Tribute to Bishop Shirley Pitts

Bishop Shirley Pitts with some of her Queen Daughters of the Candace Queens of Ethiopia Order. They are from left, Deborah Clark, Queen India, Victoria Richardson, and Queen Imani.

Talk about Divine Order! We (family, friends and associates) are about to embark upon a piece of “history” which I believe was not only destined but with which I always wanted to be associated. A person whom I have come to love, respect and admire. A woman of substance – Candace Queen Mother Abbess of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and a Bishop of Faith Restoration, Inc., Bishop Shirley Ann Pitts. This colorful woman and I met through one of my spiritually adopted Sisters, Dr. Daphne Sapphire June Anderson, a British Trinidadian Herbalist (now deceased) and therefore our story began.

She wears many hats, literally speaking (as a Bishop). Ms. Shirley Pitts arrived in the USA on January 14, 1963 from her homeland, Belize City in Central America. Like so many, she had a vision for herself and her country and to explore how Cable Television could be introduced to Belize (which up to that time had no television). Her fascinating journey over the years began with the “Belizean Girl International Cable TV.” This program launched the careers of many well-known Artistes. In 2015, Bishop Pitts celebrates 52 years in Harlem.

Back in Belize, Ms. Pitts came from a religious background. Her parents, the late Mr and Mrs Vallon P.L. Pitts (Father a constable and Mother a Community Activist in Politics) were Methodist Christians. During her formative years the young Ms. Pitts, a teenager, (the eldest of seven siblings), along with her mother, assisted Mr. Phillip Goldson in the District of Cayo. Both parents were members of the National Independent Party (NIP), later the United Democratic Party (UDP).

Young Shirley also worked alongside Ms. Rosita Williams to organize the UDP which is the current government of Belize under Mr. Dean Barrow. Belize City is divided into six Districts and Shirley’s father, being a police officer, wanted the best for his family and requested that he be transferred to live in more upscale places. There were many families who lived in rural areas, where there was no electricity and they used lamps etc. there were water snakes and all types of animals and they had to go up and down the river with a prayer. Through her life style, Shirley was better positioned to influence the less-privileged to strive for a better future along with her mother, a commandant in the Red Cross, Ma Pitts (Senior) as she was famously known, was the founder of the Ma Pitts Marching Band. She founded an after school program which provided the children with food and drinks and welcomed them to her residence as a second home.

After her mother’s passing, Ms. Pitts continued to return to Belize to support the Ma Pitts Marching Band and the children. There are two main events in which she participates. The first on Sept. 10, known as National Independence Day of Belize and the second on Sept. 21, the celebration of Independence Day. Ms. Pitts returns to her homeland to provide all the clothing and accessories for the children during the two-day celebration.

Because of her strong desire for television, the arts, entertainment, etc., Bishop Pitts met Sister Alma Nomsa John in January 1963. Sister Alma was an RN at Harlem Hospital and invited Ms. Pitts to her Radio Program (WWRL) as a hostess. Bishop Pitts did not have the requirements needed to work, so she performed the simple tasks as a self-employed research analyst under her mentor, Ms. John. She quoted Ms. John – “If you know, you will teach; if you don’t know, you will learn. Each one will teach one and each one will reach one,” which she continues to apply to her life to this present time. To be a good teacher, one has to be first a good student. During these formidable years, Ms. Pitts continued to live out her dream in the United States, by attending the Alma John Talent Workshop every Saturday in the Sacs 5th Avenue Store in Harlem, where students from around the world gathered to learn and advance their creative interests.

Her dream of being a midwife back in Mango Creek with her aunt an RN, Ms. Vilma Pitts, was now long behind her. She was introduced to a Jewish doctor, Dr. Bertram Sciffer and given an opportunity to care for twin girls. This act spring-boarded her into the field of Home Health Care Companionship and caring for children. She is a mother of four, grandmother of 12 and a great grandmother of many. She has been instrumental in the lives of many of her relatives, friends, associates and Queen Daughters, like myself.

Bishop Pitts graduated from the John Roberts High School of Modelling in 1973. She was given the rare opportunity to perform at Fashion Shows on Broadway and 175th Street at the Rev. Ike Ministries. She holds the reign of being one of the original Praise Dancers selected by Rev. Ike at Reverent and Mrs. Ike’s Ministries in the 1970s. In 1973, a Belizean Girl International Cable TV received its own airtime for one hour. She co-hosted with Alma John, Black Pride (WPIX – Channel 11) as a student/studio hostess, where she was involved in pinning tags on the lapels of the rich and famous people, like Cassius Clay (Mohammed Ali). During these programs of highlighting people of color in the community, Sister Alma John, also known as a Goodwill Ambassador, brought Bishop Pitts into the United Nations. She also went on to practice Opera with Madam Desimore (a relative of Mario Lanza), did tap dancing with Phil Black Dancing Studio and co-hosted the Laverne Powell Variety Show on WHBI Radio.

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