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Philadelphia City Council had issued a formal apology for the 1985 bombing in November. Photo: vox.com
Philadelphia City Council had issued a formal apology for the 1985 bombing in November. Photo: vox.com

MOVE rejects Philly City Council as ‘40 Years a Prisoner’ debuts on HBO

The documentary about the infamous bombing at the 6200 block of Osage Avenue in West Philadelphia premiered on Dec. 8.

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In 1985, law enforcement in Philadelphia dropped a bomb on a group of activists called MOVE that lived at a house on the 6200 block of Osage Avenue. The explosive killed 11 people, five of which were children, and displaced hundreds that lived on that block after it burned to the ground. 

Thirty-five years later, a month before the end of a long year with uncertain futures and civil unrest, Philadelphia City Council voted to issue a formal apology regarding the dark cloud that loomed over them for so long about the legislative body’s role in the decision to drop the bomb. 

It came before a new documentary on HBO MAX was released on Dec. 8, 2020 about the MOVE bombing. It details the story of Mike Africa Jr., the son of two founders of MOVE 9. 

The documentary also explains what happened in 1978, and the struggle it set off for years to come between the organization and the City of Philadelphia. 

Tommy Oliver, the filmmaker of the documentary said much of what MOVE fought against in 1978 are the same issues organizations like Black Lives Matter organize against today. 

“Police brutality, incarceration, systemic racism, abuse of power. It struck me,” Oliver shared. 

Also ahead of the film’s release, a day to be exact, MOVE issued a statement rejecting the apology from Philadelphia City Council.

Additionally, they demanded for the release of Mumia Abu Jamal from prison. 

“If city officials are sincere about rectifying the debacle of 1985, they would release our brother, Mumia Abu Jamal immediately! They can’t give us back our 11 family members they murdered in 1985, but they can give us back our brother, Mumia Abu Jamal, who has been in prison 39 years for a crime he didn’t commit and everybody knows this,” read part of the statement

Oliver was growing up in the West Oak Lane neighborhood when the tragedy happened. Now a Los Angeles based producer, he decided to create the documentary to better understand what happened 35 years ago. 

Better yet, to also shed light on a past that feels forgotten. 

Though he was an infant, the memory of MOVE bombing was in the culture he grew up in. 

“I wanted it to be as objective as I could. I think the folks I interviewed appreciated that. I think it’s one of the reasons folks sat down with me,” he said. “That doesn’t mean either side didn’t say things that are questionable.”

Oliver was able to not only speak to Mike Africa Jr, but also other members of MOVE. In line with his objective stance, he also interviews law enforcement and attorneys involved with the case in 1985. 

You can stream the documentary on HBO MAX if you want to delve deeper into a darker history of Philadelphia finally seeing some light.

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