On the eve of the 36 year anniversary of the 1985 MOVE bombing, the mothers of the victims remembered the lives lost while remaining skeptical of a museum’s handling of their loved ones’ remains.
On May 13, 1985, the city of Philadelphia ordered the bombing of a home housing members of the revolutionary group MOVE in the city’s Cobbs Creek neighborhood following a standoff and shootout with police.
The bombing killed six adults and five children inside the home, including Phil Africa, 11, Tomaso Africa, 8, Delicia Orr Africa, 13, Katricia Africa, 13 and Zanetta Africa, 11. Sixty one nearby homes were then burned to the ground after the fire spiraled out of control.
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As the mothers of the five children reflect on one of the darkest days in the city’s history, they are also dealing with a new controversy. MOVE members recently learned that decades ago, the city medical examiner gave human remains from the bombing site to Penn Museum for identification, sparking protests and outrage.
“I’ve got family members who told me that they buried my children,” Consuewella Africa, mother of Katricia and Zanetta, told NBC10. “Now, 36 years later they’re talking about, they’ve got bones.”
Penn Museum has since apologized to the family members after tracking down the remains.
“I don’t appreciate and we don’t like the fact that these people did what they did and then dictated to us what they’re going to do with them,” Janet Africa, the mother of Delicia, said.
The mothers said Penn Museum reached out about a week ago to tell them they gave the remains to a funeral home in Philadelphia. The women told NBC10 that wasn’t their choice however and they don’t know how they want to proceed just yet.
“We’re still meeting as an organization, as a family, making a decision,” Sue Africa, mother of Tomaso Africa, told NBC10. “But you have to understand our suspicion and reluctance.”
The women said they don’t trust that the remains are in fact those of their loved ones considering what happened to their children 36 years ago.
“This is something that you would never imagine,” Consuewella Africa said. “I mean, dropping a bomb in a city!”
Attorneys Joe Tucker and Carl Singley of the Tucker Law Group have been hired by Penn to investigate what happened, and the university said it would release their findings once the review is complete.