Thursday, December 15, 2016

Who is John Africa?

Who is John Africa?
In watching the documentaries “Let the fire Burn” (LTFB) and “The Bombing of Osage Avenue” (BOA). I was moved by the injustice of the bombing woman and children. I was appalled at the overt racism of the Philadelphia Police department. Both documentaries displayed the grotesque racism of the Mayors and Government administrations. Understanding the historical racism against the black community, one topic I found missing in both films was: Who is John Africa?
Both documentaries make a cursory mention of John Africa, the founder of the MOVE movement. They both cover the fact that he was killed during the May 13th bombing of the MOVE headquarters on Osage Avenue in Philadelphia. Both go into historical conflicts MOVE has had with authorities. LTFB briefly mentions the fact that John Africa on July 23, 1981, in the Philadelphia federal court was tried and acquitted on weapons and conspiracy charges.
Let’s look at that again. John Africa beating a federal gun charge while acting as your own attorney? John Africa versus the federal prosecutor, who has unlimited resources, by himself, as he sits in jail and winning? This is about all that is said in both documentaries regarding John Africa. Considering this supposedly illiterate street person, who authored a manifesto on how the black man can rise out of poverty, create self-reliance, and inspire scores of followers, willing to die for him, I think there is more to know about John Africa.
Describing John Africa as I have reminds us of other compelling but tragic leaders in history; Jim Jones, Joseph Smith, Marshall Applewhite, David Koresh, Shoko Asahara, Joseph Di Mambro & Luc Jouret and L. Ron Hubbard (add to the list Jesus Christ?). We know a lot more about this list than we do John Africa. Why is that? Is it because he is black?
Like Joseph Smith before him, John Africa too dictated his teaching to be recorded. Joseph Smith narrated to his neighbor Martin Harris. John Africa’s words were transcribed and consolidated into a 300 word manifesto, in the course of one year, by a young, white social worker, Donald Glassey. These writing were called “The Guidelines” and were the founding precepts of the MOVE movement, which began in 1972.
Neither documentary covers the period of time from MOVE’s founding, till their first run-in with the law in 1978. In this time, John Africa build a loyal, educated following, became politically active and participated in demonstrations against racism and police brutality, among other issues. In 1978 when the story does start, the MOVE member have already been targets of discrimination, racism and abuse, attributing their sense of paranoia and confrontation. With their belief in natural clothing and grooming, the MOVE members and children were pretty haggard looking, so we are introduced to this ragtag looking group of dirty, scary black folks wearing dreadlocks, exercising, loudly, their First Amendment right of Freedom of Religion(5). With a primarily white and Christian police force, they were bound for the inevitable confrontation.
 What is shown in both documentaries is the lone female survivor of the bombing, Ramona Africa, and John Africa’s sister, Laverne Sims, whom provide testimony and witness during interviews and hearings. Both women are very intense, articulate women. Where did they learn that? Was that learned from John Africa? What influence did John Africa have on these women’s lives? It would seem to be significant at least.
The documentaries make no effort to explain or understand the history and education of these woman at all. It would have been much more revealing had the interviewers asked the women, “Who was John Africa?” Each must have had an insightful and compelling story to tell of the life and times of John Africa. I would have like to hear that.
If we look at the influence of some of the Utopian cult leaders on my list above, the amount of available information on John Africa is next to nothing. I’ve attached the “Belief and Practices” of the MOVE organization from their website. I cannot find any reprint of the contents of “The Guidelines”.
In contrast the published works of Joseph Smith, “The Book of Mormon” is has been printed “over one hundred and fifty million copies (Romig)”.  By comparison, The Bible (versions inclusive), ~5 to 6 billion copies, “Quotations from Chairman Mao Zedong”, Mao Zedong, 900 million and “The Qur'an”, 800 million copies. L. Ron Hubbard’s “Dianetics” comes in at 20 million reprints. I’m not suggesting the writing of John Africa are on par with this list, however I am pointing out that I have no ability to make that comparison as this work is not readily available to examine and research.
I propose that the producers of the documentaries are guilty of the same systemic racism they are trying to document. Do they dare even attempt to understand John Africa with a simple objective analysis? I learned nothing of John Africa – the man, in these documentaries.
History has shown that strong black leader have always met violent ends. Malcom X being executed by the Nation of Islam on February 21st in the Audubon Ballroom in New York City. Martin Luther King being executed by James Earl Ray as he stood on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis on April 4th, 1968.
History does record the execution of John Africa on 6221 Osage Avenue in Philadelphia on May 13th, 1985, with the same reverence Malcom or Martin, but should it?
Who is John Africa?  – I don’t know, but I think it would make one hell of a documentary. One that “Let the Fires Burn” and “The Bombing of Osage Avenue” failed to tell.

Works Cited:
1-      MOVE Web Site:
2-      "Hoover and the F.B.I.". Luna Ray Films, LLC. Retrieved January 24, 2013.
3-      MOVE Bombing at 30: “Barbaric” 1985 Police Attack killed 11 & burned a Neighborhood
4-      Romig, Rollo - New Yorker, Feb 2015. “In Search of the Great American Bible”. URL:
5-      First Amendment of the United States Constitution, 1776. “Amendment I -
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

Attachment: MOVE: Belief and Practice
The MOVE Organization is a family of strong, serious, deeply committed revolutionaries founded by a wise, perceptive, strategically minded Black man named JOHN AFRICA. The principle of our belief is explained in a collection of writings we call “The Guidelines,” authored by JOHN AFRICA. To honor our beloved Founder, and acknowledge the wisdom and strength He has given us, we say “LONG LIVE JOHN AFRICA!”
JOHN AFRICA taught us that Life is the priority. Nothing is more important or as important as Life, the force that keeps us alive. All life comes from one source, from God, MOM NATURE, MOMA. Each individual life is dependent on every other life, and all life has a purpose, so all living beings, things that move, are equally important, whether they are human beings, dogs, birds, fish, trees, ants, weeds, rivers, wind or rain. To stay healthy and strong, life must have clean air, clear water and pure food. If derived of these things, life will cycle to the next level, or as the system says, “die.”
We believe in Natural Law, the government of self. Man-made laws are not really laws, because they don’t apply equally to everyone and they contain exceptions and loopholes. Man-made laws are constantly being amended or repealed. Natural Law stays the same and always has. Man’s laws require police, sheriffs, armies, and courts to enforce them, and lawyers to explain them. True law is self-explanatory and self-enforcing. In the undisturbed jungles, oceans, and deserts of the world, there are no courtrooms or jails. The animals and plants don’t need them. No living being has to consult a law book to be able to know if they have to cough, sneeze, or urinate. Natural Law says that when you see something getting too close to your eye, you will blink, whether you are a German shepherd or a Supreme Court Justice.
All living things instinctively defend themselves. This is a God-given right of all life. If a man goes into a bear’s cave, he violates and threatens the bear’s place of security. The bear will defend his home by instinctively fighting off the man and eliminating him. The bear is not wrong, because self defense is right.
The fact that something is legal under the system’s laws, doesn’t make it right. Slavery was legal. Killing Native Americans and stealing their land was all done legally. JOHN AFRICA taught us that what is right applies equally, across the board. If something is right, it’s right for all of life, with no separations.
We don’t believe in this reform world system – the government, the military, industry and big business. They have historically abused, raped and bartered life for the sake of money. These rulers and policy makers don’t care who they kill, enslave, cripple, poison or disease in their quest for money. They have made material wealth a priority over life. Marvels of science and technological so-called advancements all stem from the system’s greed for money and disrespect for life. But a person who is suffocating or drowning doesn’t call out for diamonds, gold, or wads of money. The person will do all in their power for a breath of air, because air is a necessity and money is worthless. Over the last century, industry has raped the earth of countless tons of minerals, bled billions of gallons of oil from the ground, and enslaved millions of people to manufacture cars, trucks, planes and trains that further pollute the air with their use. And because of the billions of dollars in profits to be made, the system will favor artificial transportation over the legs and feet Mama gave us to walk and run with. Big business and industry are responsible for the mass production and mass marketing of cigarettes, alcohol, and drugs, which are used to extract further profits from people while keeping them sick and addicted. Politicians are put in place to legalize, endorse, and protect industry and big business, therefore we don’t believe in politics at all.
MOVE’s work is revolution. JOHN AFRICA’s revolution, a revolution to stop man’s system from imposing on life, to stop industry from poisoning the air, water, and soil and to put an end to the enslavement of all life. Our work is to show people how rotten and enslaving this system is and that the system is the cause of homelessness, unemployment, drug addiction, alcoholism, racism, domestic abuse, AIDS, crime, war, all the problems of the world. We are working to demonstrate that people not only can fight this system, they must fight they system if they ever want to free themselves from endless suffering and oppression.
Revolution starts with the individual. It starts with a person making a personal commitment to do what’s right. You can’t turn someone into a revolutionary by making them chant slogans or wave guns. To understand revolution, you must be sound. Revolution is not imposed upon another, it is kindled within them. A person can talk about revolution, but if they are still worshiping money, or putting drugs into their body, or beating their mate, they obviously haven’t committed themselves to doing what’s right. Revolution is not a philosophy, it is an activity.
We are a deeply religious organization. We know that the current political system resents our clean, righteous example and wants to stop us from exposing their corruption even if they have to kill us. Just as Jesus was labeled a radical and persecuted to death by politicians of his day for what he said, we know how threatening our message is to those in power and why they come down so hard on us. We expect it and we are prepared for it.
We don’t measure our success with reference to a calendar. As long as we do what’s right, the only way things can turn out is right, regardless of time. We are not anxious or impatient and we will not compromise our principle for quick, temporary results. We don’t necessarily expect to see a dramatic change in this system in our lifetime or our children’s lifetime. We know that many hundreds of years of degeneration and imposition will take many hundreds of years to correct, but the initial turning of the tide has to start somewhere. JOHN AFRICA began that process through the MOVE Organization. LONG LIVE JOHN AFRICA!
Our organization was founded by JOHN AFRICA, however, he is not our leader. JOHN AFRICA has equipped each of us with the wisdom, strength, and understanding to lead ourselves. Using the strategy of JOHN AFRICA, we know we can’t fail. Everything that happens to us happens a certain way, because it’s supposed to.
All committed MOVE members take the last name “Africa” out of reverence for our Founder JOHN AFRICA, and to show that we are a family, a unified body moving in one direction. We have Black, White, Puerto Rican members from upper and lower class backgrounds, both college and street (mis)educated. While we do not heed the system’s legal institution of marriage, we do adhere to the natural law that requires one male and one female to mate and produce new life. We are monogamous. JOHN AFRICA taught us that childbearing is a natural, instinctive function of a mother and requires no drugs or hospital stays.
We dearly love our children. We protect them and watch over them so they will become healthier and stronger than we ourselves. We are all one family and all the adults help to look after the kids. We don’t punish them through beatings or physical abuse. If they do something wrong, the whole family takes part in giving them direction and showing them what’s right. We don’t send them off to school for the system’s brainwashing and indoctrination. We stay close to our children and they stay close to us.
Our hair is left the way nature intended, uncombed and uncut. Though we don’t favor using the system’s chemicals, cosmetics, and disposable conveniences, we do spend a good deal of time keeping ourselves and our surroundings clean and tidy. We dress functionally, in clothing that doesn’t interfere with our active lives.
The diet of JOHN AFRICA gave us consists of fresh raw food. We always keep plenty of wholesome raw food on hand and eat whenever our bodies tell us to, not according to artificial meal-time standards. We make sure no one around us goes hungry, because we know that good food is an essential requirement of life. We acknowledge that some of us were raised on the system’s food, or “distortion”- as we call it. Doing the work we do can also put us under a lot of pressure when parent and child or husband and wife are separated by the system’s oppression. So it is not uncommon to see some of use eating cooked food on occasion. However, you will never see a committed MOVE member use drugs, cigarettes, or alcohol. The hundreds of miles that the system has placed between us and some of our brothers and sisters in distant prisons has also forced us to use cars to maintain the close contact our family is used to. But we look forward to the day when we can live together the way we want to, without a need for air-polluting technology.
To keep ourselves healthy and strong, we rely on plenty of exercise as well as good hard physical labor. Scrubbing floors, sweeping walks, and running dogs are daily tasks. Maintaining the hundreds of pounds of food we keep stocked is a big job, too. We have seeds for the birds, nuts for the squirrels, raw meat for the dogs and cats, and fruits and vegetables for the people. We love all life. It is tremendously upsetting for us to see someone mistreat an animal and we will take immediate action to stop anyone from beating a dog, throwing stones at birds, or causing similar impositions on innocent life.
The word MOVE is not an acronym. It means exactly what it says: MOVE, work, generate, be active. Everything that’s alive moves. If it didn’t, it would be stagnant, dead. MOVEment is the principle of Life, and because MOVE’s belief is Life, our Founder, JOHN AFRICA, gave us the name “MOVE.” When we greet each other, we say “ON THE MOVE!”

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