Louise James and LaVerne Sims: Sisters of John Africa, owners of MOVE house

Posted: May 07, 2010

LOUISE James and LaVerne Sims are sisters of MOVE founder John Africa, and it was their home that the police bombed on May 13, 1985.

Louise James also lost her son Frank James Africa, in the conflgration that day.

Louise James, a former Bell Telephone operator, owned the house at 6221 Osage Ave. and had lived there for about 26 years until 1983. MOVE members arrived in 1980 or 1981. Neighbors recall that Frank James reportedly had chased his mother from the house with a hatchet or a club.

1985: At the MOVE Commission hearings, lawyer William B. Lytton III asked the women if they had sought help from Mayor Wilson Goode because they were frightened of relatives who were MOVE members.

Although the sisters denied that MOVE members were violent, the questions revealed that Frank James may have beaten his mother.

Quote: From Oct. 9, 1985 testimony:

Lytton: "Did you discuss with the mayor, Mrs. James, any physical confrontations that you had had with anyone within the MOVE organization?"

James: "I did not."

Lytton: "You do not recall talking with the mayor about being beaten?"

James: "I did not discuss anything about beating or threatening with the mayor."

LaVerne Sims then posed her own question.

Sims: "Before you recess, I just want to make it clear in my mind, so that I understand. Mr. Lytton, am I to assume that the bomb was dropped on the MOVE people because Frank beat his mother?"

2010: Today, Sims is about 73 and may live in Springfield, Mass. A phone number for her has been disconnected. Ramona Africa, who was the only adult MOVE survivor on May 13, 1985, said she has no contact with either woman.

Louise James, about 79, may be living in a four-story apartment building on Chestnut Street near 40th.

An older woman at that address refused to answer a knock on her door from the Daily News, although this reporter heard her voice through an intercom. The woman also hung up the phone when this reporter called later.

Gerald Wayne Renfrow, block captain on Osage Avenue, said no one had problems with James before MOVE arrived.

"She was a great person, a fine neighbor. Her son Frankie was very intelligent . . . . They were a very nice family."

He said he last saw James at 40th and Walnut in March. "I beeped my horn and she waved. I don't hold anything against her as a result of what happened. I don't believe she was the driving force behind the [MOVE] organization."

-Valerie Russ

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