Finding Ceremony’s Statement About August 31, 2023 Action at Penn Museum & “Meeting” with Director Christopher Woods

Dr. Lyra D. Monteiro
4 min readSep 29, 2023

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Penn Museum parking lot “meeting” on August 31, 2023. From left: Rev. Chaz Lattimore Howard, University of Pennsylvania Vice President for Social Equity & Community; Dr. Lyra D. Monteiro of Finding Ceremony; Penn Museum Director Christopher Woods; Abdul-Aliy Muhammad of Finding Ceremony.

Issued on September 1, 2023

After yesterday morning’s press conference, held at the main entrance for the Penn Museum, Abdul-Aliy A. Muhammad, Dr. Lyra D. Monteiro, and journalists entered the museum. Abdul-Aliy began demanding to speak to Director Christopher Woods, moving through multiple gallery spaces, ending up in room 1141–7, the museum’s educational programming office. The museum’s contracted security, Penn Police, and the Philadelphia Police, including civil affairs showed up. We were then detained in the room. The police aggressively pushed a journalist out of the room, even though he was saying that he was a member of the press and they weren’t allowed to force him out. From 10:37 am to 11:13 am both Lyra & Abdul-Aliy were detained in this office, until the police indicated that we were free to leave. The museum closed by 12:14 pm, as stated in the Philly Voice article about the event.

We remained in the office, with rotating police inside the office recording with body cams and police outside of the office. Several people tried to bring us food, but were denied entry to the museum by the police. While we were in the basement office, museum professionals, scholars, and concerned individuals in Philadelphia and around the world made their concerns known on twitter, and through phone calls to the museum.

At 3:19 pm, an employee of the museum indicated that Woods would meet with us at a later date if we agreed to leave the museum. We stated that we demanded to meet with him then, and not another day. At around 4:45 pm, we were informed that Woods agreed to meet with us.

We met with Penn Museum Director Christopher Woods who was accompanied by the Rev. Chaz Lattimore Howard, Vice President for Social Equity & Community, for the university. We shared with him the main image, as well as how to locate the images that show Janet Monge displaying Katricia Dotson’s and Delisha Africa’s remains to the general public in 2014, on the public accounts of the Museum.

Director Woods was condescending and dismissive from the beginning, not at all indicating real concern related to the new material. He also indicated no awareness or humility about the fact that this image proved he had not done his job properly in 2021 in order to investigate Janet’s possession, and use of remains of MOVE bombing victims, when Abdul-Aliy and others first brought that information to light. When handed the newly discovered image he stated, without properly looking at it, that all he could see was a picture with Janet with a lot of bones, and how could he know that they were MOVE remains.

Woods refused to commit to doing anything other than “look into it.” Reverend Howard similarly refused to take this seriously, responding by asking why the museum would want to keep these remains. We made clear that Tucker Law Group, the “independent investigators” who produced what we believe to be a highly biased and dishonest report for the museum in August 2021, were not an appropriate investigator for this, and asked that Woods agree for us to mutually agree on anthropological experts to review the material, which he refused to do.

Our demands remain:

  • That Penn administrators close the museum until they determine what happened to the MOVE remains not returned to the families in 2021. The images from 2014 definitively place at least nine additional bones in the museum; and even though they were not formally accessioned, they were indisputably under the care of the museum, so it is their responsibility to find out where they are now, and how they got there.
  • That the University audits its digital assets to determine what other graphic and harmful material about human remains is online and available to the public.
  • That the museum makes a public apology for protecting and repeating Janet Monge’s lie that she only ever had possession of Katricia Dotson’s bones, and no other remains of the MOVE bombing victims.

We also urge bioanthropologists to join us in working to publicly account for what can be viewed in these newly surfaced photos. Please contact us at findingceremony@gmail.com if you have these qualifications, and are ready to do this work.

Learn More

Please use and follow these hashtags on social media to learn more:

#ReturnDelisha
#FindingCeremony
#MuseumsAreNotNeutral
#FreeMumia

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Dr. Lyra D. Monteiro

PhD: Archaeology & the Ancient World, Brown University; Prof: American Studies, History & Africana Studies, Rutgers-Newark; Co-Convener: Finding Ceremony