Debbie Africa Becomes First Of The MOVE 9 To Be Freed From Prison 40 Years After Cop Shootout
Debbie Sims Africa reunited with her son who she was forced to leave behind when he was just one week old.
June 18, 2018 at 10:14 pm
Debbie Sims Africa was granted parole and released from prison on Saturday, June 16, after serving nearly 40 years of what she and fellow MOVE members call an "unjust" sentence. MOVE was a radical Philadelphia-based Black Power organization that advocated against police brutality and championed environmental justice. John Africa established it in 1972, and the controversial group remains active today.
On August 8, 1978, police swarmed MOVE headquarters in Powelton Village. The encounter led to a standoff and deadly shooting which left officer James Ramp dead, but it was unclear who shot him. MOVE members and nine black people who were present at the time were charged, convicted and sentenced to 30-100 years in state prison. The arrested members said another officer caused the officer's death, but the culprit remains unknown.
Seven years after the shooting, remaining MOVE members would become the victims of one of the most heinous crimes executed by police officers in recent U.S. history. On May 13, 1985, a police helicopter dropped two bombs over the compound where the some of the activists were known to reside, killing 11 people.
Sims Africa, 61, was only 22-years-old at the time of her imprisonment. She gave birth to her son one month later. Released from Pennsylvania's Cambridge Springs prison, the activist was reunited with her son, Michael Davis Africa Jr., for the first time outside of prison walls, reported philly.com.
“Today I had breakfast with my mother for the first time,” Davis Africa told The Guardian. “There’s so much we haven’t done together.”
Sims Africa leaves her husband, Michael Davis Africa Sr., behind bars, as well as six other MOVE 9 members. Two of the members died in prison. She said, “I was torn up inside because, of course, I want to come home, but I want them to come with me. I was in shock when it didn’t happen that way.”
This case is a glimpse into the shady practices of America's justice system. Janine Phillips Africa and Janet Hollaway Africa, two remaining women of the MOVE 9, were both denied parole this year and won't be able to try again until May 2019.