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These are 12 Black leaders to know in South Carolina, people striving to make a difference. The Post and Courier is proud to spotlight them this year in our second-annual special feature released during Black History Month.

Teresa Wilson, 47, leads Columbia as its city manager, the first African America woman to have served in the role. She's climbed the ladder in a professional field that is still largely dominated by White men. But Wilson's faith and the guidance of her parents laid a foundation that equipped her to lead the state's second-largest municipality through a tumultuous time, which includes an ongoing pandemic and navigating relationships between law enforcement and the community.

Tory Liferidge, pastor of the town's Grace Reformed Episcopal Church, extends his ministry beyond the walls of the church, fighting to bring attention to the same kinds of maltreatments that his father faced many years ago.

Gourdine, a filmmaker, makes dramatic movies that draw on historical episodes and figures. A 2018 short film was about the Denmark Vesey slave rebellion. A new project, a horror film, also has its storytelling roots in history.

Smalls has roots on St. Helena Island near Beaufort. Her great-great-grandfather purchased land there starting in 1863. As executive director of the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor, she is committed to education, economic development and preservation.

Michael Allen, whose firm is based in Greenville, got his start as a football player and nearly made it to the NFL before turning his attention to his other passion, architecture and design.

Faith Polkey, a pediatrician and public health administrator, is convinced that community health centers are the answer to solving problems of access and affordability.

Emanuel, who's 32, founded the organization Sky Is The Limit Foundation in Aiken. He works to educate fathers on their parental rights and is bringing awareness around the need for a national Responsible Father Registry, a system that enabled Emanuel to keep his daughter from being adopted out of the state without his consent. Simultaneously, he's working to reverse the misconception that suggests Black fathers have no desire to raise their children.

Davis, 42, is the associate director of conservation at American Rivers, where she works to promote the health of the Waccamaw River and riverside lands in the Carolinas, aiming to ensure clean drinking water supply, reduce flood risks and protect local biodiversity. Davis is a relentless advocate for Black and Brown communities and has been working to address the environmental issues impacting those in and around Myrtle Beach and Georgetown.

In her role as executive director for the College of Charleston's Avery Research Center for African American History, Butler has worked to bring more attention to Charleston's deep African American history with a vision to help Avery become more than a tourist destination, but a place where Charlestonians can come and learn about their own communities and families.

The scientific interests cultivated within a young Omar Muhammad would not only lead him to a successful career with the S.C. Department of Natural Resources, where’s he’s studied fish for 15 years, but it also gave him some necessary tools to help advocate for Lowcountry neighborhoods that remind him of the one where he was raised.

J. Drew Lanham is a bird watcher, author and professor of wildlife ecology in the Forestry and Environmental Conservation Department at Clemson University.

Toby Smith is cultural history interpretation coordinator for the Charleston County Park and Recreation Commission. It turns out she has been preparing for the position her whole life.

South Carolina's female freedom fighters played an outsized role in the long civil rights movement, especially during the 1940s and '50s when the NAACP pursued legal remedies to entrenched discrimination, and also during the 1960s and beyond, as African Americans began to create institutions and win elected office.

For profiles of South Carolina's 2021-22 "12 Black Leaders to Know," feature stories about Black history and the civil rights movement, and previous video interviews, go to postandcourier.com/blackhistory.

For profiles of South Carolina's 12 Black Leaders to Know, feature stories about Black history and the civil rights movement, and previous video interviews, go to postandcourier.com/blackhistory.

For profiles of South Carolina's 12 Black Leaders to Know, feature stories about Black history and the civil rights movement, and previous video interviews, go to postandcourier.com/blackhistory.

For profiles of South Carolina's 12 Black Leaders to Know, feature stories about Black history and the civil rights movement, and previous video interviews, go to postandcourier.com/blackhistory.

For profiles of South Carolina's 12 Black Leaders to Know, feature stories about Black history and the civil rights movement, and previous video interviews, go to postandcourier.com/blackhistory.

For profiles of South Carolina's 12 Black Leaders to Know, feature stories about Black history and the civil rights movement, and previous video interviews, go to postandcourier.com/blackhistory.

For profiles of South Carolina's 12 Black Leaders to Know, feature stories about Black history and the civil rights movement, and previous video interviews, go to postandcourier.com/blackhistory.

For profiles of South Carolina's 12 Black Leaders to Know, feature stories about Black history and the civil rights movement, and previous video interviews, go to postandcourier.com/blackhistory.

For profiles of South Carolina's 12 Black Leaders to Know, feature stories about Black history and the civil rights movement, and previous video interviews, go to postandcourier.com/blackhistory.

For profiles of South Carolina's 12 Black Leaders to Know, feature stories about Black history and the civil rights movement, and previous video interviews, go to postandcourier.com/blackhistory.

For profiles of South Carolina's 12 Black Leaders to Know, feature stories about Black history and the civil rights movement, and previous video interviews, go to postandcourier.com/blackhistory.

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This is no typical Black History Month. It comes after the May killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. It comes after the Black Lives Matter movement has made serious strides in its long fight. It comes as more and more White Americans have acknowledged the problem of persistent racial discr…

To read profiles of South Carolina's 12 Black Leaders to Know, and feature stories about Black history and the civil rights movement, go to postandcourier.com/blackhistory.

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“This city has such deep meaning for me,” he mused. “I grew up during a time when it was obvious there was a clear demarcation ... drawn racially, and that shaped who I am today. I was very aware that segregation was real, and in order to truly access the American dream I had to really work harder and fight more vigorously.”

Robert Greene II writes about police violence, the death of John Lewis, voter suppression, Reconstruction, and the Black Panther Party. He even wrote about the race-sensitive progressivism of a 1995 episode of “Deep Space Nine,” part of the “Star Trek” franchise. 

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“I was one of the biggest crack dealers in my neighborhood,” he said. Then Jerry Blassingame grew up and turned his life around, forming a nonprofit to help the formerly incarcerated in which they can be trained in carpentry skills and prepared for re-entry in society.

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“My goal is to explain to children the importance of civic engagement and serving the community,” said Elizabeth Morris.

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Akua Page and Chris Cato are unapologetic advocates of Gullah culture, language, birthright and inheritance. And through the Geechee Experience initiative, they are determined to instill pride in people, young and old, with sea island roots.

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Marcus McDonald assumed a leadership role after the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis by a cop who pinned Floyd down with a knee to the neck.

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“My humble beginnings of being a rules-follower growing up under my mother’s roof is the very thing that guides me,” Dawn Staley said.

The Gullah Geechee Chamber of Commerce has landed about 65 members so far, including basket makers, hemp growers, artists, tiny home advocates, community gardeners and soap producers.

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Germaine Jenkins landed a $25,000 grant in 2014 thanks to the S.C. Community Loan Fund’s Feeding Innovation competition. This was her seed money for Fresh Future Farm.

Jermaine Johnson decided he would start a nonprofit to help young men experiencing some of the same problems and challenges he faced. He wanted them to be good fathers, to find a path out of trouble.

A certain economic necessity compelled African Americans in Antwon Ford's neighborhood to make baskets. Not so much anymore. The demographics of the artisans now are skewed toward elders.

“A year from now, I hope to have at least one policy change,” said Rye Martinez. “Two years from now I want at least two things.”