The Impact of Mobile's Example

Revolution #33, February 5, 2006, posted at

The following correspondence is from an organizer with the Revolutionary Communist Tour in D.C. The correspondent writes of people's response to Bob Avakian's statement on the death of comrade Willie "Mobile" Shaw, who was known all over the projects in Watts as a revolutionary communist. Mobile died last November due to complications following surgery. See Revolution #27, or online at, for "Statement by Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, on the Occasion of the Death of Willie 'Mobile' Shaw," and a statement by Joe Veale, spokesperson for L.A. Branch of the RCP.

Many of the people we've talked to about Mobile and/or read the statements have been moved.

James, a 50-year-old retired vet, was reading the centerfold after I had posted it on a building. I walked back to where he was and offered him a centerfold and told him about Mobile. James told me about himself and how the VA is screwing him over--how he is a very short distance from homelessness--how he sees that Black people are being pushed out to the edges literally and figuratively. When I described the kind of world Mobile was fighting for he said, "That's what I'd like to see but it can't happen."

I asked him to allow me to read the Chairman's statement. I've probably overused the phrase "listened intently" over the last few weeks, but it describes how people have paid close attention to what we have been saying. James listened intently, occasionally shaking his head in recognition or agreement. "Willie wanted his life to be about something--something beyond the dog-eat-dog and the murderous madness this system brings down on people, and catches them up in, in a thousand ways every day." That sentence captures people from the outset. They know very well what is being spoken about here and heads nod.

When I finished the statement, James said, "You can't have nothing but respect for somebody like that." He went on to say, "So you're telling us that he is a hero--a role model."

"That is exactly what we were saying and we need many more like him," I tell James. "So brother, are you a hero too?" I asked.

James laughed and didn't answer. He said we'd see him around that area. He gave me his phone number.

One of the comrades made what I thought was an important point. He said that many people responded to the statement on Mobile's death with a kind of reverence. There's the guy who asked about quitting his job to join us. There was the woman whose husband is on dialysis and wasting away and she wanted her husband to hear about Mobile. There is a worker at the elementary school who said the tributes to Mobile were beautiful. She said she couldn't be like him because she believes in God but she wished she could have known him and she will do what she can to help.

There's Tina, who has made steps toward us. When I compared her to Mobile she took it as a great compliment and thanked me.

Then there was Jerome, who talked about how fucked up his life is and how hearing our message, which included telling him about Mobile, made him feel good. "You don't know how much this means to me," he said. "Maybe this is my calling -- why God put me here."

I told him part of what stood out about Mobile is that he believed in facing reality as it really is-- no God--no hocus-pocus can free humanity. "He knew that there is no God and it is up to us."

Jerome was a little apologetic and adjusted what he was saying. "Maybe I'm meant to do this."

He gave me his name. "Call me man--call me. God bless you," he yelled as he climbed onto the bus.

A lot of the flavor of the exchanges is lost in this telling. Some were so heartfelt and earnest that its hard to do it justice.

One of the reasons the statements have such an impact on folks is because he distills so much about who these people are. Mobile was one of the millions who aren't supposed to count--one of the nameless, faceless millions. People know him because that is who they are. I think the statements, most especially the Chairman's, but both of them, together with the heartfelt way comrades took this out, said something to the masses about who we are as an organization--what kind of people we are trying to be, what kind of leadership we have, and what kind of world we are fighting to create. All this was at work, and it had a lot to do with why masses were themselves so earnest and honest, and yeah--even reverent.

Somebody, I think it was Tina, said, "You can see why he (Bob Avakian) respected him so much." When she said this I wanted to make sure she understood why Mobile respected the Chairman so much. But I was missing something very important. She was recognizing something about the Chairman--about who he is, about how he views the masses, about his dreams--and mission--his kind of leadership.

All these responses remind me of a friend I grew up with who lived in DC during the period we were here in '79 and '80. He was not a political person--never had been. He was just one of the millions. I got him a copy of the Chairman's "The System is Doomed" on cassette. A few months passed before I was back in touch. He told me that when he was feeling bad or depressed, he'd put the tape on--turn off all the lights and lay on the floor listening to the Chairman. Without stretching it too much, I think there is in part that kind of raw connection between the statements about Mobile and the call to step into his shoes for millions of those this system does not count. Mobile is a concentrated expression of their life experience and highest dreams--and to varying degrees they feel it.

When I opened the New Year issue of Revolution and saw that Mobile's picture was there along side others who died in the past year, including Richard Pryor's, August Wilson's, and Ossie Davis'--I had to struggle to contain my emotions. It is truly the case that Mobile's contributions, memory, and legacy belongs to the international proletariat now. We need one or two thousand like him--female and male ones--young and old ones--straight and gay ones--native and foreign-born ones--sick and well ones.... We need more heroes--now!

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