Relatives Of Young MOVE Bombing Victims Infuriated After Learning Their Remains Were Used To Teach Ivy League Students
The remains are believed to belong to Tree and Delisha Africa.
April 27, 2021 at 10:31 pm
Relatives of children killed in Philadelphia's 1985 police bombing of Black liberation group MOVE are outraged after learning an Ivy League professor had been using two teenage victims' remains as a model in a training video.
In a video posted online titled “Real Bones: Adventures in Forensic Anthropology,” Janet Monge, a visiting Princeton University professor and Penn Museum curator, holds what is believed to be the bones of 14-year-old Tree Africa and remarks about their condition.
“This is one of these cases where the material has some flesh on it, which, you know, is not uncommon, actually, in forensics,” she started, according to Democracy Now!. “In this case, there is some soft tissue which is actually remaining. And the bones were actually burned, as well. So, it’s got quite a complicated history.”
She continued, “The bones are, I mean, we would say, like, juicy, you know, meaning that you can tell that they are of a recently deceased individual. They have a lot of sort of sheen to them.”
Although the video is no longer available to the public, those who have already registered for the course can still access it, Democracy Now! reports.
After the bombing, the remains found their way into the possession of Princeton Anthropology professor Alan Mann, The Daily Princetonian reports. Mann was a professor at the University of Pennsylvania at the time he acquired the remains, later becoming a Princeton professor in 2001. The remains have been in his and Monge’s possession for 36 years.
A Princeton spokesperson confirmed that the remains in question have never been stored at the school, nor are they currently there. The school representative also revealed that Mann retired in 2015 and “Professor Monge is no longer affiliated with the University,” per The Princetonian.
On Monday, officials of the University of Pennsylvania issued an apology to the MOVE organization, acknowledging that they had been using remains of one of the children for years instead of returning them to the family, The Philadelphia Inquirer reports. Princeton University officials also issued a statement acknowledging that storing the remains is a part of the “nation’s long legacy of racism” that continues to destroy the lives of Black people.
According to The Princetonian, school employees have expressed that they feel the exploitative handling of the remains and their use in an online class is “an ethical violation.”
In the summer of 1985, Philadelphia police dropped a bomb from a helicopter on the rowhouse where members of the anti-police-brutality group MOVE lived. The bomb ignited a fire and police ordered firefighters to let it burn. Eleven people, including five children, were killed in the horrific act, according to NPR.
Mike Africa Jr., a second-generation-born MOVE member and host of the podcast On Move w/ Mike Africa Jr., told Democracy Now! that the young people associated with MOVE were often “unconventional” orphans whose parents were incarcerated.
At the time of the bombing, he recalled that Tree was the oldest and was an incredibly responsible young person as she was often called on to help with the others. The bones of Delisha Africa are believed to have been possessed by the school as well.
Mike expressed that he would like an investigation open into the matter and expects that there is some form of accountability enacted on behalf of the offenders.
“You know, we definitely want an investigation, as a collateral descendant of some of the people in the house May 13th. John Africa was my granduncle. And, you know, I don’t trust the Penn Museum," he stated. "I don’t trust Princeton. I definitely want to say that there is more to come with this. From my point of view, from where I’m standing, I feel that there needs to be done — there needs to be accountability, because the reaction, the people — Penn’s reaction to this is totally unprofessional, making an apology through a statement through someone else.”
This week, MOVE leaders issued a statement with five demands in regards to the remains. They asked that the remains be returned to MOVE, a full investigation be conducted of Princeton and the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Pennsylvania terminate Monge, that both universities formally apologize, and give reparations for “these unconscionable acts.”
MOVE demands to Penn and Princeton via @MikeAfricaJr1 are clear: (1) return the remains of Delisha and Tree Africa, (2) formally apologize, (3) commit to a full investigation, (4) fire Janet Monge, (5) commit to reparations for these unconscionable acts.
— Krystal Strong (@misskstrong) April 23, 2021
Ironically, this controversy emerged about a week after the Penn Museum apologized for holding over 1,000 stolen skulls of enslaved people it’s Morton Collection, NPR reports. The namesake of the exhibit, Samuel Morton, was a 19th century white supremacist researcher who ordered his works to dig up remains from unmarked graves.