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To those that remember, it’s known simply as the bombing of West Philly. In the spring of 1985, the City of Philadelphia became the first in U.S. history to drop a bomb on a family of American citizens. The attack killed 11 people, including five children, and the ensuing fire set a neighborhood to ruins. The targets that day? A family of Black radicals known collectively as MOVE, who found themselves ensnared in a city — and nation’s — domestic war on Black Liberation. Over seven episodes, host Matthew Amha investigates the events that culminated in the MOVE bombing, and the long afterlife of a forgotten American tragedy. Through intimate conversations, The Africas VS. America offers an unseen look into the MOVE's origins and dynamics while looking ahead to the group's uncertain future.
Episode 7: Elegy

Episode 7: Elegy


After a commission finds that city officials and police were negligent in their actions on May 13, 1985, a reeling city looks to heal, and surviving members of the Africa family redouble efforts to free the MOVE 9. Two senior members are released from prison having served more than 40 years. They now have reservations about the MOVE organization. A rift in the family opens up. By the end of 2020, all remaining MOVE 9 are free. Delbert dies only months after his release, and the family now turns its focus to the future. The descendents of MOVE remind us the fight for liberation continues. For transcripts of this series, please visit:
Episode 6: Hellfire

Episode 6: Hellfire


In 1983, the City of Philadelphia elects its first Black mayor as successor to Frank Rizzo. Woodrow Wilson Goode inherits Rizzo’s fight against MOVE, but he also represents a moment of hope for Black Philadelphians who believe his election could be a harbinger of progress for a city beset with racial strife. Instead, Mayor Goode’s administration unleashes a torrent of violence never before seen in American history in an effort to neutralize MOVE once and for all. For transcripts of this series, please visit:
The MOVE 9 are catapulted into the international spotlight, facing more than 900 years between them for the death of Officer James Ramp — a crime for which they maintain their innocence. Central to the case is a former Black Panther and Vietnam vet named Delbert Africa, who will become a symbol of police brutality in Philadelphia. As all of this is happening, MOVE’s mysterious leader John Africa is on the run from local and federal authorities. When he’s finally found and brought up on charges, John Africa opts to represent himself in court, and an old friend takes the stand against him. For transcripts of this series, please visit:
Complaints from neighbours about MOVE’s lifestyle lead to increasingly violent clashes with police. One confrontation turns deadly, and by 1978, relations between MOVE and city authorities have reached a crisis point. The MOVE home in residential Powelton Village becomes the scene of a two-months-long starvation blockade, and the site of a stand-off with police that will end in blood, gunfire, and the arrest of nine members of MOVE, collectively charged with murder for the death of an officer. For transcripts of this series, please visit:
By the 1970s, both local and federal law enforcement have perfected a system to subvert and neutralize Black liberation movements across the United States. The civil rights movement has been uprooted, and Black Power is now here. In Philadelphia, the most famous police officer in America is elected mayor. Frank Rizzo’s objective is to turn the city into centre stage in the nationwide fight against Black liberation activists. His power and influence will have deep implications for MOVE. For transcripts of this series, please visit:
A quiet and reclusive young man is conscripted to war in Korea and returns having been made anew. Vincent Leaphart becomes the enigmatic John Africa, whose revolutionary vision will prove irresistible to followers seeking a new way of living. But what begins as a movement concerned with the protection of all life, will gradually turn to nonviolent direct action and large-scale civil disobedience in reaction to the state. This is the origin story of John Africa, leader of what will soon become known as MOVE. For transcripts of this series, please visit:
In the early hours of May 13, 1985, police direct residents of Osage Avenue in West Philadelphia to leave their homes, and not return for 24 hours. It’s Mother’s Day, and authorities have come to resolve a years-long conflict with a family of local revolutionaries — the Africas, collectively known as MOVE. There are 13 people in the Africa home that morning. Six of them are children. By the end of the day, most will be dead, and a neighbourhood will lie in ruins. Artwork by Yannick Lowery. For transcripts of this series, please visit:
In this On Air Fest exclusive, host Matthew Amha sits down with activist and MOVE member Mike Africa Jr. to discuss the making of The Africas VS. America and the ethical challenges of telling a family's carefully-guarded story. Mike Jr. opens up about his fraught childhood in the MOVE family, including his memories of the 1985 bombing, and the power of community healing.
In this live discussion from the Hot Docs festival, Matthew joins Falen Johnson on stage to speak about the stories journalists choose to tell — and how they tell them. He reflects on the personal cost of infusing his own experiences into his journalism, and how he navigated the MOVE organization’s historically fraught relationship with the media.
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