Philadelphia commissioner resigns after admitting to cremating MOVE remains

"...they’ve all been knowing about what was going on and it really just confirmed what we’ve been saying. They desecrated the remains of our family after they murdered them,” MOVE member Janine Africa said.

Loading the player...

Philadelphia Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley resigned from his position this week after revealing that he cremated the remains of victims of the 1985 MOVE Bombing without their families’ permission. Farley announced his resignation on the 36th anniversary of the state-sanctioned attack on members of the Black revolution and natural living organization, MOVE

“I profoundly regret making this decision without consulting the family members of the victims and I extend my deepest apologies for the pain this will cause them,” Farley said in a public statement. 

The former health commissioner was notified about the existence of the remains from Philadelphia chief medical examiner, Dr. Sam Gulino, who has been put on leave, and disposed of them in early 2017, ABC 6 reports

“The standard procedure for autopsies in the Medical Examiner’s office is, before releasing remains to the next of kin, to retain certain specimens in case they are needed for subsequent investigations. After the investigations are complete, these specimens are disposed of, without notifying anyone,” Farley’s statement continued. 

“Believing that investigations related to the MOVE bombing had been completed more than 30 years earlier, and not wanting to cause more anguish for the families of the victims, I authorized Dr. Gulino to follow this procedure and dispose of the bones and bone fragments.”

MOVE Bombing
MOVE Bombing (screenshot from archived footage of the bombing)

The 1985 MOVE Bombing was executed by the Philadelphia Police Department under the orders of then mayor, W. Wilson Goode Sr. The bombing murdered 11 members of the organization, including children, and the Philadelphia Fire Department allowed the fire to spread and 60 homes were ultimately destroyed in the predominately Black neighborhood. The victims, according to the organization’s website, were John Africa (founder),  Frank Africa, Teresa Africa, Conrad Africa, Rhonda Africa, Raymond Africa, Tree, Netta, Deleisha, Little Phil, and Tomasa.

Read More: Philadelphia city council apologizes for 1985 MOVE bombing that killed 11

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney met with MOVE members the day before Farley’s resignation announcement to inform them of the violation against the deceased members and their families. 

“I cannot imagine that it means much, but I also offer a formal apology to the Africa family and members of the Movement on behalf of the City of Philadelphia,” Kenney said in his own statement.  “Not just for this disgraceful incident, but also for how administration after administration has failed to atone for the heinous act on May 13, 1985 and continues to dishonor the victims.” 

The indifference to the Black lives stolen by the 1985 bombing was further revealed in April when the University of Pennsylvania and Princeton University received backlash for using the remains of the Black children killed in their courses. 

As theGrio previously reported, University of Pennsylvania anthropologist Janet Monge used the bones in instructional videos and for a course called “Real Bones: Adventures in Forensic Anthropology.” Monge’s materials are also used at Princeton and referred to MOVE as a “case study.” The remains have been used in these classes without permission from the victims’ living descendants.

Read More: Remains of Black children killed in MOVE bombing used in Ivy League classes

MOVE organization members say the apologies from city officials are meaningless. 

“It means absolutely nothing to us because they’ve all been knowing about what was going on and it really just confirmed what we’ve been saying. They desecrated the remains of our family after they murdered them,” said Janine Africa, a Minister of Education for the MOVE organization and member since 1973. As part of the MOVE 9, Africa was incarcerated for over 40 years and released in 2019

“Because they’re getting exposed, now they’re apologizing, but they knew all of this 36 years ago.” 

Have you subscribed to theGrio’s new podcast “Dear Culture”? Download our newest episodes now!

TheGrio is now on Apple TV, Amazon Fire, and Roku. Download theGrio today!

TheGrio’s Stephanie Guerilus contributed to this report. 

Loading the player...