Thursday, March 6, 2014

Getting To Know Mike Africa Sr

Mike Sr. and Mike Jr.
Mike is an incredibly sharp individual. His intellectual capacity is downright impressive! He plays guitar and pursues higher education.  Mike works in the kitchen at Graterford, where he has access to a raw vegetables and maintains a vegan diet. His Move brothers explain that he was a great boxer, but always the best runner. They also compliment his academics.  Chuck laughs as he reminisces about Mike diligently washing the salt off of his peanuts before eating them, preferring them in their more natural state.

When I first entered the visiting room, I had not seen a picture of Mike since 1978. However, the heart-warming, genuine smile that beamed in my direction brought me straight to him! Of course I asked just to make sure, but I knew it was him. The room was packed and noisy, and made it hard to hear each other. By no means did this stop us from engaging.

Mike has been paying attention to anti-GMO organizing and the war on Monsanto. We discussed GMOs and the corporate sales pitch of labeling items “organic.” It's hard to understand the consumer's logic in trusting a corporate note that the product is certified organic. When explaining that organic means no additives, it was made clear that even without intentional additives, the essentials are toxified in consistency from additives generated by airplanes, cellular radiation, chemical spillages, and day-to-day human-generated garbage that poison the air, water and soil almost everywhere. Everything that grows on it, grows with these additives. Nothing anymore can be truly natural, as the “certified organic” label is supposed to indicate. It's essentially just another sales pitch.

He also commented on technology and industrialization as a backward direction to be facing. Something John Africa taught them was to look back into time and see how much more natural things were the further and further back you look. In today's age, children as young as 9 years old have 'smart' phones. Moreover, everyone is playing a role in sustaining this system. Many (even the 99%) are working jobs that they hate, some immoral, that protect the status quo. The dollar sign at the end of the tunnel calls the shots. Most of us feel trapped, however, this is a snowball rolling downhill. The problem only gets worse as we all play. The only realistic method of stopping it is to boycott corporations completely (specifically those that have anything to do with the mistreatment of any form of life) and actively utilize alternatives. For example, if folks want to boycott the Walmart family, we need to stand together and stay consistent. Over time, people tend to burn out or give in to consumer pleasures. Prioritizing property over the value of human and other animal lives who are exploited and slaughtered for the buyer's convenience is an issue. Following (or not resisting), while stemming from an economic demand, is also what operates smoky factories and mass production.

The same goes for products such as cigarettes and other harmful consumptions. Mike makes a good point in stating that cigarette boxes even have a warning on the box, so why would one knowingly choose to harm their health? This is of course at least partly due to tobacco giants, lobbyists, psychological warfare, nicotine and mass production. Furthermore, cancerous tobacco-related health problems are one of the largest issues feeding the medical industry. Sadly, the psychological warfare over time has influenced society to prioritize momentary pleasure over health. If we were to start fresh, this would likely seem to be one of the most bizarre aspects of this society. It doesn't make any logical sense, being that it would have been an unlikely direction for society to go on it's own. If it wasn't for over 300 years of imperialism, tyranny and an institutionalized psychological framework, we'd be in much better shape. Once again, as always, it falls into the hands of the people, to reverse this process.

The process of how we receive and promote information also requires some attention. Mainstream media encourages the backwards notions of society discussed above, but independent media has proven reliable in the past. Mike is able to watch Democracy Now, and can see the focus of current political prisoner support work via that medium. He sees that this is the time to shed light on aging prisoners and compassionate release. Many U.S. PP's/POW's are reaching the point where they should be rightfully released due to their age and/or health condition. He suggests utilizing DN and other independents as much as possible to keep the pressure on. The time for this strategy is now.

On the second day of visitation with Mike, we discussed parole. Mike says that, if paroled, he would enjoy living out in the country, far away from cities. He would love for the Move family to live and work the land, and carry on undisturbed. Move is outspoken about the injustices with the system, but it was the system that attacked them in their homes rather than them seeking out a violent confrontation. Move does not enforce it's beliefs on others, and rightfully wants to live autonomously. Later, when we spoke to Chuck, he relayed to us that Mike is a family man, and would probably be extremely happy to spend the remainder of his life with his wife Debbie (one of the Move 9 and Chuck's sister). We firmly believe that Mike is more than worthy of parole, meets all the requirements, and it would be unconscionable to not let him and Debbie be free to be a family once again with Mike Jr. (their son who Debbie gave birth to in prison) and their grandchildren.

Just as we are, Mike is an animal lover. We had a great conversation about the love and compassion that only non-human animals are able to maintain. As humans, we're not capable of comprehending such love, because love for all was never instilled in us. There is no human-to-human bond that can relate to the closeness of animal-to-human relationships. People are hateful and cannot understand, rather then try to, many have been lead a stray to social norms.

Which then brings up the question, what is normal? Move members all come from different backgrounds and have individual experiences that brought them to the organization. Mike was in the military from the time he was suckered into it at age 16. He went AWOL not too long after boot camp when he began to spend time around Move and become more interested in preserving and protecting life rather than destroying it as he was expected to do in the military. Debbie and Mike had been together on and off for years. Mike knew her brother Chuck very well, and was outraged to hear of his arrest as a minor at only age 13. Mike boarded a bus to a demonstration held for Chuck, and was arrested as soon as he got there. After that first-hand experience, he began to empathize and identify with Move more and more.

At the time of his first arrest, Mike was considered “normal,” as someone who drinks wine when he wakes up in the morning, has no empathy for animals, and maintains his hair. He use to think the Move organization was weird too, but as time carried on, he learned to question his previous lifestyle of 'normalcy.' There were times where he use to get embarrassed by the insults of outsiders commenting on their dreadlocks and natural body odor from garlic consumption. However, Mike is no longer embarrassed by any comments of the like, as he is proud of his hair, diet, body odor, and all other natural features that evolved. This begs the question, 'How is nature so strange?' 'How are artificial developments considered normal?' People thought it was weird for Move to foster so many dogs, but Move feels it's weird that so many people abandoned or mistreated their dogs. The house on Powelton Avenue originally had just three dogs living there, but more and more stray dogs would appear in the streets or find Move headquarters on their own. There were also abused/underfed dogs that were rescued by Move and given a healthy, active life from then on. So treating dogs as living beings rather then expendable items is “weird?”

Everyone in Move was healthy, athletic, disciplined and clean. When the health department inspected Move houses, everything passed health code, and was neatly organized. This may be the primary hateful motivation behind the State's repression against Move, because their fundamental goals cannot be argued against logically. The organization's beliefs were not the problem; it was that they were gaining some traction or power. Since the State can't argue against the cause, they unjustly attack Move in an attempt to deflect attention and respect for them. However, Move will not be silenced. The wisdom and love behind their philosophy and way of living has and will continue to thrive. Mike radiates positive energy; it is a pleasure to be around him. We will continue to advocate for his release so that he can continue to be a positive influence on those he comes into contact with. Mike's next parole hearing is in December of 2014, one month after Chuck's, so stay tuned for updates on how to support him leading up to this hearing.

No comments: