n May 13, 1985, in a display of state violence that stunned the nation, the Philadelphia Police Department bombed its own city.
MOVE, a radical Black separatist movement formed in 1973, had been protesting against the imprisonment of its members and other manifestations of systemic injustice for years. When confrontation escalated to armed conflict on that early spring evening, police helicopters dropped a bomb that decimated the organization’s headquarters on Osage Avenue, in West Philadelphia.
Eleven people died in the explosion, including MOVE’s founder, John Africa, and five children: 12-year-old Netta Africa, 14-year-old Tree Africa, 11-year-old Phil Africa, 12-year-old Delisha Africa and 9-year-old Tomaso Africa. (All MOVE members take the surname Africa as a symbol of Black liberation.) A fire sparked by the bomb destroyed 61 homes—an entire block—and left more than 250 people unhoused, as Lindsey Norward reported for Vox in 2019.