board next month.
Delbert Africa and Chuck Africa are the only remaining members of the MOVE 9 still in jail for their role in Ramp’s death. The other four living members have been released.