What the city of Philadelphia did to the people at MOVE was a big deal and not at all when I was growing up. I heard the word “MOVE”, I knew there were some groups and some bombs but that was really the extent of it; There was never much clarity. Even in Philly, people either knew nothing about this series of events or, if they knew anything, they did not really understand it. There too, it was just a broken story.
I think people don’t understand what the government is really capable of, and people don’t want to understand. And so they forget these events. And when we forget our history, we are doomed to repeat them. And because we forgot, we did not see the lessons we could learn and we did not apply that knowledge.
For example, the way MOVE was misrepresented by the media: Journalists didn’t really understand how to give the frameworks they set up to portray black people in Philadelphia. They were doing things like getting hair dense, eating raw foods, having children naturally and making manure. When white communities were doing different things from that kind of mainstream, they were called comedy, hippies, or flower children; As yet with Mowe, he was referred to a cult, and he was discussed as if they were barbarians.
For example: One of the things that Questlove, who was one of the film’s executive producers, and when Mowe was being portrayed in the media, is that he remembers journalists about “raw food” about Mowe members Would listen to talk about and then made that pair. With images of wild dogs. And the support he took as a young man was that he felt that the people of Mowe were eating raw dog meat, rather than understanding that they were vegetarian or vegan. There was never any explanation.
We are dealing with sins 40 years from today and unless we act differently today, we are going to work with today’s sins in another 40 years.
MOVE was often misrepresented and demeaned in such a way by the media, and much of what happened to them was easily disjointed because you can justify anything when you did that kind of Have dehumanized a group of people. There was just this lack of accurate representation over and over again, and so people did not understand who or what Move’s people were up to. Therefore, when he was treated as if he were the worst person ever, it was difficult for him to galvanize support. Because no one really understood them.
And then on top of that, you have someone like the Mayor of Philadelphia, Frank Rizzo, who started as a cop, worked until the Commissioner of Police and then the Mayor of the city. He effectively ran the city under the idea that people could have a safe road or civil liberties – and by the way, he could have already selected one for them. And so, when you have people who want to question their interactions with law enforcement, or people who are tired of being beaten repeatedly by law enforcement, you wind up in a situation where the mayor represents Not interested in doing. The interests of all the people of a city.
I don’t think the media and local government were in cahoots, but I think they were both working towards the same goal in the same way, and that they used each other in disgusting ways. Think of some of the presses that first raided the Mowe House at a press conference held after 8 August 1978, where you have a false suggestion suggested by the Commissioner of Police, Joseph O’Neill, the District Attorney and the Mayor. Delbert Africa came out with a clip in one hand and a knife in the other – which did not happen. Yet what was received was aired and published in the newspaper and it became the official narrative.
That narrative becomes what people believe, because we are ready to believe in our elected officials and to believe in those who must protect and serve. After all, we wonder, why would they lie? Why would they tell us something that hasn’t really happened? But the media did so when actually investigating or making sure that, if the police clarified the things that were completely wrong. O’Neill’s lie will be a title but once he finds out they are a lie, well, it was like, “Oh, that was wrong. Let’s print a return.” It will get two lines on page 47.
People often don’t think of scar tissue coming from these events – both the events and the false narratives that are built around them. And, when they do, the focus is on what happened that day and those directly affected. This is one of the reasons I wanted my documentary, “40 Years a Prisoner,” to focus on someone like Mike Africa, Jr.
She was arrested for what happened to both of them after the August 1978 raid on Mowe, her parents, Mike Africa and Debbie Africa, decisions of that day, decisions leading to that event, decisions made for decades. Is working with Later. All those decisions made by other people affected his upbringing and his family. They affect his ability to be a living member of society. They affect all these things that we do not think about.
These events have only a very human side – and this human side should inform the decisions that we are making, because it is not just about an action and is being done with it. We are dealing with sins 40 years from today and unless we act differently today, we are going to work with today’s sins in another 40 years.
And so, it’s probably a bit counter-productive, but the film is actually a love letter to Philly. I love Philly with all my heart, but Philly needs to do better. So it is a love letter in the sense that, when you care enough to argue about someone, when you care enough about someone, hold them accountable, when you care enough about someone Caring then forces them to face their own problems – problems with the present, problems of the past – and to help them discover that they are no longer the problems of the future, this is real love.
As stated to THINK editor Megan Carpentier, edited and condensed for clarity.