Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Philadelphia Apartment Building Claimed as Sovereign “Moorish” Territory on 30th Anniversary of MOVE Bombing

A new Black nationalist micronation in Philadelphia?
The city of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, has never healed from the horrific events of May 1985, when police helicopters bombed an urban compound rented by the radical Black nationalist organization MOVE and the mayor ordered firefighters to stand aside while 65 homes burned to the ground, after a siege followed police attempts to evict the group.  MOVE, a (heavily armed) communitarian, back-to-nature movement, had been branded a terrorist organization linked to the killing of a police officer seven years earlier, though in the 1985 eviction case had done little more than torment neighbors with political diatribes delivered through bullhorns.  Last month, media and activists revisited the MOVE siege on its thirtieth anniversary, which came amid a new civil-rights movement across the United States focusing on police brutality against African-Americans.

How Philadelphia police handled an eviction complaint in 1985.
It was in this climate that four African-American activists facing eviction from another Philadelphia apartment building invoked Black nationalism last week and tried to turn a minor court hearing into an international incident.  They say the entire building is a sovereign territory, not part of the United States.

A tenant in the latest dispute being arrested last month
At the June 2nd hearing addressing defiance of an eviction order by the landlord, Francine Beyer, the four tenants of the apartment at 13th and Hamilton identified themselves as “Aboriginal Indigenous Moorish Americans,” refusing to recognize the court’s right to call them or its authority over the building, which they regard as “theirs by birthright,” according to the Philadelphia Daily News, and not subject to U.S., state, or municipal law.

Location of the apartment building on 13th and Hamilton in Philadelphia being claimed as a separate nation.
“Are you aware that the people who you have falsely called defendants,” one defendant, Nanye Amil El (a.k.a. 45-year-old Dante Morris), wearing a maroon fez cap, asked Judge David C. Shuter, “are actually heirs to this land?”  Another defendant, 65-year-old Delilah Passe, waved what the press described as a Moorish flag but was asked to put it away lest it be used as a weapon.  (If a reader can tell me which flag was used, I would be grateful.)

This (in center) may or may not be an example of the type of Moorish flag
displayed by defendants in court last week in Philadelphia.
At this point, students of the history of Black nationalism and readers of this blog will recognize the names and terminology of the tenants as indications that they are part of the Moorish Science Temple movement.  This precursor to modern Black nationalism emerged in the ferment of religious and political ideas in 1920s and ’30s Detroit, Michigan, where Islam, Freemasonry, offbeat anthropological theorizing, and an infatuation with all things Egyptian and occultic gave rise to Marcus Garvey as well as the Nation of Islam’s founder, Elijah Muhammad, among others.  Many Moorish activists claim that African-Americans are actually African-featured “Israelites.”  This is known as the “Paleo-Negroid” hypothesis, which holds, against all evidence, that the Americas were peopled by ancient Africans who are responsible for the monumental architecture of the Midwestern mound-building cultures and others.

Historic photo of Moorish Science Temple of America members
Other offshoots of the group that have been reported on in this blog include the Washitaw Nation in Oklahoma and elsewhere (see an article from this blog) (whose crown is currently claimed by a Trenton, New Jersey, eccentric calling himself “Crown Prince Emperor El Bey Bigbay Bagby-Badger” (see article), the Nuwaubian Nation of Moors (whose 500-acre compound Tama-Re, in Georgia, was demolished by authorities in 2005), and a new splinter group called the United Nuwaupian Nation (see article). Yet another group, the Moorish Divine and National Movement of the World, includes among its followers Pilar Sanders, the estranged wife of the retired football star Deion Sanders, who in court last month tried to void a prenuptial agreement which would cost her millions by saying that she now calls herself Pilar Biggers Sanders Love El-Dey and answers only to the laws of the “Moroccan Empire.”

Moorish Science follower Pilar Sanders as depicted in a graphic by the celebrity gossip website TMZ
One reporter contacted Brother A. Kinard-Bey, of the largest and oldest Moorish group, the Moorish Science Temple of America, Inc., in Washington, D.C., who called the four Philadelphia tenants “impostors” and said his group is the only real Moorish Temple in the U.S.  He added, “We’re seeing a number of people claiming to be of our temple who want to know how to naturalize or how to gain to their sovereignty.  Those are not lessons that the Moorish Science Temple of America teaches.”

Noble Drew Ali, founder of the Moorish Science Temple movement
Indeed, while Moorish Science traditionally is communal and leftish in its orientation, new offshoots like the Washitaw Nation are borrowing concepts and legal strategies from the “individual sovereignty” movement more popular among alienated right-wing white American males.  One of the tenant activists in Philadelphia this month, 38-year-old Rebecca Lyn Harmon, who asked to be referred to as R. Lynn Hatshepsut Ma’atKare El, is also an attorney (under yet a third name, Rhashea Lynn Harmon), who has talked of running for mayor of Philadelphia on the Republican Party ticket.

R. Lynn Hatshepsut Ma’atKare El (a.k.a. Rebecca Harmon),
a defendant in the current eviction case
A formal arraignment will be held for the four tenants on June 23rd.

American and Moroccan flags on display at a charity event hosted by a separate Moorish group in Philadelphia recently.  Note the 48-star flag.
[You can read more about many of these and other separatist and new-nation movements, both famous and obscure, in my new book, a sort of encyclopedic atlas just published by Litwin Books under the title Let’s Split! A Complete Guide to Separatist Movements and Aspirant Nations, from Abkhazia to Zanzibar.  The book, which contains 46 maps and 554 flags (or, more accurately, 554 flag images), is available for order now on Amazon.  Meanwhile, please “like” the book (even if you haven’t read it yet) on Facebook and see this special announcement for more information on the book.]


  1. So much implication in all of these proceedings it's scary. If we don't work together towards a more complete removal of stigma and misconception about each group of person in this world, I dread to think of the consequences.

  2. It’d be sweet if we could all work together to make the world greater, but only as equals.
    I refuse to be recognized as a slave of America, we’ve come too far and enough is enough. Reading was bred out of many black family and history seems to begin with slave boats in America museums. It’s a trick!


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