At around 6 a.m. on May 13, 1985, tear gas and water hoses created a diversion in a row home in the west section of Philadelphia. News reports stated that the blaze burned for an hour and a half, before the police called in the fire department. Several Black children were killed that day and there was only one adult survivor.
“They wanted to kill our children. The house shook, smoke was coming in. So we knew, they dropped a bomb on us,” Ramona Africa said, her voice embittered in a news special produced by VICE.
Meanwhile, in Ethiopia, famine was wreaking havoc and after seeing a BBC report from the year before, musician Bob Geldof decided to put on a benefit concert to help.
That concert would become Live Aid.
People are largely familiar with the event in England, but that same day, there was another one happening in Philadelphia at John F. Kennedy Stadium featuring Run DMC, Madonna, Ashford & Simpson, Tom Petty, The Cars, Eric Clapton, Phil Collins, Led Zeppelin, Mick Jagger, Bob Dylan, and Patti LaBelle who is featured on the project.
Ramona is one of the subjects of the new Audible Original Summer of ’85 which was released last week and is narrated by Kevin Hart. Charlamagne serves as executive producer.
The project’s creator, Chris Morrow wondered why no one was connecting the possibility that Live Aid could have been a distraction. “Here were all these rock stars coming together in Philly to “save” Africa just two months to the day after the city had killed 11 people with the last name Africa. There was a dissonance there I wanted to explore,” he said.
“Was hosting Live Aid a way for the city to distract media attention from the MOVE bombing? Was it just a coincidence?”
Kevin Hart isn’t going to make you laugh when you hear his voice on the project, and that’s with good reason.
“With the MOVE people, it’s the perception that these people are destructive and not clean. You’re going off what’s being fed to you, and the real truth was never fed to us,” Hart said about the media’s portrayal of the organization.
MOVE assembled around 1973 under John Africa (formerly Vincent Leaphart) and was founded on the principles of abandoning a lifestyle driven by modern technologies and man-made systems. The political and religious organization was based on Africa’s manifesto entitled The Guidelines.
It was 37 years ago that Philadelphia’s first Black mayor Wilson Goode gave the order to drop the bomb on the MOVE headquarters.
Known largely for wearing their hair in dreadlocks, members of MOVE all adopted the surname Africa.
“Dreads even to this day, signal danger and terror,” Charlamagne said of the images of Blacks in media. “The Live Aid part is a negative depiction of Africa that they showed us,” he added.
Summer of ’85 takes place years after an infamous standoff between members of MOVE and the Philadelphia police under the tutelage of Mayor (and former police chief) Frank Rizzo that resulted in the death of one police officer. The MOVE 9—which included 5 men and 4 women all stood trial and were given terms of 30 to 100 years for the officer’s murder, though they all maintained they did not kill the officer. They were serving their sentences at the time of the 1985 bombing.
The attack on MOVE damaged over 61 houses and costed the city $55 million to rebuild the residences.
“They should definitely get some form of reparations. They got attacked by the United States government and the city of Philadelphia,” Charlamagne said. “There is some atonement that needs to happen.”
Ramona was charged with arson and conspiracy and served 7 years in prison.
“Everything they did, they charged me with,” she said.
Summer of ’85 was released on Audible on July 21.