PHIL AFRICA, a high-ranking member of the black-liberation group MOVE, died Saturday at the Pennsylvania Correctional Institution at Dallas, according to NBC10.
No cause of death was given, and remaining members of the group were quick to say he died under "suspicious circumstances." His age could not be determined.
Africa (all members of MOVE adopted the surname) was one of the "MOVE 9," members imprisoned after a shootout at the group's former headquarters in Powelton Village in 1978, in which Police Officer James Ramp was shot to death.
Phil Africa was in prison when police dropped C4 explosives on the roof of the group's barricaded headquarters on Osage Avenue near 62nd Street on May 13, 1985.
The ensuing fire killed 11 MOVE members, including five children, and destroyed the neighborhood.
Only two people – Ramona Africa and 13-year-old Birdie Africa – escaped the inferno. Birdie, who reclaimed his birth name of Michael Moses Ward, died last June in a hot tub on a cruise ship at age 41. He was an Army veteran.
Phil Africa was "first minister of defense" for John Africa, who founded MOVE in 1972. John Africa died in the 1985 fire.
"Phil made a deep impression on people all around the world," MOVE members wrote in a statement, reported by NBC10.
"He was constantly writing, often dozens of letters a day, encouraging solidarity and strength, and warmly advising hundreds of people."
Surviving MOVE members, including Ramona Africa, have fought for years to free the MOVE 9, contending they were not to blame for Ramp's death.
In Monday's online edition of the San Francisco Bay View, Ramona Africa wrote:
"On Saturday, Jan. 10, 2015, Phil Africa, revolutionary, John Africa's first minister of defense and beloved brother, husband and father, passed away under suspicious circumstances at the State Correctional Institution at Dallas, Penn."
Ramona claimed that MOVE members were not allowed to visit Phil Africa when they learned he had been taken to a prison infirmary.
She wrote that Phil was "secretly transported to Wilkes-Barre General Hospital, where he was held in total isolation, incommunicado, for five days."
The day before he died, he was returned to the prison and placed in hospice care, Ramona wrote.
She wrote that the prison at first refused to let Phil call his wife, Janine Africa, but eventually relented.
"He was heavily drugged, incoherent, and couldn't even hold the phone to talk to her," Ramona wrote.
"Phil took his commitment and work as a revolutionary very seriously, but was often smiling, laughing and giving people hugs and encouragement,"
He taught himself art in prison and created numerous paintings.