Virginia Jamison

North Charleston Councilwoman Virginia Jamison (right) served as a facilitator at the Pathway to Politics event Tuesday night. Kerri Forrest was taking her advice to heart. Mina Corpuz/Staff

They have forged their own paths in politics and community organizing, and now they are helping others get involved. 

Several women of color serving as community leaders shared their experiences and gave guidance at a Tuesday night event in Charleston. 

The small group conversations examines challenges for women of color in politics. 

"So many people are going to tell you what you shouldn't do, but very few will tell you what you should do," said North Charleston Councilwoman Virginia Jamison during one of the group discussions. 

She was one of eight facilitators who has served as an elected official, worked for political parties and organized activists. Every 20 minutes they rotated to sit with a new group of women during the two-hour event. 

More than 60 women of different ages and racial backgrounds came to the event at the International Longshoremen's Association Hall on Morrison Drive. 

The Center for Women and the YWCA of Charleston hosted the event. It was the first in a series of conversations. 

Some of the topics the groups talked about included battling perceptions that work against women who want to run or organize, taking risks to run for office, reaching out to people in communities, and supporting others. 

Out of the 1,840 women serving in state legislatures nationwide, 439 of them are women of color, according to Center for American Women and Politics based at Rutgers University in New Jersey. 

In South Carolina, eight of the General Assembly's 170 members are women of color. 

At the local level, Jamison and Dorothy Williams serve on North Charleston's City Council. None serve on the Charleston City Council. 

Anna Johnson is the only woman of color on the nine-member Charleston County Council. No women of color serve in elected positions in the Berkeley and Dorchester County governments. 

Awendaw, Hollywood and Moncks Corner have at least one woman of color serving on their town councils.

Regina Duggins of downtown Charleston said the facilitators were dynamic and supportive. 

"They were recruiting us to step into their forefront to be the next generation of women leading change," she said. 

Kimberly Brock Brown of Summerville said even though she isn't involved in politics, many ideas from the night were helpful to her. 

She has worked as an executive chef and was recently sworn in as the first woman of color to serve as the Southeast vice president of the American Culinary Association. 

"I ran because I was sick and tired of not seeing any women (on the board)," she said. "And now people are asking me if I'm going to run for national president. ... It's something I never thought of, but that's how the men do it, so we (women) have to get into that mindset." 

Reach Mina Corpuz at 843-937-5558. Follow her on Twitter @mlcorpuz. 

Mina covers local news and North Charleston at The Post and Courier. She has written for the Boston Globe, the Sun News in Lowell, Mass. and The Daily Free Press at Boston University.