MOVE 9 member Delbert Orr Africa walked out of a Pennsylvania state correctional facility a free man Saturday after spending more than four decades in prison.
Africa, 73, held his arms stretched wide, much like he did 42 years ago after surrendering to Philadelphia police. But this time, he held out his arms as a symbol of his newfound freedom upon being paroled from prison last week, The Philadelphia Inquirer reports.
Chicago-based lawyer Brad Thomson shared the exciting news on Twitter, writing: “Delbert Africa of the #MOVE9 is free!”
Thomson also posted photos from Africa’s 1978 arrest, alongside pictures of him being reunited with his family over the weekend.
“I’m so happy to have my brother home,” sister Janine Africa told the outlet. “It’s something that they told us would never happen, but I never lost faith this day would come. The power of righteousness will never betray you.”
Africa was one of nine members of the radical Black liberation group jailed on third-degree murder charges for the death of Philadelphia police officer James Ramp, who was killed during a 1978 shootout between MOVE and the city’s police. Each of the members was handed 30- to 100-year sentences in the incident.
MOVE has always maintained their innocence, arguing that the bullet that killed Ramp was accidentally fired by police. Two members since died in prison, while six others were eventually released.
Philadelphia’s Fraternal Order of Police was less than thrilled at news that Africa had been discharged. He is the second-to-last of the nine incarcerated MOVE members to be released.
“When days like this happen, our hearts ache [for] our fallen hero James Ramp and his family as they’re re-victimized every time a MOVE member is released from custody,” FOP President John McNesby said in a statement to KYW News Radio. “We’ll never forget James Ramp and the other victims.”
Several other cops, five firefighters and a few bystanders suffered injuries in the West Philadelphia standoff.
MOVE was founded by West Philadelphia native Vincent Lopez Leaphart, also known as John Africa, in 1972, and “preached an ideology centered on Black revolutionary ideas and back-to-nature beliefs,” the Inquirer reports. Members considered MOVE their religion and sought to address a range of issues including racism, police brutality and animal rights.
In May 1985, by which time the group had moved from the neighborhood of the 1978 shootout to Osage Avenue, Philadelphia cops dropped incendiary bombs on their new commune in the culmination of MOVE’s second police standoff. The resultant fire killed 11 people in the home, including Delbert Africa’s 13-year-old daughter, and started a conflagration that the city allowed to spread to destroy 61 homes.
“I just cried. I wanted to strike out,” he told The Guardian of learning about his daughter’s death. “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 time.”
Africa is expected to address the public for the first time since his release at a press conference scheduled for Tuesday. Relatives have also launched a GoFundMe campaign to help him get reacclimated and find housing.