Live from Conspiring for Change: With a Speech from Ramona Africa


On July 10, in "Philthadelphia," I went to an awareness for political prisoners conference called Conspiring for Change. This event was to raise consciousness about political imprisonment, especially for our brothers and sisters in the RNC 8 case. Luce Guillen-Givins, of the RNC 8 was on the panel, out on bond. I asked her what charges she was facing and she said: "The original charge was just one charge, and it was Felony Conspiracy to Commit Riot in the Second Degree in Furtherance of Terrorism. That was just one charge, and then later they added three more charges - and then much later they took away two of those charges so that now we're looking at conspiracy charges but no terrorism enhancements."

She is still facing five years in prison.

I asked her, "If you could say anything to all the people who are going to hopefully read this, just to inspire them to do something, to do anything for this revolution, what would your message be to them?" She said, "That's a hard one. I mean it would be "don't stop." People ask us all the time if it was worth it - was the organizing worth it now that you're facing the prison time and all of that - was it worth it? I would say, as long as this is something that solidarity grows out of, as long as the movement is strengthened by supporting us, and as long as we can still offer support to other people and be a part of radical movements, absolutely it was worth it. These things happen, and they just make you that much more committed to being a part of things."

The highlight of the evening for me was the chance to hear Ramona Africa speak. She is a member of the revolutionary MOVE Organization formed in Philadelphia in 1972 by John Africa. Following a deadly standoff with police in 1978, nine MOVE members were sentenced to prison for third degree murder. The group came to international attention in 1985 after an attempt by the Philadelphia Police Department to enforce arrest warrants escalated dramatically. The police dropped a bomb from a helicopter onto the rooftop of the MOVE residence. The resulting fire was allowed to burn and resulted in the deaths of six adults and five children.

I recorded the event and transcribed her words. Parts of the transcript follow.

On a MOVE, long live revolution and long live John Africa, I'm gonna start with a quote from MOVE's founder, John Africa, because nobody can analyze it and say it better than John Africa.

To quote John Africa, "You can be wrong and still be legal, but when you say you're right and do wrong, you ain't right no more. Ain't no such thing as a legal right, 'cause right ain't legal; it's natural. If being legal was the same as being right, you wouldn't have legal problems. You got a legal system, and the legal system is filled with problems, but if the system was right, it would be just that: right. When you officials demand people are to follow your procedures to defend themselves, you are demanding that people give up their own procedure. MOVE is against the system; we have made it clear we are against the system. We ain't benefiting nothing when we do things as the system, instead of as MOVE. Their way is to stop us; our way is to stop them. How can we benefit by them, by doing things as them? It ain't just a question of MOVE against the courts; it is an issue of MOVE against the system, and it ain't procedure to help what you're against, and you officials know it. We're against the system. You wanna stop us, and to ask us to go along with your procedures is to help you stop us, to volunteer our freedoms, to be imprisoned, to put handcuffs on our wrists and lock our own selves up. How else can it be? You ain't for us; you're against us. This ain't a question of the system versus the system, this is a very clear issue of the MOVE organization versus everything you officials stand for. These courts are used in a blinding deceptive and illegal way to keep poor folks like a stable boy keeps horses, a farmer keeps cattle, a shepherd keeps sheep, for, like the stable boy, the farmer and the shepherd, this system keeps poor folks corralled and enslaved, dependent, mislead. We have misled folks in courts, misled folks in church, misled folks in schools. The system misled folks on jobs, a practice that is compounded at home by people who have been misled by their parents, who have themselves been misled by the system."

Now, what John Africa is saying here is very important, because the bottom line is that you can't get anything right from this system, and that's the bottom line. And anybody who thinks they can get something right from the system is confused.

When Obama ran for president, a lot of people of color, and even some white people, looked at him like a savior. But there is no savior out there; we are our savior. As long as we understand that and got that in our heads, then we're gonna get somewhere. But if we hallucinate that there is some savior out there that's going to come along and make things better for us and clear up all the injustices, then that's just what we're doing: hallucinating - because it ain't gonna happen. We have to do that work, we have to do it. Like I said, it ain't easy, it's gonna take time and it's not something that's gonna happen overnight, but the only way it's gonna happen is for us to start walking that road. This is what the MOVE organization did, over 35 years ago. We are not perfect, but John Africa has put us on the road to what's right, to what's best for us - justice, to help, you know? To righteousness, to the true principles of equality, and that's the road that we've been walking ever since.

The law of life dictates an instinct of self-defense. I'm not talking about picking up a gun and jumping on somebody. I'm talking about a mentality, a dangerous mentality that would have people questioning whether they have the right to defend themselves. Whether they should defend themselves or not. Of course you should, it should be instinctive in all of life. But it's not always instinctive in humans. We need to get that instinct back. We need to get that understanding back. That's what John Africa has given MOVE; that's why we can keep going despite all that the system has come at us with. They have come at us with beatings, unjust jailings, 30- to 100-year sentences, bombs, thousands on thousands on thousands of bullets, but they have not stopped MOVE. They ain't got enough bombs, guns, judges, prosecuting attorneys, jails or prison bars to stop MOVE. They ain't got enough. No matter what they come at us with, we gonna come right back. We understand that, and I believe thanks to the teachings of John Africa, that we ain't got nothing to lose. Even if they so-called kill us, they ain't taking nothing from us because, if you're living under the cloud of this system, you ain't alive no way for real. We will fight and fight and keep on fighting, and we ain't never gonna stop fighting, and that's why when Luce e-mailed me and asked me if I would come and speak here, I agreed readily.

It's important for all of us to interact with each other, to hear information from each other, and to be encouraged by each other to keep fighting and not to give up. To understand that there are people out here that are serious, that ain't playing no games, that have set an example for close to 35 years now. Anybody that sets a consistent example of fighting the system for 35 years, that's an example that can be trusted. So, all we're saying is that y'all are our brothers and sisters, and any injustice done to y'all is an injustice done to us and everybody. That's how we need to feel, that's how we need to treat it, and we need to be ready to take a stand, to take a position and fight for what is right, no matter who is wrong. That's the position of the MOVE organization. Stay strong, stay loyal to what you know is right, long live the spirit of revolution, long live the Luces, and the RNC 8s, and the SF 8s. Long live the Puerto Rican Independistas, the Zapatistas, all those, the Leonard Peltiers, all people who have taken a stand, who stand up for what is right at the expense of their own freedoms, their own lives.

What they do isn't just for them; it's for all of us. The MOVE 9 could have been out of prison years ago, if they were willing to give up the fight and assimilate back into the system and never take another stance, they would have been out in a heartbeat. When MOVE people went up for parole, what they were told is "we will let you go if you agree to have no more contact with MOVE members." In other words, if you leave MOVE and be good little kids, that's the bottom line. Not one of us agreed to that. Not one of us. The remaining MOVE members in prison are coming up for parole, and we know that if they were to leave MOVE and say they didn't want nothing more to do with any kind of revolutionary activity or anything, they would be out in a heartbeat. They are looking at 100 years maximum sentencing and not one of them, not one of them, is willing to give up their beliefs, to give up what's right. Stay strong, stay loyal, never give up the fight, LONG live revolution, LONG LIVE JOHN AFRICA.

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