Community and political activist leaves legacy

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Photo:  The New Citizens Press

Photo: The New Citizens Press

By Cameron Billes
Ingham County Chronicle

The people of Ingham County suffered after the loss of an idealized mother, grandmother and friend.

Mary Lou Pittman, a community and political activist, passed away Sept. 16.

Pittman was born and raised in Lansing, and had spent more than 40 years helping the Ingham County community.

Pittman’s political career began in 1967, when she helped catapult Joel Ferguson into becoming the first African-American on the Lansing City Council. It was not until helping Ferguson that Pittman caught the political bug.

Ferguson said she always wanted to help others out before herself. “She was one of the most energetic, giving persons you will ever meet,” Ferguson said.

Rina Risper, the publisher and owner of The New Citizens Press and a fellow activist with Pittman, says Pittman’s biggest impact was that she got the elderly and handicapped motivated to vote.

“She got individuals who were not involved in the political scene, into the political scene,” Risper said. “She put her heart and soul into making sure people got the resources they needed, especially the elderly.”

Pittman was also active at her church, Mt. Calvary Baptist Church, spending time on the usher board.

Joe Lane, a fellow church member at Mt. Calvary for several years, said Pittman participated as long as she was healthy enough. “She was just an outstanding member and an outstanding person,” Lane said.

Sarah Anthony, the commissioner of District 3 in Ingham County, and a friend of Pittman, attended the funeral Sept. 24.

“It was like a who’s who when it came to politicians,” Anthony said. “It was phenomenal to see how many lives she touched in the political realm.”

Anthony said Pittman helped her run for the Lansing School Board by always telling her how it was and welcoming her with open arms.

“She helped a lot of people get into office,” Anthony said. “She was a powerhouse when it came to getting people elected.”

Aside from working with the elderly and helping in political campaigns, Pittman also found the time to work with the foundation and family outreach program, Men Making a Difference.

“(Pittman) had a lot of tenacity and grace and would give to individuals who were in need,” Risper said.

Pittman was a mother of nine, grandmother of seven and great grandmother of four. For her service to the community, the Ingham County Board of Commissioners honored her in their meeting Sept. 23.

Andrew Brewer, an extended family member to Pittman and volunteer for Men Making a Difference, said that people really enjoyed how Pittman was willing to sit down and listen to them.

“The impact was real,” Brewer said. “All the things she did was genuine.”

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