Date: Sat, 23 May 98 22:11:28 CDT
Memorial for MOVE members
By Betsey Piette, Workers World, 28 May 1998
Philadelphia - On May 13--the 13th anniversary of the U.S. government's bombing of the MOVE organization--over 125 people gathered at the AFSCME District Council 33 union hall. The event commemorated the state's killing of 11 MOVE members. It was also a celebration of the life of Merle Africa and the struggle to which she dedicated herself.
Africa, a member of the MOVE organization, died suddenly on March 13 under suspicious circumstances in Pennsylvania's Cambridge Springs prison.
At the memorial, those who knew Africa shared remembrances of this sister who--along with her MOVE 9 comrades--had been held in captivity for 20 years as a political prisoner. Speakers came from Philadelphia and several other East Coast cities, California, Canada and France. Many paid tribute through music and poetry.
Among the most moving were statements from "lifers"--women in prison with Africa at Muncy, where she had spent 15 years. Through letters and poetry, these women spoke of Africa's courage, compassion, and uncompromising principles.
One described Merle Africa as "an everyday holiday ... she brought the gifts of joy, knowledge, a listening ear, the discipline of life."
Safiya Bukhari of Jerico '98 spoke of the need to give more attention to women prisoners. She talked about their lack of adequate medical care-- made worse by the acute stress of being away from children and families, guarded by male officers, subject to sexual attack and denied access to doctors, particularly gynecologists, of their choice.
The Rev. Paul Washington, a long-time activist from Philadelphia, read a statement he made at the first memorial for MOVE members after their home was bombed in 1985.
He recounted an earlier event, on May 30, 1921, when 74 people were killed by bombs dropped by the U.S. government on the African American community in Tulsa, Okla., in the aftermath of the biggest rebellion in an oppressed community in U.S. history.
Charging the audience to never forget these murders, he concluded: "These events happened to all of us. The bell tolls for us all."
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