On this year’s “Transforming Our Transportation Systems” track, we are thrilled to welcome City of Charleston’s Director of the Department of Traffic and Transportation, Keith Benjamin. Benjamin has an outstanding history of work that sets him apart in his field. He says, “he was first introduced to being able to build communities in college” and his work since then proves that. He has held roles in both chambers of congress, as a Congressional Black Caucus Emerging Leader, as an advocate for the Transport Workers Union (TWU), AFL-CIO, on committees in Europe, Africa and more. Currently, in addition to his main title, he acts as the mayor’s representative transit and sits on the Transit Authority and Aviation boards. Throughout all of this, he has worked to make transportation more accessible, safe and well-rounded for the communities he has worked in.
Benjamin’s motto is “innovating through the lens of equity by doing the basics.” This addresses a topic that is so often left out of the conversation regarding environmental change and Benjamin has noticed this in his work as well. He says that when working at a federal level, you are exposed to a process that is far slower—involving multiple steps to get to an intended outcome. This process, however, does not always incorporate the challenges that occur on a smaller, more local scale. As one of the most popular cities in the country for tourism, people need safe, reliable transportation options that create livability—something a car-centric system does not.
Being in such an impactful role means great strides can be made towards equity. It comes with it costs, however. In an interview with him, Benjamin describes the weight of the decisions he makes: “my daily choices have life or death implications.” Because of the importance of transportation accessibility “the decisions we make have to be for everybody and not just for some.” When the national discourse about innovation is led by some powerful few, it is important to come back to this.
The Clean Tech Summit is an opportunity to bring together industry professionals to have these important discussions about the best ways to move our world forward. It is also a space where students can get their first chance at witnessing these conversations and learning more about the possibilities within the field. They can acquire new skills and interact with some of the most knowledgeable leaders in the clean tech world. As someone who has challenged the status quo in terms of race and age, Benjamin encourages students to “not focus on what they don’t have but focus on what they do have to empower them, to occupy spaces of influences, spaces of change.”
To hear more, please join us on February 20th from 3:00-4:15pm when Keith Benjamin will be featured on a Mobility and Equity panel.
Author: Claire Bradley, Environmental Studies, B.A. Class of 2022
Image from: charlestoncvb.com