Mississippi loses one of its fearless and unflinching voices and activists, Mrs. Ineva May Pittman

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Mrs. Ineva May Pittman

By C. Liegh McInnis

Jackson Advocate Guest Writer

Mississippi has lost one of its fearless and unflinching voices and activists, Mrs. Ineva May Pittman. 

I don’t remember one issue regarding civil rights in any form that Mrs. Pittman hasn’t been involved in impacting – from proper funding of state education, improving the number of certified teachers in poor districts, reducing mass incarceration of Black folks (including closing the school-house to jailhouse pipeline), fighting for fair representation on school boards, voter education and registration, working to save Smith Robertson Museum, changing the Mississippi flag, Census work, redistricting, Jackson’s ongoing water crisis, the Ayers case to properly fund public HBCUs, and so much more. One of the most noted accomplishments is her contribution in having the Jackson International Airport named in honor of Medgar Evers. Yet, for Mrs. Pittman, the symbolism of that act is only essential because it serves as an example of what Black folks can accomplish and that we must be dedicated to Evers’ actions as well as his words. 

I will most remember that Mrs. Pittman didn’t have a problem giving it straight to anyone, regardless if you were a friend or foe, ally or enemy. She never minced her words because she didn’t have time to waste doing the people’s work. Additionally, Mrs. Pittman accomplished so much because she was not territorial in her efforts. She was one of the few people able to work with every group or organization that was striving to improve the condition of Black folks, including the NAACP, the Nation of Islam, National Council of Negro Women, Jackson State University National Alumni Association, Mississippi Democratic Executive Committee, and so many more. Even being 35 years older than me, I struggled to keep up with her work, which was driven by love for her people. 

If I went to a rally, Mrs. Pittman was there. If I went to a march, Mrs. Pittman was there. If I went to a press conference, Mrs. Pittman was there. If I went to a workshop, Mrs. Pittman was there. And, if I went to a sporting event, Mrs. Pittman was there, but she was registering folks to vote before and after the game. Of course, she was always at church. Yet, her ministry was not one of words but of deeds. If Mrs. Pittman invited you to church, you knew that some work was being done, such as feeding and securing supplies for folks. (And, yes, she was registering people to vote there, too.) Ultimately, she was not interested in a prayer that wasn’t followed by some work. 

A few years ago, I wrote a poem, “For Our Women,” which is a tribute to local and national Black women who have shaped our movement. Of course, Mrs. Pittman is listed. Once she got the initial copy, she made sure to tell me about even more Black women who needed to be included. Needless to say, I have not included all of those brilliant women in the poem as of yet. But, that’s the spirit of Mrs. Ineva May Pittman – working diligently in the shadows so that others can be illuminated while being unafraid to look evil in the eye and rebuke it when others would acquiesce to it. For such a short woman, I always felt like I stood a bit taller whenever Mrs. Pittman was with us. 

RIP Fearlessness – you gave us the gifts of courage and work when so many were afraid to move.

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Mississippi loses one of its fearless and unflinching voices and activists, Mrs. Ineva May Pittman

By Jackson Advocate News Service
January 16, 2023