Black History Month: Breaking barriers in Columbia

Black History Month: Breaking barriers in Columbia

Several leaders in the City of Columbia are making history by breaking the glass ceiling.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — For Black History Month, News19 is honoring those who’ve made a difference right here in Columbia. 

In fact, there are several leaders in the community that are making history right now.

For example, Chief Aubrey Jenkins became Columbia’s first African American fire chief in 2011. Now, he’s become the first African American president of the South Carolina State Association of Fire Chiefs.

“It’s good to be known as the first African American in my position, but when I leave here I want to be known as the person that makes the right decisions and just did the right thing regardless of who you are,” Jenkins said.

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He added that he wants to encourage people to go after what they want.

“When I first started in the Department, I started in ‘79. I didn’t dream about being the fire chief, that was not one of my goals, but as I began to move up in the ranks, I realized that anything is possible so why not,” said Jenkins.

Mayor Steve Benjamin is Columbia’s first African American mayor. He was elected in 2010 and has also served as President of the U.S. Conference of Mayors. 

After over 10 years, Benjamin has announced he won’t seek re-election to focus on his family and law firm.

Another barrier breaker is Teresa Wilson. She’s the first African American woman to ever serve as Columbia City Manager. 

Wilson told News19 she wants to inspire other women of color to go into city or county management.

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Columbia Councilwoman Tameika Isaac Devine is the first Black woman to ever serve on city council.

“As a Black woman in the South, I have different life experiences that I think lend to the decisions that we make as city leaders to make sure our city is inclusive,” Devine said.

She was elected in 2002 as the councilwoman at-large. 

“A little girl with her grandma ran up to me and she had the copy of the paper that came out the day before for my election, and she wanted me to autograph it, and she told her grandmommy, she said, ‘mommy she looks like me!'”

Devine said that’s why representation in leadership is so important.

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