Comrade Will Reese—A Celebration and Commemoration, May 14, 2016

Opening Remarks by Andy Zee, Spokesperson, Revolution Books

May 23, 2016 | Revolution Newspaper |


I want to thank all of you for coming—some of you coming from long distances to this celebration of a life well lived, a life that mattered, a life that was lived for the people here and the people of the world, people brutally oppressed and exploited by this system that we live under—I want to thank you all for sharing with us this commemoration of a comrade and a friend, a brother and a husband. This afternoon we’re going to celebrate the life of Bobby Hill who was known in recent years and on these streets of Harlem as Will Reese.

My name is Andy Zee, the spokesperson for Revolution Books. This is the bookstore which is the political and the intellectual and cultural center for a movement for an actual revolution—a bookstore founded on and alive with the new synthesis of communism developed by the revolutionary leader Bob Avakian.

Revolution Books was a place that Will cared deeply about. In fact, the photograph on the invitation that you have was taken at Revolution Books this past July. Will came out even as he was ill, to the vacant store front that we had only half demolished at that point and hadn’t started rebuilding. He wanted to be a part of the announcement of Revolution Books re-opening in Harlem. I have to tell you as a personal note that when on November 15, I had the honor of opening Revolution Books and I stepped to the podium that I was very profoundly moved when I looked out in the crowd, not only because it was packed and we had seats out on to the street, and all that was thrilling enough, but when I looked out at crowd, right dead in the middle was Will Reese sitting ramrod straight up looking right at me with conviction, a sense of accomplishment, and I knew how sick he was. I knew he’d just gotten out of the hospital. I didn’t think he could come. But then he was Will. He was gonna be there, he wouldn’t have missed it for the world.

He wanted Revolution Books to open in Harlem. Harlem was his last home. He worked to build a base for revolution here in Harlem. This is a journey that took him from the fields of West Virginia across the country, everywhere the masses of people rose up or where some bad shit came down on the people, he was the first to volunteer to go there. His bags were always packed.

Will wanted to be on the front lines of the revolution. We’ve been joined today with some of Bobby’s family. I want to welcome Dennis. Dennis is the second of three brothers and two sisters. We have the brothers here today. There’s Dennis over there. Dennis was a high school coach and then a high school principal in Glade Spring, Virginia, where they grew up. Bobby and Dennis played football on the same teams in high school and in college, the Hill brothers—famous scorers at Henry and Emory College. And then you’re going to hear from his brother Jerry, also graduated from Henry and Emory College, he was an elementary school principal in Glade Spring, Virginia, and he’s now recently retired and back in Glenn Springs.

Dennis’ son Travis and his wife Carla are also here. And I heard about Travis because he’s a New Yorker now and we had a chance to meet briefly at Weill Cornell medical center as Will was preparing for his last courageous fight to beat back cancer that eventually took him on February 28, when he was just 66 years old. We also have William, a cousin of Will’s. And Barry, he’s also a cousin of Will’s and he’s in New York City.

And also, you’ll be hearing from her later, Ruby was Will’s partner over the last decade and Ruby was with him every step of the way. I want to welcome Ruby’s family who also traveled here, her brother, her sister, her sister’s husband and her niece—Kelly, Shannon, Bill, and Ella.

Will Reese at Times Square protestPhoto: Special to Revolution/

Will Reese was a revolutionary, a revolutionary communist. He was a comrade with a burning passion to rouse the people to realize their potential, to not only fight against the powers that so viciously oppress the people, but Will struggled for the people to understand the world scientifically and he did so with compelling substance. And he did so with that dogged determination that possessed him to win people—especially people that catch the hardest hell, to fight like hell, not just for themselves but to become liberators of all of humanity—to free the people who are just like themselves, not just here in this country, but around the world. Will was fired with the call from Bob Avakian that the path and the goal that revolutionaries must be and can only be emancipators of humanity, a phrase that Will loved. Will was relentless in struggling for the liberation of women. He would struggle with the brothers out in the street. He weren’t gonna get by him with some of that bullshit. ( You have to excuse me, I’m gonna curse a little bit even if it’s a memorial—but I think Will would be OK with that.) He was relentless in the struggle to end the oppression of women, and Ruby, his partner, said he was the first man who really listened and helped her through the abuse that she had suffered many years before.

A revolutionary communist, Will fought for and expressed the outlook in this statement from Bob Avakian—communism is about a whole new world and the emancipation of humanity, it’s not the last shall be first and the first last—no, Will was not going to let people be mentally imprisoned by superstition and he would let people know, and often going toe to toe with the street corner preachers right out here on 125th. No, Will learned that for a whole new world, humanity had to get beyond revenge and that me-first outlook that this system concentrates. Will had taken up the scientific method and approach of communism as further developed by Bob Avakian and was not to be deterred in struggling for this. You’re gonna hear today how he would struggle all night with comrades or people he just met, and then he’d do the work all night struggling to be scientific and solving the great problems of the revolution. And most especially, how to break through and bring forward those for whom revolution is so desperately needed.

Will Reese in HarlemPhoto: Revolution/

You’re gonna hear today of Will’s life. How he went to college on a football scholarship but he took to the art department because this is where the people were who were more open minded. He had talent as a painter and a gift for teaching. You can see it runs in the family. Will could reach those others thought were unreachable. In Los Angeles he taught what were called “at-risk youth.” But Will didn’t believe that, he reached them. There are some photos on the wall that I think show this. Will was also a thinker. I remember last year when I was reading the book The Half Has Never Been Told, an incredible book about slavery and so I saw Will and asked, “Hey, did you read that?” “Yeah, three times.”

There are many things Will could have done with his life. He could have done good things for some of the people and done well for himself, as they say. But once Will came to understand scientifically by digging into the theory of revolution as developed by BA, and looking deeply at reality, that without a fundamental change in the system that people suffer under today, that without revolution, without communist revolution here and around the world the horrific oppression that people face will continue and go on and on killing people and stealing their spirit.

Will devoted his life to a larger purpose. A truly meaningful life of leading actual revolution to bring about a whole new and radically different world. Many of you here heard Will out in the streets. Maybe you heard him give an impassioned speech calling on you and others to support the revolution financially and to step forward into the revolution. And some of you experienced him up close and right in your face tenaciously to get with this—to build this great need for humanity. But most of you don’t know that as Will prepared for his last great fight to beat back cancer for a little while longer, to go through what his doctors said would be hell just so he could be with us another six months making contributions, that he was drafting a letter that we were going to publish that was going to urge all of you who are just finding out about this revolution to get with it to get involved to do what you can. But the letter didn’t stop there. He was also making this letter for those of you who already involved to deepen your commitment, to make even greater contributions—this is something Will consistently tried to do. So I want you to keep this thought in mind, keep this challenge in mind as we go through hearing from family and friends and comrades. Think about the mission that Will set out before you, as we celebrate the life tonight of Will Reese.


A Life Lived for Revolution:
Comrade Will Reese—
A Celebration and Commemoration



Volunteers Needed... for and Revolution

Send us your comments.

If you like this article, subscribe, donate to and sustain Revolution newspaper.

REVOLUTION AND RELIGION The Fight for Emancipation and the Role of Religion, A Dialogue Between Cornel West & Bob Avakian
BA Speaks: Revolution Nothing Less! Bob Avakian Live
BAsics from the Talks and Writings of Bob Avakian
Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal)
WHAT HUMANITY NEEDS Revolution, and the New Synthesis of Communism
You Don't Know What You Think You 'Know' About... The Communist Revolution and the REAL Path to Emancipation Its History and Our Future Interview with Raymond Lotta
The Oppression of Black People, The Crimes of This System and the Revolution We Need