BackStory: Six Questions with Tia Ja’Nae


Philadelphia, 1985

BackStory: Six Questions with Tia Ja’Nae
Author of Once Upon A Time In Philadelphia

What inspired you to write this piece?

The MOVE Bombing happened in my lifetime. This could have easily been my neighbourhood. Anyone’s neighbourhood, really. But the accounts of this organization and the Philadelphia PD harassing, incarcerating, and murdering them for a solid ten years is largely forgotten today, or even thought of as being the single most targeted hate crime post Jim Crow era. This was my way of keeping the memory of it alive.

Were there any interesting facts, details, or turns of phrase that didn’t quite make the final piece? How much research did you do while writing and editing this piece? Did you discover anything that surprised you?

Yes and no. Yes, because it would have been fair to include the turbulent history of the organization against the Philadelphia PD and City Hall in context to the era and the effects of politics on MOVE members with their lives and freedom. It isn’t a short story by any means! However, no, because focusing on the bombing exclusively was a story in and of itself.

I was quite familiar with the entire story and had reviewed a lot of the trial footage of the MOVE 9 and of John Africa’s trial. I’d also previously seen two of the documentaries about the organization and the conflict between them and the city of Philadelphia. I did re-watch and re-read a lot of material and any updated information before writing it. What surprised me more than anything was that no action in any incident against MOVE led to convictions any law enforcement officers.

If you could live for one year in any historical period, when and where would it be, and why?

The 1970s. Going to see Parliament Funkadelic’s Earth Tour 1976 is on the bucket list. Having a ringside seat for Watergate would also be fun, if for no other reason knowing the outcome.

What, if anything, do you have in common with your main character?

We both are from urban metropolises that can be incredibly oppressive to all people if it interferes with politics.

What do you think is the most challenging and/or rewarding aspect of writing historical flash?

Remembering the past so as to not encounter or repeat it in the future.

How important is historical accuracy to you in your own writing?

Very important. History, they say, is taught by the winners. But the losers have a different account too that is largely ignored. In modern America, a lot of history is forgotten, romanticized, or plainly erased due to politics. That spans from Texas removing slavery from history books or gentrification tearing down old landmarks. Recounting sights, smells, sounds are critical in re-imagining the world as it were for readers that may not have been there to experience it first hand.

Tia Ja’nae is a creative writer and master propagandist.  A proud Trekkie, her writing engages, boldly going where few have gone before and has been featured on Shotgun Honey, 365 Worlds, and Tough Magazine.  Her more serious, satirical journalist work has been featured on Humor Outcasts; check out her satire under her pseudonym on, which could be classified by order of your government.

Image provided by private source.