All of us at Kartemquin are sad to learn of the passing of Ronn Pitts. A legend of the Chicago film scene who shot some of the great events of the civil rights era and inspired many young filmmakers as the first black cinema professor appointed by Columbia College Chicago, his presence will be greatly missed.
Here are remembrances from Kartemquin producers who knew him well.
"Ronn was a very old friend who was beloved by the Chicago film community. One of the first people in the business I met as I was trying to become a filmmaker in the 1960's. He worked at Behrend's, an early rental house. Ronn was always generous with knowledge and support showing us how to use what we had rented. Over the years I saw him nurturing generations of aspiring filmmakers as a teacher at Columbia College."
"I loved Ronn Pitts. His high spirits, warmth, and strong sense of comradeship every time you met, especially when we were all starting out, represented for me the best qualities of the chicago film community. His passing is very sad, and makes me regret how seldom we saw each other in recent years."
"Mentor and friend. Ronn Pitts is a Chicago legendary filmmaker, and he has left us. Loved by all of us film students from our Columbia College days and beyond. He gave us a gift and taught us how to tell our stories with a camera and with heart. I love you Ronn, goodbye buddy."
Gordon and Jerry worked with Ronn in the early days of the Community Film Workshop, an organization we are still proud to be partnering with today on our Diverse Voices in Docs program. Margaret Caples is the executive director.
"Ronn Pitts taught young filmmakers news reporting at the Community Film Workshop of Chicago in the early 70’s. He was a teacher, mentor to young filmmakers giving generously of this time and talents. A warrior in the struggle for civil and human rights Ronn broke color barriers in the film industry and opened the door for many men and women to follow. His legacy demonstrates how talent, compassion, vision, and documentary filmmaking can be used to empower the voiceless and inform the masses."
You can learn more about Ronn's pioneering work - including work on the classic documentaries American Revolution II and The Murder of Fred Hampton - in articles that were published by WBEZ and Black Cinema House while he was still alive.