“Trauma”: Meek Mill
Meek Mill is a rapper from Philadelphia. He’s put out five albums. His most recent, Championships, debuted at #1 on the charts, and was nominated for a Grammy for Best Rap Album.
Back in 2007, He was arrested on a gun charge at the age of 19, and over the last eleven years, he was sent to prison four times for parole violations. But in July 2019, based on evidence of alleged police corruption, the Pennsylvania Superior Court threw out his conviction, and the parole violation that had led to his most recent time in prison, a five-month sentence.
It was soon after Meek Mill was released that this song, “Trauma,” was created. He took inspiration from his experiences in prison, and his early life in Philadelphia.
In this episode, Meek Mill and Don Cannon, who produced the track, break down how the whole thing came together.
Learn more about the Reform Alliance here.
You can buy or stream “Trauma” here.
Out of prison after 41 years, MOVE member Delbert Africa rails against ‘unjust’ criminal justice system
Delbert Africa, a longtime member of MOVE, is unrepentant about his part in the 1978 Powelton Village confrontation between the group and Philadelphia police that left an officer dead and sent him to prison for more than 40 years.
“Nothing could have been done differently to stop and curtail that assault by the police on us. It wouldn’t have stopped,” Africa, 73, said Tuesday in his first Philadelphia interview since being paroled from state prison on Saturday.
One of nine MOVE members imprisoned for the 1978 incident, Africa said he is looking forward to reuniting with the surviving MOVE members who were previously paroled, to continue the work of challenging what he called an unjust criminal justice system. The fact that the city has had African American police commissioners during his time in prison has no bearing on the inequity in the system, he said.
“I want to keep on pushing the whole front of fighting this unjust system. I want to keep on pushing it and do as much as I can in my time here as dictated by the teachings of John Africa. Keep on working, stay on the move,” said Africa, who discussed his past and future goals at a news conference Tuesday at the Kingsessing Branch Library in West Philadelphia.
At the gathering, Africa, his face framed by gray frayed dreadlocks and facial hair, received a hero’s welcome from MOVE members and supporters who listened in rapt attention as he recalled the August confrontation with police, and recounted how he was cursed at and badly beaten by officers after he surrendered.
“I’m unconscious, and that’s when one cop pulled me by the hair across the street, one cop started jumping on my head, one started kicking me in the ribs and beating me,” he said. “Their excuse later on is they thought I was armed. I was naked from the waist up.”
MOVE has always maintained that the bullet that killed Ramp was accidentally fired by police.
By 1980, the group had relocated to the 6200 block of Osage Avenue. Neighbors began to complain to the city about trash, loudspeaker rants, and concerns about child abuse and neglect in MOVE’s house.
On May 13, 1985, the city flew a helicopter over the group’s home and dropped the bomb that left 11 people dead, including John Africa, as well as Delbert Africa’s 13-year-old daughter. The neighborhood was in ruins, with 61JDebbie homes destroyed. City officials were found to have acted recklessly, but no charges were filed.
Delbert Africa was among nine MOVE members convicted of third-degree murder for Ramp’s death.
Janine, Janet, and Eddie Africa were released from prison in 2019. Mike Africa Sr. and his wife, Debbie, were released in 2018. Merle Africa died in prison in March 1998 and Phil Africa died in prison in January 2015. Chuck Africa remains
Move 9 member Delbert Orr Africa freed after 42 years in prison
One of the great open wounds of the 1970s black liberation struggle came closer to being healed on Saturday with the release of Delbert Orr Africa, a member of the Move 9 group who has been imprisoned for 42 years for a crime he says he did not commit.
Del Africa walked free from Pennsylvania’s state correctional institution, Dallas, on Saturday morning after a long struggle to convince parole authorities to release him. He is the eighth of the nine Move members – five men and four women – to be released or to have died while in prison.
Only one of the nine, Chuck Africa, remains behind bars.
The nine were arrested and sentenced to 30 years to life following a dramatic police siege of their communal home in Philadelphia which culminated with a shootout on 8 August 1978. In the maelstrom a police officer, James Ramp, was killed with a single bullet. Move has always denied that any of its members were responsible.
Brad Thomson, a member of Del Africa’s legal team, said the decision to release him on parole “affirms what the movement to free the Move 9 has been arguing for decades: that their continued incarceration is unjust”.
Thomson added: “With the release of Delbert, that leaves Charles ‘Chuck’ Africa as the last member of the Move 9 to still be in prison. Chuck went before the parole board last month and we are optimistic that he will be released in the very near future.”
The Guardian told the story of Del Africa and his fellow Move 9 member Janine Phillips Africa in a series of articles on black radicals who have been incarcerated for decades as a result of their activities in the 1960s, 70s and 80s.
Move was formed in Philadelphia as a group of black radicals committed not only to the liberation from racial oppression, in tune with the Black Panther party of the time, but also to environmentalist and back-to-nature ideals. They lived, as they still do today, as a family, taking “Africa” as their shared last name.
Over two years, from prison, Del Africa related his story to the Guardian in emails and a three-hour interview. He recounted how he became engaged in the black struggle when a girlfriend introduced him to the Black Panther Party in Chicago in the late 1960s.
Later, he moved to Philadelphia and drifted into Move. He was inside the Move house in Powelton Village in the summer of 1978 when it came under police siege.
The city, under a notoriously brutal mayor, Frank Rizzo, wanted to evict the group on the grounds that they were a nuisance and an affront to public decency.
When the shootout broke out, police went in with guns and water cannon. Del Africa provided one of the astonishing images of the black liberation struggle when he emerged from the house with his arms outstretched, as if on the cross, while a police officer jabbed a rifle in his neck.
Video footage shows two officers throwing him to the ground and kicking him on the head, which bounces between them like a ball.
Africa described the event: “A cop hit me with his helmet. Smashed my eye. Another cop swung his shotgun and broke my jaw. I went down, and after that I don’t remember anything till I came to and a dude was dragging me by my hair and cops started kicking me in the head.”
For six years of his incarceration, Delbert Africa was put in an infamous solitary confinement wing known by prisoners as the “dungeon”. His isolation was imposed because he refused to have his dreadlocks cut – part of the Move philosophy.
He recalled in Guardian interviews how he survived in solitary confinement by developing a black history quiz with other prisoners, which they would play by tapping out messages. Other prisoners joined the game, which asked questions like: when was the Brown v Board of Education ruling in the US supreme court? What year was the Black Panther party founded? Who was Dred Scott? For what is John Brown remembered?
In 1985, when Del Africa had been in prison for almost seven years, tragedy struck again. He learned that Philadelphia police had conducted a second siege on the Move communal home, which was now located in Osage Avenue.
On this occasion, the police dropped an incendiary bomb from a helicopter. The bomb ignited a fire that spread through the overwhelmingly African American neighborhood.
City leaders allowed the fire to rage. Sixty-one houses were razed and 11 people in the Move house were killed, including five children. One of the survivors, Ramona Africa, was badly burned. She was duly put on trial and sentenced to seven years in prison.
One of the children who died was Delisha, Del Africa’s 13-year-old daughter. He told the Guardian how he responded to the news that she had been killed in an inferno: “I just cried. I wanted to strike out. I wanted to wreak as much havoc as I could until they put me down. That anger, it brought such a feeling of helplessness. Like, dang! What to do now? Dark times.”
With the 35th anniversary of the bombing approaching in May, Del Africa is free. At the end of the Guardian’s interview with him, he described how he had managed to endure four decades behind bars.
“I keep staying on the move. Stagnation is the worst thing. I’m on the move, and I hope you are too,” he said.
“We’ve suffered the worst that this system can throw at us – decades of imprisonment, loss of loved ones. So we know we are strong. For all of that, we are still here and I look on that with pride.”
The History of the Black Radical Group MOVE and Its Infamous Bombing by Police
And how Philadelphia became “the city that bombed itself.”
Ruling Keeps Alive Mumia Abu-Jamal’s Lawsuit Over Hepatitis Drugs
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — A federal appeals court on Friday kept alive a lawsuit brought by Mumia Abu-Jamal, who was convicted in the killing a Philadelphia police officer in 1981, that alleges his rights were violated when he was denied hepatitis C drugs. The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower-court decision that Corrections Department employees were not immune to being sued over their decisions regarding Abu-Jamal.
Abu-Jamal, 65, who is serving a life sentence in the Pennsylvania prison system, says the initial denial of treating him with two anti-hepatitis drugs violated his constitutional right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment.
He previously won a court order that required the prison system to provide the drugs.
His lawyer, Bret Grote, said Friday that the treatment was successful.
Mumia Abu-Jamal Gets New Hearing In Death Of Philadelphia Police Officer After District Attorney Drops Opposition
A Wolf administration spokesman said the newly issued opinion was under review and noted the decision did not conclude the litigation.
On Friday, the three-judge federal panel ruled there are sufficient grounds at this point to support his claim that he was denied appropriate treatment for a nonmedical reason — its high cost.
“Our ruling here should not be read to rule out the possibility that the department defendants may, at a future stage of the litigation, be able to establish either a lack of medical consensus at relevant points as to the appropriate procedures surrounding hepatitis C treatment or that there were ‘medical reasons’ for adherence to the protocol,” wrote Judge Patty Shwartz.
In November, the Corrections Department announced it was moving to settle a separate lawsuit by providing a prescription drug treatment regimen for prisoners who suffer from chronic hepatitis C infections.
That deal called for the state to provide direct-acting anti-viral drugs, giving priority to those with the most serious conditions. The department said last year the average per-patient treatment cost was about $20,000.
Abu-Jamal, an inmate at the State Correctional Institute-Mahanoy, is a former Black Panther convicted of the slaying of Officer Daniel Faulkner, who had just pulled over Abu-Jamal’s brother.
Abu-Jamal spent most of his decades behind bars on death row before his sentence was reduced in 2011 to life without parole. He was recently granted a new appeals hearing.
He tested positive in 2012 for the hepatitis C antibody, and three years later was rushed to a hospital twice in three months, Shwartz wrote. He repeatedly asked to be treated with two anti-viral drugs, but a prison system committee rejected his request.
Abu-Jamal sued in May 2015, and a federal judge ordered him to be treated with the two drugs. The latest appeals court decision concerns a lawsuit he filed in 2017 that alleges violation of his 8th Amendment protection from cruel and unusual punishment.
A trial date has not been scheduled.
(©Copyright 2019 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
Police Terrorism on Osage Ave
In this May 1985 photo, scores of row houses burn in a fire in the west Philadelphia neighborhood. Police dropped a bomb on the militant group MOVE’s home on May 13, 1985 in an attempt to arrest members, leading to the burning of scores of homes in the neighborhood.
On May 13, 1985 at 5:20 p.m., a blue and white Pennsylvania State Police helicopter took off from the command post’s flight pad at 63rd and Walnut, flew a few times over 6221 Osage Avenue, and then hovered 60 feet above the two-story house in the black, middle-class West Philadelphia neighborhood. Lt. Frank Powell, chief of Philadelphia’s bomb disposal unit, was holding a canvas bag containing a bomb consisting of two sticks of Tovex TR2 with C-4. After radioing firefighters on the ground and lighting the bomb’s 45-second fuse — and with the official approval of Mayor W. Wilson Goode and at the insistence of Police Commissioner Gregore Sambor — Powell tossed the bomb, at precisely 5:28 p.m., onto a bunker on the roof.
This was followed shortly thereafter by a loud explosion and then a large, bright orange ball of fire that reached 7,200 degrees Fahrenheit. That day, Powell, the mayor, the police commissioner, Fire Commissioner William Richmond, city Managing Director Leo Brooks, and numerous police officers committed, in the words of Philadelphia Special Investigation Commission (better known as the MOVE Commission) member Charles Bowser, a “criminally evil” act that led to the death of 11 human beings, including five completely innocent and defenseless children, the destruction of 61 homes, and the incineration of thousands of family photos, high school and college sweetheart love letters, heirloom jewelry, inscribed Bibles and Korans, and many other totally irreplaceable mementos.
Mr. Bowser, my mentor and the author of the powerful tell-all expose entitled Let the Bunker Burn, told me that five of the city’s most influential black political leaders met at the mayor’s home before dawn on May 13, 1985, in response to the mayor’s invitation and warning that “I’m going to make a move on the MOVE house … (this) morning.” This was in connection to what Goode described as complaints by Osage Avenue neighbors and outstanding arrest warrants. By the way, it should be noted that those same neighbors attempted to stop the police department’s siege of their community as soon as they realized what was developing. In fact, as the five influential black leaders watched the television broadcast of the military-like assault unfolding with shots and tear gas, two of them repeatedly urged the Mayor to call it off. In particular, City Council President Joseph Coleman, sitting at the Mayor’s kitchen table, told him the 500-strong police action was “excessive” and State Senator Hardy Williams, standing near the kitchen entrance, said “Why don’t they just back up and relax? Nobody’s going anywhere.”
More than 500 cops fired more than 10,000 rounds of ammunition in less than 90 minutes — in a middle-class, black neighborhood. WTF? No, let me say it: What the Fuck?! This was blatantly outrageous brutal racism. It never would have happened in the Northeast or in South Philly, even if the Hell’s Angels had kidnapped then-President Ronald Reagan. And everybody knows it.
The cops would have simply sent in a hostage negotiator. And if that didn’t work, they would have cut off access to electricity, water and food, and then waited the criminals out. And if that didn’t work, they would have sent in a professionally trained SWAT unit to storm that specific house with surgical precision. Goddamnit, even Osama’s house and neighborhood in Abbottabad weren’t firebombed. The mayor, police commissioner, fire commissioner, managing Director, and the cops — and especially the public — would not have approved, allowed or tolerated the burning down of a white neighborhood and the destruction of 61 white homes.
And don’t tell me some shit about the incineration of Osage not being racist simply because the mayor and the managing director were black. It’s the victims that make it racist! They were black. And they lived in a black neighborhood. Furthermore, Powell, the bomb-dropping cop, was white. Moreover, William Klein, the cop who made the bomb, was also white. As eloquently stated by Bowser, “Goode and Brooks did not shoot 10,000 bullets into that house. They did not put military explosives into the bomb. They did not decide to let the bunker burn. And they did not shoot at children trying to escape the fire. I know none of that would have happened in a white neighborhood and so do you.” That’s exactly why the MOVE Commission pointed out, in one of its final official comments, that none of this would have ever happened “had the MOVE house and its occupants been situated in a comparable white neighborhood.”
Tovex TR2 was a commercial explosive invented in the 1960s as an option to dynamite, and its purpose was to dig trenches through rock in order to lay pipes. The “TR” is the abbreviation for trench, and the “2” refers to the second DuPont Company item in its trenching products. The company’s explosive products division was located a little more than a half hour from Philadelphia in Delaware. But not one fire or police department official ever cared enough to contact DuPont and ask what could happen if TR2 were used in a residential neighborhood. And that’s because they didn’t give a shit about black people. If they had asked, DuPont would have told them that it had been designed exclusively for, and had been used exclusively for, underground purposes. And the last time I checked, every black man, woman and child in the Osage community lived above-ground.
video: The Empire Files with Abby Martin, a weekly investigative news show on teleSUR English
video: Interview conducted by Sonali Kolhatkar for KPFK’s “Uprising” and FreeSpeech TV “Uprising with Sonali” (26:59 min:sec) Full length