Janine Africa served as Minister of Education for the MOVE Organization. Her daugher, Life Africa, was killed at three weeks old by the Philadelphia police. She was later caught in the police raid of the MOVE house where she and eight others were wrongfully convicted of the murder of a police officer who was killed by friendly fire during the raid. She has served 40 years in prison despite her innocence. In May 2018, her sister Debbie Africa was freed on parole. A habeas lawsuit was filed on behalf of Janine because she was denied parole unjustly. She was granted parole in May 2019 and released on the 25th, three days before her habeas was scheduled for a hearing.
Janine had a baby and got married when she was just seventeen. She explains,
“I didn’t know how to be a mother or a wife and trying to be both was driving me to a nervous breakdown. I developed a condition where my throat would close up on me and I couldn’t eat. I went from doctor to doctor, hospital to hospital and none of them could do anything for me.”
One day she happened to pass by a demonstration MOVE was holding. She stopped and listened to what they had to say and she was impresed by the “strength, confidence and assertiveness of the MOVE women.” Afterwards, she approached some of the MOVE women to find out more.
She attended the next weekly study session they held and from then on was convinced of MOVE’s message and politics. She joined MOVE in 1973.
After joining MOVE and living out their holistic and natural principles the condition with her throat was cured. She also felt more confident as a mother and wife.
Life Africa Tragically Killed by Police
Local politicians are shown the body of Life Africa, April 2, 1976
Janine gave birth naturally at home to Life Africa on March 8, 1976. Three weeks later, seven MOVE members were returning from a stint in jail. Officers in at least ten cars pulled up to the house claiming that MOVE was creating a disturbance. Chuck Africa told the officers to leave them alone and was then grabbed and beaten, setting off other officers to beat the other six MOVE men. Janine Africa was trying to protect her husband Phil Africa, when she was grabbed by a cop, thrown to the ground with 3-week-old Life Africa in arms, and stomped until she was nearly unconscious. The baby’s skull was crushed.
MOVE held a press conference the following day, explaining how the police had murdered Life and displayed a nightstick that was broken in two over Robert Africa’s head and an officer’s hat that was left at the house. Because Life did not have birth certificate, the city denied the claim and so MOVE had to prove that Life was murdered by inviting local politicians over to view the body.
Charges brought against the officers who murdered Life were immediately dismissed despite neighborhood witnesses. The city instead pursued charges against the six men who were beaten that night.
Tensions reached a boiling point between MOVE and the Philadelphia police on August 8th, 1978. Months prior the police had turned off the water to the house and set up a blockade preventing any food or aid to be sent in to the family. After the MOVE family still refused to leave their home the city finally raided the house. Police began firing on the house and in the flurry of bullets an officer went down. Janine and eight others were falsely accused of the officer’s death. All nine of them were convicted of third degree murder and received sentences from 30-100 years in prison. Janine remains in prison to this day, denied parole every time she has come up for review.
A drawing by Janine’s husband, Phil Africa.
Janine continues to struggle for a better world inside her cell. She, along with her MOVE sisters have prevented prisoners from committing suicide, resolved racial disputes, and helped keep prisoners out of trouble so that they can get out on good behavior to reunite with their families again.
In 2018, the PA Dept of Corrections instituted a restrictive mail policy where all mail to prisoners must be sent through a mail processing facility in Florida where all correspondence is scanned, copied and then the copy is mailed to the prisoner. There is an active campaign to get Gov. Wolf to repeal the restrictive policy so that friends and family member can send mail such as greeting cards again.