John Africa...Childhood Untold Until Today
Dust Jacket Hardcover
It was local! It was national! It was international! All over the country and all over the world reporting was non-stop about a black mayor in Philadelphia who allowed a bomb to be dropped on members of MOVE who were also black. Eleven people were killed, six adults and five children. Whether your TV was turned on in the middle of the day, or the middle of the night, it was there. Reportedly the Tribune de Geneve, a Swiss newspaper called it “Blunder American Style”, while a Japanese headline read “Police Drop Bomb on Black Extremists”. A team of newspaper and TV reporters from Russia came into Philly looking for my sister LaVerne and I. They’d seen us on TV, couldn’t find us when they got here, so called WHAT, a black Talk station here. Someone from the station called me, said they were here, but wouldn’t give them our number instead took theirs.
FIRST INKLING I HAD ABOUT "THE BOOK"
Visits from Benny became less and less frequent, then stopped altogether. Once finding out he was ok, I was ok.
Then one day I was talking to our brother Marv, and he asked if I'd read Benny's book. Taken aback, I said book? What book? Marv said Benny had written a book, had given a couple of chapters to dad, and dad had let him read them. I wanted to know what it was about, Marv said far as he could tell, it was about "life". Went on to say what dad's reaction to it had been-which was, that Benny had "destroyed logic!" I told Marvin I wanted to read whatever he had, he said he'd get it to me.
Now past the initial shock of being told Benny had written a book, I didn't know what to think. Hard as I tried, I couldn't make it make sense. I knew I hadn't seen Benny, but I had talked to him briefly and he was ok. But write a book?
I'd talk to him at some point and get to the bottom of this, I thought. In the meantime, I spoke with dad about it, asked him what he thought about Benny's book. He just repeated what he told Marv, said Benny had "destroyed logic!"
He sounded kinda strange though, almost as though he was thinking out loud. Like he was deep in thought, and didn't quite know what to say. And because to be honest about it, I hadn't put much stock in it anyway, I thought no more about it.
Bio – Louise Leaphart James As the sister of John Africa, my bio is interwoven through-out the book. For fill-in information however, I had only a formal education, graduating from Overbrook High School, which means no “letters” are affixed to my name. I spent 23 years as a Long Distance Operator at Bell Telephone – from which I am now retired. The mid to late 60’s, gave us the Civil Rights Movement, which I supported any way I could. I attended rallies, wrote letters, bought key chains, literature, buttons, pictures. When my son Frank was about 6 or 7 years old, I took him to see and hear that most dynamic and eloquent speaker Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He was at a rally at 40th & Lancaster Ave. here in Philadelphia. I joined MOVE in the early 70’s, was in for more than 10 years, during which time I was given the title Minister of Public Relations & Communication. This made me responsible for keeping ongoing records of all MOVE activities. I kept a complete log, fully and accurately detailing every single incident that was of significance. Recognizing I had some basic writing skills, John Africa (who we all called Vinnie) skillfully and deliberately sharpened them. Having me read to him what I had written. Correcting my mistakes. Cautioning me always to write in Principle! After a time I was given the added responsibility of writing a twice weekly column in the Philadelphia Tribune, which John Africa himself had done initially for a few months after having worked it out with the paper. This paved the way for me to give detailed accounts of police harassment, brutality, both of which will be fully detailed in the forthcoming book on MOVE per se. Jerry Africa, CP, & I worked long hard hours, helping John Africa put together his own paper FIRST DAY. Sitting on my bedroom floor at Osage, night after night, doing the painstaking work of laying out that paper. If memory serves it was Mobay & Jerry Africa who then took the paper to the Printer’s to be type-set. About six years after so-call leaving MOVE, I talked William Hales, Publisher of the Hartford Inquirer, into letting me submit something to his paper in Hartford Cn. After reading it he published everything I sent, and that was the catalyst. I approached other publishers with the same result, and my column began showing up in Black Newspapers all across the country – among them New Journal & Guide, Norfolk, Va. – Indiana Herald – L.A. Sentinel, Birmingham World – Daily Challenge, Brooklyn N.Y. (one of the few black daily’s), Florida Photo News, Atlanta Inquirer, and a number of others. The Philadelphia New Observer too, ran my work on a regular basis. I was free-lancing (unpaid), and my column was run in the majority of these papers for 10 years or more. Writing on national level gave me an opportunity to keep people up to date about MOVE members doing 30-100 years for a crime they did not commit. They do in fact personify the two words “Political Prisoners”! I was able also to give first-hand information about the bombing. I got mail from people around the country, the vast majority of them inmates – also from around the country. And I answered every letter. On a somewhat lighter note, I guess if I were asked to pick out an especially high point in my life (I’ve had a few), it would have to be meeting and spending a few moments with that great and stately lady in the person of Dorothy Height, President of National Council of Negro Women. It was August 4, 2003, when she signed for me a copy of her book, “Open Wide The Freedom Gates”. I happened to come in at a time when there were only a few people waiting, and she didn’t rush any of us, just took her time, speaking leisurely to each one of us. Dorothy Height left us in April 2010, at the age of 98, leaving behind a legacy filled with nothing but “A’s” for Accomplishment! My writing today is at a bare minimum. In fact today everything for me is at a bare minimum, an I’m smiling don’t’cha know! I’m not “out there” like I once was, just kinda pick my battles. Plus I’ve spent a good two years completing this book. Just hope that everyone is able to find within these pages, something of value.
Judging by what I've been told, my book is excellent!
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