“Phil Africa: MOVE Member.”
Early in 1956, a brown baby boy was born and named William Phillips. Who knew he would grow into a man known widely as Phil Africa?
For those who knew him, he was Phil Africa, a revolutionary member of the MOVE organization and its Minister of Defense. For those who knew him, they could never forget his broad, broken-toothed smile, that sparkle in his eyes, his raspy voice, of a joy that he took in life. With his broad chest and thick muscular arms, he radiated strength and confidence. He had a gift for gab and took easily to people, helped by a ridiculous sense of humor.
For those who really knew him, knew that Phil was, like indigenous political prisoner Leonard Peltier, like former Black Panther political prisoner Sundiata Acoli, like California’s death row prisoner Kevin Cooper, and like Kevin Rashid Johnson now in Texas prisons, a talented artist who painted remarkable works in acrylics. His friends and family would receive beautiful pieces of art in the mail, painted in the darkest dankest prisons in Pennsylvania.
Back in the nineties, when I saw him while going to court, he said after our greeting, “Hey, Mu, whenever you feel down, just look up, man, there in the sky, the sun, the winds, the clouds, all of that wonder. That’s our mother, the awesome power of mama. That’s the power that feeds us, that fuels us, that energizes us. That’s the power of nature, of life, and that’s in us all. It’s the power of life. Know what I mean? Nothing this system makes us more powerful than that.”
Years later, I remember those words as if they were spoken yesterday. Phil Africa is no longer with us, but then again, he is, for his memory, his presence is fresh. He died mysteriously at Dallas state prison. Phil Africa, MOVE member.
From imprisoned nation, this is Mumia Abu-Jamal.
These commentaries are recorded by Noelle Hanrahan of Prison Radio.