Incarceration Nation

Phil Africa: MOVE Member

By Mumia Abu-Jamal 

Early in the year of 1956, a brown baby boy was born, and named William Phillips. Who knew he would grow up 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, broke-tooth smile, that sparkle in his eyes, his raspy voice, or the joy that he took in life.

With his broad chest, and thick, muscled 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, painted amidst the darkness of prison.

In the ’90s, 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 alla us. It’s the Power of Life, knowimeen?”

Nothing this system makes is 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!

Prison Radio, April 16, 2017

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Mumia Abu-Jamal AM-8335


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