‘Unalienable Rights’: Gripping documentary on the revolutionary MOVE family of Philadelphia

The assault on the home of MOVE on Aug. 8, 1978, culminated in the arrest of Delbert Africa, who remains in prison to this day, more than 40 years later. Send Delbert some love and light: Smart Communications/PADOC, Delbert Orr Africa, AM-4985, SCI Dallas, P.O. Box 33028, St. Petersburg FL 33733.

Film review by The People’s Minister of Information JR

One of the most horrendous acts of police terrorism and murder in the Black community in the last 40 years in the U.S. undoubtedly has been the murder, wrongful imprisonment and general mistreatment of the MOVE family by the Philadelphia police in a number of incidents culminating in the bombing of MOVE’s house in May of 1985, which resulted in the murder of 11 people and the burning down of 66 other houses in the neighborhood.

Froilan Cuesta, the writer, director and producer of the 15 minute graphic novel cartoon-short “Unalienable Rights,” did a marvelous job, telling the story of the revolutionary naturalist family and organization, MOVE, leading up to their Aug. 8, 1978, confrontation with Philadelphia police, which had begun 10 months earlier with a blockade that the police initiated to stop MOVE’s ideas, style of organizing, and access to food and water.

Philly police commenced to tear-gassing the house, shooting up the house, bulldozing the house with people and animals in it, then flooding the house with a fireman’s water hose. Then a cop gets shot, which many believe was from friendly fire.

“Citizens of Philadelphia, we have a problem. A child’s life was snatched away from its mother before it had a chance to walk,” reported Mumia Abu Jamal, the former minister of the information of the Philadelphia chapter of the Black Panther Party. After the demise of the Black Panther Party, at the hands of the U.S government’s counter-intelligence program, Mumia Abu Jamal used his radio show as a platform to show solidarity with MOVE. Jamal was referring to a prior incident where the police killed a MOVE member’s baby.

After the police arrested Delbert, they kicked him and dragged him on the pavement by his hair.

“What MOVE is about is putting an end to all the impositions on life,” explained John Africa, the founder of MOVE in this graphic novel cartoon. “As you must realize, in order to solve the problems, it is necessary to completely cut away from all this lifestyle. For to hold on to any part of this cancerous style of life will only bring about that same cancer. This is why there has never been a true revolution, as revolution means total change, a complete disassociation from everything that’s causing the problems you are revolting against.”

In this situation, Philly police commenced to tear-gassing the house, shooting up the house, bulldozing the house with people and animals in it, then flooding the house with a fireman’s water hose. Then a cop gets shot, which many believe was from friendly fire.


“(T)here has never been a true revolution, as revolution means total change, a complete disassociation from everything that’s causing the problems you are revolting against.”

The film makes a beautiful point by contrasting Mumia Abu Jamal’s pro-MOVE reporting against the white corporate media’s depiction of MOVE and support of the police.

“Police immediately wrestled them to the ground, took the gun away, and dragged them off to a waiting van. But during the entire incident, never once did I see the police do anything but react to MOVE’s actions,” says a white woman reporter while the actual documentary footage is on the screen, showing a shirtless Delbert Africa with his hands up in a surrender position with a gun inches from his head. Shortly after, you see Delbert being savagely kicked in his head by half a dozen police officers while he lay on the ground defenseless.

I would have loved for the film to go further in discussing what happened to MOVE in the aftermath, specifically what happened with the prisoners of war known as the MOVE 9. With that being said, “Unalienable Rights” is one of the best political docs in the SF Black Film Festival this year. I hope to see all of you at the screening.

The People’s Minister of Information JR Valrey, journalist, author and filmmaker, can be reached at blockreportradio@gmail.com or on Facebook. And tune in to BlockReportTV on YouTube.