PHILADELPHIA—Just when you thought injustices against the MOVE organization couldn’t get any more bizarre, the case has gone from strange to downright ghoulish.
Recent revelations show two Ivy League schools have been using the bones of two of MOVE children killed in the infamous 1985 Philadelphia police bombing for an online forensic anthropology teaching video, unbeknownst to relatives or the MOVE family. Now the remains are missing.
The disturbing situation came to light in a story published online in the Billy Penn newsletter.
Following the disaster of May 14, 1985, when the Philadelphia Police Department dropped a bomb on a MOVE home following a series of confrontations with the revolutionary organization, six adults and five children died in the monstrous fire that ensued. The blaze destroyed an entire block, reducing all the houses to ruin.
A forensic pathologist produced reports on the human remains found in the debris, including two sets of bones identified as Tree Africa, 14, and Delisha Africa, 12.
According to the newsletter, the bones were subsequently handed over to Alan Mann. The now-retired professor was given custody of the remains by the Philadelphia Medical Examiner’s Office in the 1980s when he analyzed them at the city’s request, said the article. At the time, he worked at the University of Pennsylvania. When Prof. Mann transferred to Princeton in 2001, he reportedly took the bones with him, the article said.
What makes this story all the more startling is the callous, uncaring, and cold manner in which the universities handled the remains of the children with no more respect than animal bones. “At Penn, according to people with first-hand knowledge, they were not kept in climate-controlled storage. They were kept in a cardboard box on a shelf,” the newsletter reports. “For decades, the bones were kept at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. A Penn Museum spokesperson said the remains have since been transferred to the care of researchers at Princeton— but an administrator at the New Jersey university was uncertain of their whereabouts. After this story was published, a spokesperson said Princeton does not have them.”
Current MOVE member Mike Africa, Jr., whose father was jailed for 40 years in an earlier police confrontation, said in an interview he was shocked and disturbed that the children had been denied a resting place.
“They were bombed and burned alive,” Mr. Africa, Jr., said, “and now you wanna keep their bones.”
Pam Africa, the MOVE minister of information, on April 22 told The RemiX Morning Show her organization had never been contacted about the remains.
“None of these monsters have called one MOVE person,” Ms. Africa said. “Tree has a mother, Consuela Africa, who did 16 years in jail.”
During a recent protest rally, Ms. Africa called those responsible “blood-sucking grave digging, bone snatching mother—ers.”
Johanna Fernandez blasted both Penn and Princeton. “Shut down the Anthropology Department and fire all of them,” she said. “This is where it has got to end. The bones of a child? I hope that child haunts these institutions and their professors to their graves,” Ms. Fernandez said.
Fred Hampton, Jr., noted at the same rally, held April 24 in support of freedom for jailed former MOVE member Mumia Abu-Jamal, “You could never understand the nature of the oppressor. We can’t even fathom what these people do. We keep coming across sentiments of people saying, ‘well, I can’t believe they could do this.’ But it’s their history. This how they get down. They study us. They dissect us. They know our potential before we get here.”
What is astonishing is the lack of ethics, void of communication, and failure of responsibility regarding the remains of the children. They were relegated to scientific specimens. Neither the city Medical Examiner’s Office, the Penn Museum, or Princeton University claim responsibility for the remains. The only people who want them are members of the MOVE family, who have been denied closure for close to 40 years.