On MOVE Victims' Remains and Dr. Thomas Farley
A message from President Wendy Raymond.
Today, I decided that Dr. Tom Farley '77 would no longer participate in the panel of alumni medical professionals who have been advising the College regarding our COVID-19 mitigation efforts. This comes as Dr. Farley was asked to resign from his role as health commissioner for the City of Philadelphia following news that is profoundly troubling: that "several years ago," according to Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney, "(Dr. Farley) learned of remains found by the Medical Examiner’s Office that belonged to victims of the 1985 MOVE bombing. Instead of fully identifying those remains and returning them to the family, he made a decision to cremate and dispose of them."
On this anniversary and Day of Remembrance of the MOVE bombing by Philadelphia police that killed 11 Black Philadelphians, five of them children, I stand with anthropologists at Haverford, who are speaking out against the horrific treatment of both the victims' remains as well as the surviving family members, and I support efforts to make amends to the Africa family.
Like many, I watched in shock as the MOVE bombing and inferno raged through a Philadelphia neighborhood not far from our campus. How could this be happening? In the years since that 1985 tragedy, we have been reminded, again and again, through tragedy after tragedy, that structural racism and state-sanctioned violence against Black people and all people of color is horrific, pervasive, and deeply entrenched. The pain and terror repeatedly inflicted upon Philadelphia’s Black community is only further amplified by these multiple instances of intentional -- and yet appallingly casual -- cruelty. With each additional discovery and development, I acknowledge and see the retraumatizing impact this news inflicts on the surviving family members, the extended Black community, as well as broader BIPOC communities in Philadelphia, here at Haverford, and beyond.
As this latest outrage makes clear, we in higher education bear special responsibility for this pain. And as last fall's student-organized strike for racial equity further underscored, those of us in higher education leadership, broadly and at Haverford, must take ownership of our roles in the failure to live up to our promises. The strike was a challenging and necessary call to action and reform, which is moving forward on multiple fronts across the College.
News of how remains of the Africa family were exploited in a classroom environment has inspired a number of you to ask about our progress to date regarding the demand from the June 2020 Open Letter from Black Students Refusing Further Inaction (BSRFI) about due respect for artifacts and cultures. Specifically, it concerns the provenance and cataloging of historical materials in College collections. A final report from our librarians will be shared in the coming weeks; work to date is summarized in their March 2021 report. I thank you for your continued vigilance regarding this and all promises I have made regarding steps we need to take in order to make Haverford a more just and equitable home where all students can thrive.
Every day brings opportunities to act toward ending injustice. I share a sense of urgency with Haverfordians here and across the globe in our actions toward equity and justice. Every day, I welcome the chance to do better, as I (and we) must.