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Celebrating Black History Month with Janeen Dednam-Wright

Janeen Dednam-Wright

It’s not surprising that Janeen Dednam-Wright celebrates Black history 365 days a year. She’s the outreach and inclusion officer for DFL Senate District 57, and she knows there is much work to be done. Having spent the majority of her career in the healthcare and environmental sectors, issues such as affordable healthcare and housing as well as equitable education motivate Janeen to reach out to our community and welcome everyone’s talents.

Janeen admires leaders such as Nelson Mandela, Shirley Chisholm, Michelle and Barack Obama, and Jasmine Crockett. It’s also very clear that her own family has a strong influence on her passion to serve her community. Janeen’s mother was a civil rights activist and her father was the first Black person to graduate from Washington University School of Dentistry. Growing up in the Carondelet neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, Janeen’s family was active in the Baptist church, and her home was a gathering place for the neighborhood. Her parents and grandparents impressed on Janeen the importance of welcoming and supporting her family and community. They believed “To whom much is given, much will be required.”

When asked about the artists who have influenced her, Janeen animatedly shares that she has a phenomenally creative family. Cousin, Marlon West, is an award-winning animator, Head of Effects, and VFX Supervisor at Walt Disney Feature Animation Studios. He also uses his talents to comment on social issues. (Recommendation: Watch this interview of West about his “Ink Tributes.”) Cousin, Tony West, is a filmmaker who covers major league sports. He also uses his talents to create documentaries. (Recommendation: Watch the documentary, The Safe Side of the Fence, about the effect of nuclear dump sites in St. Louis. Link to Amazon.) Using their talents to engage in public discourse represents the values that Janeen’s family has instilled in them.

As a member of the Minneapolis-St. Paul Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. Janeen has engaged in community service and social action since 1985. She led the local chapter’s outreach for President Biden’s first campaign, continues to co-chair the social action committee, and serves as the Midwest Region’s Minnesota state social action liaison. The murder of George Floyd in 2020 emphasized to Janeen that every community needs to be more inclusive. She knew she had the experience to help, so when Janeen moved to Lakeville, she jumped at the opportunity to be the outreach and inclusion officer for SD57.

If Janeen could leave you with one action you could take to celebrate Black history month, it would be to get involved by doing something you like or love and bring your talents to the DFL. There is much to be done. You are welcome here and your talents are needed. That is how we build community.