He was born William Phillips, on Jan. 1, 1956, but few people called him by that name.
Most people knew him as Phil, and after joining the revolutionary naturalist MOVE organization in the early 1970s, most called him Phil Africa.
He was part of the confrontation of Aug. 8, 1978, in Philadelphia, where nearly a dozen MOVE members were charged in connection with that conflict, in which a cop likely died from friendly fire – but MOVE members were charged.
Among them, Phil Africa. Phil was among 9 MOVE men and women charged with murder, and convicted in a hotly disputed trial, of third degree murder. So disputed, in fact, that several days after the trial, Judge Edwin Malmed would admit, in a locally broadcast interview, that he ‘Hadn’t the faintest idea’….”the faintest idea” (his very words) …who killed the cop.
The 9 MOVE members were sentenced to 30 to 100 years: the longest in Pennsylvania history since third-degree became law in PA. Judge Malmed reportedly acknowledged the illegality of such a sentence, telling those sentenced that it may be reversed on appeal, but, for now, it would hold them. It appears Malmed believed the State Appellate courts were fairer than even they believed.
But not to people named Africa it seems.
For today, 37 years after the events of August, 1978, the fact that 7 remaining men and women are still in prison is nothing short of a scandal.
The MOVE men and women should’ve been free, at least 7 years ago, when they reached their minimums.
But this is Pennsylvania, where madness passes as normality.
Phil lost a son back in the mid –‘70s, when police trampled his child, Life Africa.
On May 13, 1985, when the police bombed a MOVE home, another son, Little Phil, was among the 11 people shot and burned to death.
Phil was an extremely talented artist and painter. He was a man with a gift of lightness, a witty sense of humor, and an ever-present smile.
Phil Africa, MOVE member, will be long loved and remembered by his wife, Janine Africa, by his brothers and sister in MOVE, and by many, many prisoners across the state, whom he counseled over the years.
Phil lived through 59 cycles of planet earth, before being returned to his Mother.