Thursday, May 13, 2010

25 years ago: Philadelphia fire

Earlier this year I read and blogged about John Edgar Wideman's remarkable book Fanon. I have several other of his books and I intend to work my way back through the work of this brilliant writer. One of them is Philadelphia Fire. I'm thinking about it today because this is the 25th anniversary of one of the terrible racist horrors in the bloody annals of the many racist horrors committed by the police forces in this country: the Philadelphia police department's firebombing of the MOVE house on Osage Avenue, which killed 11 people including five children. Philadelphia Fire is a novel based on that event. Of course, I remember the actual day, and the days after, the outrage and grief, and I know the fight to win justice for the victims, and freedom for the MOVE 9 imprisoned after another police attack some years previous, continues. These cases are closely tied to the ongoing and increasingly urgent struggle to free death-row political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal. This is not about commemorating an obscure quarter-century-old historical event, but about reminding ourselves of a current living raging battle, and so I'm not suggesting reading a novel as a substitute for engagement in that battle. But, as I keep trying to figure out a good way to prove, fiction has its place, and anyway, I'm very interested in John Edgar Wideman's take on what happened on Osage Avenue, so I do hope to get to this book soon.

For today, here's this on the case of the MOVE 9.