MOVE members Janet Holloway Africa and Janine Phillips Africa say the political climate and police brutality are worse today than when they went to prison 41 years ago.
“Even with all these cameras, all these pictures, all these situations with brothers and sisters being shot down in cold blood by cops, they still try to tell us, Oh, that didn’t happen,” Holloway Africa said.
The pair, members of the so-called MOVE 9, were released from state prison this weekend for the 1978 murder of Philadelphia Police Officer James Ramp during a shootout at MOVE’s Powelton Village compound.
During a news conference with other long-time MOVE members on Thursday, the women maintained their innocence and described the hardships they experienced in prison, including beatings, solitary confinement, and hunger strikes.
Holloway Africa and Phillips Africa said they remained committed to their family and the teachings of John Africa, the founder of MOVE, a Black liberation and back-to-nature group.
“We want to do what we’ve been doing: Working for what’s right, for life,” Phillips Africa said. “We’re not out here fighting cops. We don’t hate cops. We’re out here fighting for everybody.”
MOVE members Ramona Africa (the sole woman to escape the 1985 police bombing of MOVE’s rowhouse), Sue Levino Africa, Consuewella Dotson Africa, and Pam Africa were among those at the news conference held inside the office of the Philadelphia Student Union across from Malcolm X Memorial Park.
Holloway Africa and Phillips Africa were the latest members of the so-called MOVE 9 to be released from prison for the police slaying.
Another member is expected to be released anytime.
The state Board of Probation and Parole granted Edward Goodman Africa, 69, parole on April 1, according to state documents.
Goodman will be released the State Correctional Institution Phoenix in Montgomery County after he completes the requirements for his parole, such as developing a release plan.
Two MOVE 9 members died in prison: William Phillips, known as Phil Africa, in 2015 and Merle Austin Africa in 1998.
Chuck Sims Africa, 63, and Delbert Orr Africa, 67, remain in prison.
The state Board of Probation and Parole denied Charles Sims Africa parole in January; Orr’s last appearance before the board was in 2017, according to state documents.
The nine were sentenced to 30 to 100 years in prison.
Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5 spokesman Michael Neilon declined to comment about the release of the MOVE 9 members.
The news conference also featured a recorded statement from Mumia Abu-Jamal, the journalist and political activist who continues to fight his 1982 conviction for the killing of Philadelphia Police Officer Daniel Faulkner.
“For them, Philadelphia is surely not the City of Brotherly Love,” Abu-Jamal said during the two minute voice recording.
After their release from prison on Saturday, Holloway Africa and Phillips Africa have spent the week reconnecting with family and friends and getting their lives back together. The women were released on parole without any restrictions and were living outside of Philadelphia.
With friends and supporters in attendance, Phillips Africa said Thursday was a sort of homecoming for them.
“We’re finally getting to see everybody that has been supporting us for all of these years and working with our family for every single day of it,” she said.
Among those there was Larry Lane, a childhood friend of both Holloway Africa and Phillips Africa. A resident in North Philadelphia, he had not seen the women since they went to prison, but never lost hope they would be released.
“To have someone who grew up in your household and the first time you touch them in 41 years,” he said, “it’s a blessing that comes from God.”