By Keisha Bell
Some play it safe. Others trust their dreams.
Meet Dana Canedy, an author and journalist. Born in Indianapolis, Ind., and raised in Radcliff, Ky, as a young girl, she knew that she wanted to become a writer. Canedy was the first in her family to graduate from high school. She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism from the University of Kentucky (UK).
In Aug. 2017, Canedy made history when she was appointed the administrator of the Pulitzer Prizes. She is the youngest person, first woman, and the first person of color to hold the prestigious position.
After graduating from UK, Canedy worked as a police beat reporter at the West Palm Beach Post. She quickly realized that she was not happy in that job. Whereas some would have stayed there because it was “safe” – after all, she was fresh out of college and employed– Canedy left after one year. She went to work as a reporter for the Cleveland Plain Dealer. She remained there from 1988 until 1996.
In 1996, Canedy made a career move that led her right into history, although at the time she could not have known it. That year, she was hired as a reporter for the New York Times. In that role, she covered stories that ranged from race relations to spending time with a murderer to learn how and why he killed. Also, Canedy worked as a national correspondent and as bureau chief for Florida.
She co-authored the series “How Race Is Lived in America,” with her segment being called “The Hurt Between the Lines: A Newsroom Divides After a Healing Series on Race.” It focused on the similar and different paths of two award-winning columnists — one black and one white – and both working for the Akron Beacon-Journal. In 2001, said series won a Pulitzer Prize for national reporting.
In 2006, Canedy was promoted to a senior editor at the New York Times where she was in charge of newsroom recruiting and hiring, newsroom staff training, career development and diversity initiatives.
Also, that year Canedy’s fiancé was killed in the Iraq War. She wrote an essay for the Times about his death. That essay evolved into a memoir entitled “A Journal for Jordan: A Story of Love and Honor,” and was published in 2008. Writing it was therapeutic for Canedy, who was raising at that time their infant son.
Canedy illustrates what is possible when you trust your dreams and the possibilities of their creations. She could still be working in West Palm Beach at a job she disliked. Fear has not made such a result an isolated experience.
Instead, she followed her heart. Those steps led her right into the history books.
On May 30, 2018, Canedy greeted the first award-winners under her leadership to a luncheon. There, she told Kendrick Lamar, who is the first non-classical, non-jazz musician to win, that “we’re both making history this year.”
As the world waits, Canedy’s legacy is still being created. She did not play it safe, trusting her dreams would not allow it.
Keisha Bell is an attorney, author, and public servant. www.emergingfree.com