Thomasena Stokes-Marshall became involved in her profession due to her desire to represent her people in the community for the town of Mount Pleasant, South Carolina. She wanted to work in a position that would be impactful to her community while providing her with a decent salary and benefits. Born in South Carolina, Ms. Stokes-Marshall relocated to New York with her parents at the age of 5. As she grew older, she was educated in the city and began her career as a corrections officer with the New York Department of Corrections. For five years, she excelled in the aforementioned role before joining the New York Police Department as a detective. After graduating from Lehman College with a Bachelor of Arts in public administration in 1990, Ms. Stokes-Marshall retired from the aforementioned police force the following year to return to her hometown of Mount Pleasant.
Ms. Stokes-Marshall subsequently volunteered with Meals on Wheels and the local chapters of Kiwanis and Rotary International, while also attending monthly town council meetings. Recognizing the lack of any minority representation on the town council, she ran for a public office, but was unfortunately defeated by just over 300 votes. Though defeated, she was not deterred, seeking office again and winning in 1998. As the first and only African American to be serving as a member of the Town Council of Mount Pleasant, Ms. Stokes-Marshall is proud to be the eyes, ears and voice of her community.
Over her four-term tenure between 1998 and 2015, Ms. Stokes-Marshall achieved much for her community, helping to establish a senior center and founding the Sweetgrass Cultural Arts Festival Association. With the latter organization, she helped to organize an annual event designed to educate, expose, engage and bring attention to growing threats to the African American Gullah Geechee people’s history. She also collaborated with the College of Charleston to facilitate plans for documenting “Bin Yah, There’s No Place Like Home,” a DVD focusing on the increase of residential and commercial development in the town and its negative impact on the Gullah Geechee people. Wanting to preserve the Gullah Geechee’s history, Ms. Stokes-Marshall also implemented the first Sweetgrass Basket Making Summer Camp, which aims to ensure that the art form is taught to future generations.
Throughout her time on the council, Ms. Stokes-Marshall affiliated herself with various organizations, including East Cooper Habitat for Humanity, East Cooper Meals on Wheels, the International African American Museum, Mount Pleasant Affordable Housing Task Force and Creative Sparks, to name a few. After retiring from the town council, she has continued to contribute as an active member of the Sweetgrass Cultural Arts Festival Association. Furthermore, Ms. Stokes-Marshall has provided her wealth of knowledge as a board member for Housing for All Mt. Pleasant, the Thomasena Stokes-Marshall Senior Center Association, the East Cooper Medical Center and the African American Settlement Community’s Historic Commission.