Charles Sims Africa, last MOVE member freed from prison, dies at 61
The last of the MOVE 9 to be freed from prison, Africa succumbed to cancer
Charles Sims Africa, a member of the Philadelphia organization MOVE, died on Monday at age 61. Also known as Chuck Africa, he was the last remaining member of MOVE to be freed from prison stemming from a 1978 shootout with police.
Africa died after a bout with cancer, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer.
MOVE is an anarcho-primitivism social group in Philadelphia that advocates for natural living doctrine. In 1978, several members, including Africa, were arrested after an armed shootout with Philadelphia police that resulted in the death of officer James Ramp.
Africa was imprisoned for 41 years before being paroled in Feb. 2020.
“Chuck had a heart and a fighting spirit that was unparalleled,” Brad Thomson, Africa’s lawyer at the time of this parole, tweeted. “He loved animals, boxing, and literature-which we’d talk about often. RIP Chuck. You will be deeply missed.”
“I’ve never ever seen or met anybody that was just so strong-willed and so determined to just be a fighter. And he fought every step of the way … since he came home last February,” Africa’s sister Debbie Africa said during a podcast tribute to her late brother.
Debbie Africa was also among those imprisoned in 1978 during the police siege on the MOVE communal home. She was the first to be paroled in 2018, as reported by The Guardian.
Mike Africa Jr. tweeted a message saying that his Uncle Chuck Africa battled cancer for four years.
“I have many uncles but none like Chuck. Thank you to everyone that loved and supported him. RIP Chuck,” he said in the post.
Chuck Africa was only 18 years old when he was convicted of murder along with Debbie Africa and seven other MOVE members, according to Workers.org. All of them were sentenced to 30 – 100 years for Ramp’s death, and all of them maintained their innocence.
Africa was paroled from Pennsylvania’s SCI Fayette on Feb. 7, 2020 at age 59. He had already been diagnosed with cancer by the time he was released.
Due to his repeated refusal to admit guilt and renounce his beliefs, Africa was denied parole from imprisonment. Weeks prior to his release, Delbert Africa was paroled, as reported by the Inquirer. Delbert Africa died in June 2020.
In addition to the 1978 shootout, MOVE was the target of another police-related attack in 1985. After their neighbors in the Cobbs Creek section of West Philadelphia complained about intrusive noise from bullhorns, mounting confrontations with the group and trash on their property, police served warrants to evict MOVE, according to ABC News.
A standoff ensued after members refused to respond to police orders to vacate the house. After Philadelphia police dropped a bomb on the MOVE house from a helicopter, the ensuing fire not only destroyed the MOVE commune but led to the total destruction of 61 adjacent properties in the neighborhood. The blast killed 11 people, including five children.
In May 2020, 11 members of the Philadelphia City Council issued an apology over the incident, 35 years later. The statement read, “We offer an apology for the decisions that led to this tragic event and announce our intent to introduce a formal resolution to this effect later this year. We call upon the City of Philadelphia to declare May 13th an annual day of reflection, observation, and recommitment to the principle that all people are created equal and endowed with inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
While Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney said at the time that his administration has been focused on finishing rebuilding the now-largely abandoned block and neighborhood, he said there were no plans to make a formal apology from his office.
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