Merle Austin Africa was the embodiment of strength, endurance and a welcoming spirit. A radiant smile was a partner of her commitment. A black woman, a MOVE member; a rebel, revolutionary; bright, beautiful and genuine. The perfect sister.
It was 13 years ago today, March 13, that Merle passed away at the prison for women in Northwestern Pennsylvania in Cambridge Springs. She had been in prison for 20 straight years, doing a sentence of 30-100 years for essentially not renouncing the teachings of John Africa and turning on MOVE.
Merle maintained her innocence along with her family/co-defendants who have spent 33 years in prison. Merle was a human being who was the soul of the family. Her laughter was infectious.
She must never be forgotten, and in that spirit, I wish to reach out to all who embrace our sisters for their enduring spirit and centuries-long dedication to the resistance of racism, misogyny and all forms of white supremacy.
Too many of our unsung heroes go unnoticed or under-appreciated. We do not want Merle in that category. Merle was robbed of 20 years of her life.
John Africa said if you rob someone of their life, impose on their contentment, you have in fact killed that person. She was murdered by the State.
Our concerted efforts to educate must be relentless as we strive to get justice and redress for all of these losses. And we must continue to link Merle’s persecution as a political prisoner and black woman to all of our political prisoners and women being oppressed. Our overall objective is our quest for eventual freedom for all and our God given right to determine for ourselves.
Merle died on March 13, 13 years ago. Those 13 years and the date of her death are significant and eerie by itself. Those numbers bear a real, historical relation to MOVE and a chronology that started when MOVE members were arrested March 13, 1981. Our home was bombed and 11 members murdered on May 13, 1985, and then of course, her death was March 13, 1998.
If this bleak account is disturbing — as it should be — let us unify our efforts wherever we can in honoring Merle and keeping her spirit alive as we re-double our efforts to fight for the release of all political prisoners and prisoners of war and human beings.
Free All Political Prisoners!
Chuck Africa and Iresha Picot