by James Yeun
Ramona Africa, the sole surviving adult member of the MOVE bombing in 1985, has carried the revolutionary legacy of the MOVE family into the 21st century. Her work—both in the present and past—remain relevant lessons in revolutionary practice. As we enter the Trump administration, we must ensure that the legacy, history, and lessons of Philadelphia activism is relayed to the newly politicized.
To start off, could you briefly introduce yourself and your work, both presently and in the past?
Ramona I am Ramona Africa, Minister of Communications for the MOVE Organization. I am the sole adult survivor of the May 1985 government bombing of me and my family, that ended with 11 of my family members—men, women, and children—literally, burned alive.
I am a former political prisoner; as the only adult survivor, I am the only one that was charged with anything, and the only one to ever do any time. I am also a member of the International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal and, finally, I am a revolutionary, which is the most important to me.
When I think about feminist politics, there’s a truly radical tradition and clearly a radical claim at its core. However, sometimes I look around and it seems that feminist politics has fallen increasingly in the hands of the neoliberal agenda. How do you feel about the current state of feminist politics for women in this country?
Ramona Equality is right. There is no significant difference between men and women. Only those designed and created by this system that spews chauvinism and inferiority aspects on women.
What I picture is men have been taken away from the home, from their families, to go out and make money to take care of their family because those running the system put money between us and our fundamental needs. So now, this concept of feminism is created and what it really does, now, is taking the women away from their home, from their children, from their families under a misconception of equality. To me, it’s like saying men drink liquor and take drugs—how can you deny this to women? We should be able to do that too. But you’re not talking about what is right.
Are you saying that you find the way feminism is practiced under capitalism to be a “fake” equality?
Ramona I am saying that those that run this system have misdirected people. Men and women. This concept of feminism is really a cry for equality, and equality has nothing to do with getting a certain type of job, making a certain amount of money, the same amount that a man makes.
I am saying when you are dealing with things simply, when you truly deal with the principle of equality, that takes you across the board. Let’s not start with making a “equal” salary, or a certain type of job that a man might have. What about simple respect. What about having simple respect for each other?
What makes sitting in an office more important, in terms of equality, than a mother and a father being able to raise their own children, be with their children, and not have to worry about money coming between them.
Let’s not overlook the true principle of equality and wrongly focus on money, or a job, or anything in this system.
For you, what does it mean to be a revolutionary? And does being a revolutionary affect your self-conception as a woman?
Ramona I consider myself a revolutionary because John Africa taught us what revolution really is. When people talk about revolution, they automatically think about picking up guns and bloodshed, and fighting, and conflict, and combat. Sometimes that is part of being a revolutionary and revolution, because when you stand up for what is right and confront those that are wrong, they don’t like it. Rather than submit to what is right and move with that, they want to hold onto the wrong that they are used to doing.
Revolution simply mean generating, changing, making things, putting things right. What makes MOVE revolutionaries is that we believe in right, and in respecting and defending life. But those running the system don’t care about clear air, pure water, strong productive soil. They don’t care about the principle of freedom. They talk that stuff, they mouth the words: freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of the press, freedom to protest. But they don’t mean it because when people speak up freely they are locked up, beat up, and even killed. So what makes me a revolutionary is the understanding given to me by John Africa of what revolution really is, and it is standing up for life and for what is right.
And it really has nothing to do with being a woman or a man. It has more to do with a living being.
How do you feel about people organizing along the lines of identity? That is to say, the building of affinity spaces where people organize solely amongst and with those within their identity?
Ramona What we can’t lose sight of, when we start categorizing like that, we need to stand for what is right, no matter who we are. What I am trying to say is that we have white people in MOVE, and for example, my white sister, Sue Africa, knows that she is obligated to stand against racism mainly by dealing with her own people, talking to them. Racism is not a black problem, or a problem of people of color. If you are talking about making things right, then white people need to take just as strong of a stance against racism as people of color. We all have to take a stand for what is right and that doesn’t begin and end with color or gender.
those that run this system have misdirected people
How can white people organize against racism, without people of color? You have to work with the people under attack by racism to understand the effect that it has. White people cannot fight racism on their own. And, if you are a black person that organizes against racism, then you’re preaching to the choir because black people already know what the deal is. You need to be talking to people that are racist; working with white people that know it is wrong and talk to other white people about it, when you could never get your point across to a racist white person.
My last question is: what hope do you have that things will change? What do you think the direction of this country is?
Ramona One thing I can tell you is that a major factor of my hope and optimism for the future is Donald Trump. Unlike any other president before him, Donald Trump has gotten people on their feet and out in the streets; his agenda, his attitude, everything about him is so very in-your-face that people can’t hallucinate about him. If Hillary Clinton had won the presidency, people would’ve gone straight to sleep and dreamed about the first woman president; just like how they did with Obama, the first black president!
Donald Trump leaves nothing to the imagination, nothing to hallucinate about. He has pushed people’s backs against the wall, and done it in such an obvious way. You’ve got more people that are speaking out, taking to the streets, openly defying Trump and the government.
People are really looking at the political system, because those running it are telling people straight to their face that their vote doesn’t count.
So yeah, I am optimistic. Things that MOVE was saying 45 years ago is coming to pass. People are paying attention to it. I’m optimistic.