Ivy League Colleges Under Fire for Using Bones of Black Children Killed in 1985 Police Bombing for Teaching

Police officers place injured people into a police van after an attack on the MOVE cult headquarters in the Powelton Village section of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
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On May 13, 1985, C4 plastic explosives were dropped by police helicopter onto the Move building. 11 members died, including five children.

Princeton and the University of Pennsylvania are facing demands to apologize after how they’ve handled the bones of African American children killed by a police bombing in Philadelphia in 1985.

The location bombed was at the headquarters of a Philadelphia-based black liberation and back-to-nature group called Move. On that day, C4 plastic explosives were dropped by police helicopter onto the building. A massive fire was ignited. 11 members died, including five children.

The Guardian states that the Ivy League schools have held on to remains, which belong to one or two Black children, for 36 years. And they have since gone missing.

Princeton has been using the bones as props in an online anthropology course. They are used in a “case study,” and the course is openly available online. Even worse, the bones are shown as a teaching prop without the blessing of their relatives, unaware the school's harbored their loved ones for academic purposes.

The course in question is titled “Real Bones: Adventures in Forensic Anthropology.” Prof. Janet Monge, employed at both Princeton and the University of Pennsylvania, teaches the class. The Guardian adds, “On video, she holds up the pelvis and femur of a girl whose remains were collected from the ashes of the May 13, 1985 bombing.”

Since present-day Move members have put the pressure on these colleges to be held accountable, a Princeton spokesperson has responded, stating, “We are in the process of gathering and understanding all of the related facts, and out of respect for the victims of the Move bombing and their families, we have suspended the online course.”

But for Michael Africa Jr., a Move member, more needs to be done. "There needs to be a full investigation and disclosure from all parties involved,” he said. “We want a formal and public apology from Penn, Princeton, and any of the anthropologists involved, and we want reparations – there has got to be some kind of restitution for this insanity.”

Move, and the Philadelphia branch of Black Lives Matter will rally on April 28 outside of Penn Museum, where they kept the bones in a cardboard box for years.

Jamie Gauthier, a democratic council member who represents the region where the bombing occurred, says she’s disgusted to learn the school held onto the bones without permission, and is even more upset that the remains are missing. “We need to find them and give them back so that they can be properly buried,” she said.

She added, “It shows enormous disrespect for Black life and for a child or children who were murdered by their own government. They suffered such trauma in life, and then even in death these institutions couldn’t find it within themselves to see them as human. That’s the only way I can understand this, because you only treat someone’s remains like this if you see them as ‘other.'"

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