Sunday, June 12, 2011

Say No to Hatred, Discrimination and Prejudice!

Oasis Feature: Stand Against Injustice

I stand in support of the LGBTT Community. Gay Pride Parade June 5, 2011. Condado, Puerto Rico.

On May 5, 1992 my mother Susan Pittmann and her lesbian partner Christine Puckett were murdered by their neighbor James Brooks. Newspapers in Detroit and Huron Township, Michigan reported that the double homicide was the culmination of an ongoing battle over property lines. My mother was fifty-five, healthy and vibrant with positive ideas about the future. Christine was thirty-nine, energetic and busy raising her teenage son. Brooks was slow to reflect and quick to anger. He became enraged when he saw my mother and Christine publicly expressing affection. By erecting a privacy fence between these two rural properties, Mom and Christine intended to bring a peaceful resolution to Brooks’ complaints. However, it became clear that he was enraged about their gay relationship, and that not seeing them together was not enough. He vigorously complained to neighbors where he found support for his rage, and he formulated his murder plan.

From police reports, it’s clear that he shot Christine first from the side door of his house and then as he walked over to view her body that was face down in the grass, he lifted his gun and shot her in the back. I imagine just before he pulled the trigger, he thought the words he told the police later, “It had to be done”. My mother was on the kitchen phone with the emergency operator reporting that Brooks had threatened their lives when Christine was first shot. She immediately dropped the telephone, ran outside and stood in front of Brooks, weaponless. I imagine she asked him why he did it, and in answer, he shot her just below the heart. Brooks’ determined discriminatory attitude has troubled me ever since. How did he become so certain about his decision to murder my mother and Christine? After the deaths, I watched in astonishment as the actual motivation for the crime was determined to be a property dispute instead of a hate crime. Newspapers reported exaggerated stories casting my mother and Christine in a harsh light, which apparently had nothing to do with their sexual preference.

I was shocked to see my mother, a dynamic loving people-person characterized as a temperamental abuser of animals while Brooks was portrayed as an elderly man who was pushed to the limits of tolerance by his unreasonable neighbors. Neighbors reported that he was upset about my mother’s Pit-bull trespassing onto his property. No one explained that my mother’s dog, Ms. Pitt, was an elderly overweight, exhausted and non-territorial dog that was given a daily dose of thyroid medication just to stay alert. No mention was made of her activism within the gay community, and that she and Christine were founding members of the Affirmations Gay and Lesbian Community Center in Downriver-Detroit. No mention was made that she was a loving mother of five children and devoted grandmother to eight. No mention was made about how much we would continue to miss her for the rest of our lives.

After reading these news reports, I quickly understood that Brooks had not acted alone. In fact, it was a narrow-minded society that provided ammunition for this crime. It was only the gay community that stood strong and honestly told the truth about these murders. They loudly proclaimed that this double homicide was not a neighborhood feud but a hate crime. As a continued tribute to the gay community, I am honored at Marianne K. Martin’s request to write the forward of her latest novel, The Indelible Heart. This novel extends some of the plot threads related to my mother and Christine that appeared in Martin’s first novel Love in Balance and succeeds in giving a personal face to the events surrounding the murders. Though it is a work of fiction, the narrative highlights how in fact, the gay community rallied together to fight homophobia and violence in response to this shocking crime. I encourage people to read this profoundly moving novel and realize that it is our duty as members of society to stand together and continue a united struggle against intolerance and violence.

Cynthia Pittmann

Brian Alexander is making a documentary on Mom and Chris' story, and the LGBT community in the Detroit Metropolitan area in the early 90s. You can visit the new website to find out more about it. He contacted singer/songwriter Susan Hendrick and asked her to share her talents, which resulted in the moving music video, "Fight 2 B Whole." You can view it below, or click on the link at the Pittmann/Puckett website or plan to watch it during the closing credits of the film.


  1. dear cynthia, it's good to see you again! hoping things are going well in your world....always, this is such a hard story to read, to know is still happening all around the world in the form of hatred and contempt edging into murderous outrage...thank you for having the courage of speaking out for those who cannot.

    blessings to youxxxooo

  2. Gut wrenching to read through the travails your mother went through, the violence visited upon her for being different.

    The pain of loss merely subsides, never goes away, not if the loss is the result of another's intolerance, making one reflect that were it not for the person in question the cherished one would still be a part of one's life. This hurts more than anything, deepens the sense of loss even further to know that this didn't have to happen, and shouldn't have happened.

    Admirable the way you've put your efforts behind the cause so another will be spared the intolerance of people who will not put the primacy of human life first and foremost.

  3. Thank you Linda for sharing your compassion and beauty with me. I always appreciate your visits and your gorgeous art. I'll come over and visit now. xx

    Anil, I appreciate the depth of your understanding about an unexpected and violent death. The way I cope with the loss is to do what I can to make these deaths have an ongoing meaning and help others to appreciate human life and love in all of its various form of expression. Thank you for taking time to read about this painful loss. I hope all is well in your part of the world.

  4. I've always said that intolerance to diversity it's what has taken us to be they way we are today. -A narrow minded society that has never truly learned to respect each other's preferences, life styles and beliefs.

    My condolences to you and your family for that terrible loss, Prof. Pittmann. No one deserves to have their family members taken away, especially not in such a cruel and violent way. Natural death loss is almost unbearable I can't imagine what's it's like when you know that your loved one would still be living if it wasn't because of somebody else.

    I hope this piece, the documentary, the books and everything that's being done for the LGBT community helps people understand that we need to accept each other even when we don't believe/live the same way.

    God bless.

  5. Thanks for taking the time to comment, Ihi. I know that we do need to learn to accept others and our differing perspectives. I appreciate that you make room in your heart for difference- your open-mindedness.


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