Community loses tireless activist

Louise Sellers worked tirelessly for West Charlotte.

She nurtured countless small businesses, started a popular festival celebrating African American culture, and held power over the powerful.

“Everybody who had a sign in her yard never lost a campaign,” said City Councilman James Mitchell, who represents the district she served.

Sellers died Thursday at age 82. The community activist was co-founder of the West Charlotte Business Incubator, a project that nurtured small businesses in a building on the Johnson C. Smith campus.

The startup entrepreneurs shared a secretary, conference room and other administrative services to cut costs. Sellers brought in speakers to help them learn about financing and other business topics.

She also helped start the West Charlotte Merchants Association, headed the Biddleville-Five Points Community Organization and directed West Charlotte Fest, an annual summer festival.

Her friends and family recall her energy and her kindness. Mitchell, who started a computer business in the incubator, considers himself one of her success stories. In two years, he grew his business to a staff of six people.

“She helped a guy like me, who just had an idea – a computer consulting company – and helped me make it a reality,” he said. She also helped him get his first loan, he said, by putting him in touch with someone at First Charter bank.

“That's a true loss to our community, a true loss,” he said of her death.

Sellers' household was warm, a place where people dropped by looking for “Momma Louise,” her daughter Teresa Wright said. When she was organizing a festival, the children – Sellers had seven – would help out. Sellers always had room, was always concerned with the people who passed through her life, Wright said.

“Anybody who was hungry and needed to eat, she was there for them,” Wright said.

Sellers also had political clout. She knew how to get help for people, and was never afraid to ask, said Lawrence Toliver, who recently retired from the Chamber of Commerce.

“She was a representative of residents who was willing to help people stand up and make improvements themselves,” he said. She wouldn't complain, she'd just act, he said. “Ms. Louise was always being part of solutions.”