Former Mayor W. Wilson Goode Sr. stopped short Friday of apologizing for his role in the 1985 MOVE bombing that killed 11 people and destroyed a city block during remarks at the renaming of a West Philadelphia street in his honor.
About 50 supporters — among them City Council members and clergy — had gathered near the 2400 block of North 59th Street in Overbrook Farms for the unveiling of W. Wilson Goode Sr. Way. The event was drowned out at times by protesters angry that Goode had received such an honor, prompting the city's first black mayor, who served from 1984 to 1992, to defend his record.
Many times over the years, Goode has publicly taken responsibility for his role on May 13, 1985, one of the darkest days in the city's history. On Friday, both he and his critics were impassioned.
"I refuse to be defined by one day in my life. … I stand on my record. I stand on what I've done. And I'm prepared to sit down and have a conversation with the people in back of me," Goode said, referring to the protesters yelling, waving signs, and playing loud music behind him.
At one point, as shown in a video made by reporter Cherri Gregg of KYW Newsradio, Goode turned to the protesters with his arms outstretched and addressed them: "I was responsible. I was responsible. I was responsible. I'm going to man up for what happened on May 13. But you cannot hold me accountable for everything that has happened in this city."
On June 14, a resolution to name the street for Goode was introduced by City Council members Curtis Jones Jr., Cherelle Parker, Derek Green, Mark Squilla, and Jannie Blackwell. It was adopted the following week, before Council recessed for the summer.
Goode was chairman of the state Public Utility Commission and managing director before becoming mayor. After leaving office, he worked for the U.S. Department of Education and became a minister and professor.
In 1985, Goode gave the OK for police to drop a bomb on a fortified house at 6221 Osage Ave. in Cobbs Creek where police had been trying to arrest members of the radical group, who were refusing to come out. The resulting fire killed 11 of the 13 people inside, including five children, and destroyed 61 houses. Some say that for that, the city should not have named a street after Goode.
"I sat down with Curtis Jones," said MOVE member Pam Africa, who has been fighting for the release of convicted cop killer Mumia Abu-Jamal. "I went to his office three times. We asked him not to do it, and he did it anyway."
Maisha Sullivan-Ongoza, who lives on the block and organized the protest, was getting signatures for a petition to reverse the decision.
"It's painful," Sullivan-Ongoza said. "People are still traumatized. It's like pulling a scab off an unhealed wound."