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Local community activist Abdul-Aliy A. Muhammad (left) and Ramona Africa (right), a survivor of the MOVE bombing, spoke at a press conference in front of the Penn Museum on Aug. 31.

Credit: Molly Cohen

Local community organizers said that they believe there is new evidence that the Penn Museum holds previously undisclosed remains of MOVE bombing victims.

Abdul-Aliy Muhammad, a local community activist, spoke at a press conference on Aug. 31 about claims of new evidence of the Penn Museum's possession of additional remains of two victims of the MOVE bombing. The evidence comes from photos on an online photo-sharing site from a public event hosted in 2014.

A Penn Museum spokesperson wrote to The Daily Pennsylvanian that the museum "reunited all known MOVE remains with the Africa Family in July 2021." 

"The Museum has fully cooperated with all prior independent investigations and is committed to reviewing any new evidence pertaining to the MOVE remains should it emerge," the spokesperson wrote.

Ramona Africa, the sole adult survivor still alive from the MOVE bombing, said at the press conference that she cannot trust the Penn Museum.

"They have abused those remains, they have refused to give us those remains, the bones," Africa said, demanding the release of Mumia Abu-Jamal, a journalist who covered the MOVE bombing and faces a life in prison after previously being on death row.

Following the press conference, Muhammad entered the museum — demanding more information about the extent of the remains. 

"Where are the remains of Delisha Africa?" Muhammad said on a megaphone as they walked through the museum exhibits.

Penn Police and representatives from the Philadelphia Police Department’s Civil Affairs Unit were on the scene. Muhammad remained in the museum for several hours and left after being told that the museum's director would meet with them next week, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer

The Penn Museum temporarily closed earlier today following the press conference, the museum spokesperson wrote. The Division of Public Safety did not respond to the DP's request for comment.

"University leaders met with the individuals who were at the Museum today and will investigate the information they provided to the fullest extent," the Penn Museum spokesperson wrote.

In 1985, the Philadelphia Police Department dropped a bomb on a West Philadelphia house occupied by MOVE, a Black liberation group. The explosion killed 11 people, including five children, and left more than 250 citizens homeless.

At the press conference, Muhammad specifically called out Janet Monge’s involvement with the remains. Alan Mann, a now-retired professor who received the remains from the City in the 1980s after the Philadelphia Medical Examiner’s Office asked for assistance in identifying them, studied the remains with Monge, the curator of the Penn Museum's physical anthropology section, Billy Penn previously reported.

Monge, a Penn anthropologist, previously sued Penn and other parties over criticism she received about her oversight of the remains. Muhammad was named as a co-defendant in Monge's lawsuit in connection with their 2021 op-ed for the Inquirer. Monge was demoted from her position as associate curator, which she claims was due to defamation of her reputation by media outlets.

Monge did not respond to the DP's request for comment by time of publication. Monge's lawyer told the Inquirer that the activists' allegations were “nothing new” and declined to comment further.

According to Muhammad, Monge can be seen displaying the remains in the 2014 photos.

“Janet Monge can be observed speaking to tour attendees within the new Physical Anthropology Lab at the museum,” Muhammad said at the press conference, adding that the photos have “handwritten tags that read MOVE on the table,” and the remains match previous descriptions of the victims.

Muhammad identified the remains as belonging to Katricia Dotson and Delisha Africa, two victims of the MOVE bombing.

Previously, remains were seen in a now-removed Coursera video in an online Princeton University course series titled "Real Bones: Adventures in Forensic Anthropology," in which Monge and an undergraduate student examine the remains and attempt to determine the age of the bones. However, Muhammad said that new additional remains have been identified in the recently discovered photos from 2014.

“Now we have a set of three photos that show that in addition to the remains of Katricia in the Coursera video, Janet had other remains identified as Delisha Africa, all of which she displayed to the public at the Penn Museum in 2014,” Muhammad said.

Penn Museum previously issued two apologies for having remains of MOVE bombing victims in April 2021. The museum first apologized to members of MOVE and the University community for its possession of the remains of two children killed in the 1985 MOVE bombing. 

The museum said it was working on a resolution to return the remains to the Africa family. Following a nationwide uproar, Penn issued a second apology, adding that the University was committed to a "respectful, consultative resolution" with the goal of reuniting the remains with the Africa family.

At the press conference, Muhammad insisted that museum staff members continue to mislead the public about the status of remains.

"There are still remains unaccounted for, and photo evidence that these remains were in her possession and at the Penn Museum," Muhammad said. "Something must be done to ensure that Janet Africa has the precious remains of Delisha returned to her, and that Lionell Dotson can put to rest all of the remains of his sister Katricia."