I’m Free Now, You Are Free
- Ash Goh Hua
film, 14 minutes and 55 seconds, 2020.
I’m Free Now, You Are Free is a short documentary about the reunion and repair between Mike Africa Jr and his mother Debbie Africa—a formerly incarcerated political prisoner of the MOVE9. In 1978, Debbie, then 8 months pregnant, and many other MOVE family members were arrested after an attack by the Philadelphia Police Department; born in a prison cell, Mike Africa Jr. spent just three days with his mother before guards wrenched him away, and they spent the next 40 years struggling for freedom and for each other. In 2018, Mike Africa Jr. successfully organized to have his parents released on parole. “I realized that I had never seen her feet before,” was a remark he made when he reflected on Debbie’s homecoming. This film meditates on Black family preservation as resistance against the brutal legacies of state sanctioned family separation, documenting an intergenerational healing that possesses, defiantly, dignity and joy.
The film weaves together multiple non-linear threads to tell this story creatively: It utilizes the super 8 medium to tap into an abolitionist imagination where Black life is celebrated and sustained. Armed with a vintage super8 camera, the Africa family recreates family tapes that could’ve been, creating a portal into an alternate lifetime in which Mike and his mother were never separated—an insistence that this memory is what should’ve been. Mike and Debbie speaking candidly about the feeling of losing and regaining each other builds out the backbone of the film; Mike reminds Debbie of what she said to him when she was released: “You just got out of prison, you didn’t say ‘I’m free now, I can do whatever I want’… you said, ‘I’m free now… you are free’.” This revolutionary interdependency drives home the point that people on the outside do time with people on the inside, and for communities and relationships to heal and flourish, repressive state apparatuses like prisons and policing must be abolished. Lastly, Mike leading us through Philly reveals, through his eyes, the state violence embedded in its landscape. The film intentionally subverts the slippery slopes of trauma porn by choosing not to re-use archival footage of the city’s attacks on MOVE in ’78 in Powelton Village and in ’85 on Osage Ave. Instead it centers Mike and his personhood navigating this terrain’s history, grounding this in an honoring of fallen revolutionaries as well as the powerful contemporary struggle and political movement to free Mumia Abu-Jamal and other political prisoners.
This film was featured in Art on Abolition from September 2nd through October 15th, 2021, courtesy of the artist.
Ash Goh Hua (any pronouns) is a filmmaker and cultural worker from Singapore, based in New York. She creates documentary and experimental based work informed by the politics of abolition and autonomy; their filmmaking practice imagines future acts of collective liberation. Ash is a Jacob Burns Creative Culture Fellow, a NeXtDoc Fellow, a Points North Institute North Star Fellow, and a Common Notions collective member. Their 2020 film, “I’m Free Now, You Are Free” is a short documentary about the reunion and repair between Mike Africa Jr and his mother Debbie Africa—a formerly incarcerated political prisoner of the MOVE9, meditating on Black family preservation as resistance against state violence. Supported by the NYC Women in Film Fund, it is currently doing a film festival circuit, premiering at BlackStar Film Festival 2020, and screening at festivals like Hamptons International, Camden International, and more TBA.