Ulysses and The MOVE Bombing Apology
Introduction to The MOVE Soundtracks
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From the paper "Re-member MOVE: Anatomy of a Reconciliation. (Slaughter 2020)
By May 13, 1985, I was already intimately familiar with ugly elements of human madness. Just seven years before the bomb dropped on Osage Ave., I heard my father shoot and kill my mother in our South Side Chi- cago apartment. Just 12 years old, I opened the door of my bedroom and watched my mother bleed from a gaping wound in her right temple. Immediately following the shooting, my father told me: "She was going to leave us. I had to do it." I served as chief witness against my father in court. He would serve 39 months in prison. In May 1990, fate put me on a flight to Philadelphia to serve in the United States Navy. I was suddenly 700 miles from the South Side of Chicago. But I now lived just seven miles from 6221 Osage Avenue. W. Wilson Goode Sr. was still mayor of Philadelphia when I landed in The City of Brotherly Love. He was the city’s mayor when I watched the bomb drop in West Philadelphia on May 13, 1985. On May 14, 1985—with ash still smoldering on Osage Avenue—Goode said: “I would do it over and over again, because it was the right decision." His post-trauma language and logic reminded me of my father.
Philadelphia, PA – May 13, 2020 – [Councilmembers] today issued the following statement: Today, on the 35th anniversary of the MOVE Bombing – a brutal attack carried out by the City of Philadelphia on its own citizens – we offer an apology for the decisions that led to this tragic event and announce our intent to introduce a formal resolution to this effect later this year. We call upon the City of Philadelphia to declare May 13th an annual day of reflection, observation, and recommitment to the principle that all people are created equal and endowed with inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Additionally, we call on all people of the City of Philadelphia to work toward eliminating racial prejudices, injustices, and discrimination from our society. On May 13, 1985, as part of an effort to forcefully evict MOVE, a revolutionary black liberation group, from their headquarters at 6221 Osage Avenue, city officials made the unconscionable decision to drop a bomb on the home. The resulting explosion sparked a fire, which authorities let burn, not calling firefighters to the scene until nearly an hour after the explosion. By the time the decision was made to fight the fire, it was already out of control. Five children between the ages of 7 and 13, along with six adults, perished in the MOVE house. Two full city blocks were burned to the ground, destroying 61 houses and leaving 250 Philadelphians homeless. A commission set up by the Goode Administration to investigate the event found “monumental incompetence” on behalf of all City officials involved. The commission recommended criminal investigations and charges, but a grand jury decided that these charges were unjustified – demonstrating convoluted reasoning that has become all too common in cases of police brutality. To this day, no one has been held accountable in any meaningful way for this act of blatant aggression. MOVE members, Cobbs Creek residents and property owners, and Philadelphia as a whole have waited far too long for this recognition, which serves as validation of their enduring pain. A great deal of trauma remains in our communities, resulting from the physical, mental, and emotional harm of this event. We as public officials have a responsibility to address this trauma, and to make a good-faith effort to right the wrongs of the past. The City has worked to rebuild the properties, and to provide monetary compensation to former homeowners along with the MOVE organization – but that type of settlement is not the same as a genuine apology and recognition of the massive failure in leadership that took place that day. There are echoes of the MOVE Bombing that persist in Philadelphia’s police-community relations. Discrimination against people of color and unnecessary use of force has shaped a culture of distrust between police and residents. Philadelphia has a challenged history with these issues – which perhaps could have been set on a different path, had the bombing been widely condemned in the aftermath. But it wasn't, and we are still living with those consequences today. An apology is more than a symbolic gesture – it's a starting point for conversations on reconciliation, and build towards a more just and equitable future. We are committed to remembering the devastation that took place on this day 35 years ago, in order to heal the impact of this tragedy and prevent similar such occurrences from happening in the future. We apologize for the decisions leading to the devastation of that day, and acknowledge the fundamental injustice, cruelty, brutality, and inhumanity of the MOVE Bombing. As members of Council, we acknowledge negligence in communication, negotiation, and conflict resolution matters, both leading up to and following these tragic events. The work of Ulysses Slaughter, Mike Africa, Jr., Gabriel Bryant, and a community of activists working tirelessly for justice have been invaluable in this effort. Their commitment has brought critical conversations to light, allowing the process of true healing to begin - we thank them.
The MOVE Apology
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