A Profile of Pride: L.A. Sentinel’s Jasmyne Cannick Turns 32
Known to most as a journalist and blogger, there’s more to Jasmyne Cannick than what you read online.
By Yussuf Simmonds
Sentinel Managing Editor
Many know her in the community as a journalist with one of the most read blogs in Los Angeles, and as a community activist, taking on controversial issues from gay marriage to the renaming of L.A.P.D.’s Parker Center, R. Kelly concerts and most recently the disappearance of Mitrice Richardson. More recently, she’s taken a keen interest in improving the online image of Black office holders and organizations in he Los Angeles area. But even with all of her accomplishments, Jasmyne is the first person to tell you that none of that pays her bills, it just rewards her spiritually and helps her sleep better at night.
Professionally, Jasmyne works in political communications, sometimes for office holders and at other times as a consultant on campaigns. Having studied both political science and journalism, she is one of few people to actually work in the media while making it.
She got her start when she met Asantewa Olatunji and Ayuko Babu of the Pan African Film & Arts Festival in 1999. She says that she began to develop a sense of herself getting more involved in the community. Working in cable television advertising for then MediaOne, now Time Warner Inc., the film festival was one of Jasmyne’s advertising clients.
“I remember thinking to myself wow, these people are Black and proud,” Jasmyne laughs. “I was also surprised to meet so many people who work their hair naturally and didn’t care what anyone else had to say about it.” It didn’t take long before Jasmyne ditched her relaxed hair for “locks” that she now wears proudly in a distinct shade of red.
Throughout the years, no matter where Jasmyne had been, she has always made time to handle the communications for the film festival. “I remember thinking to myself, there’s an awful lot I have to say and very few people my age and Black and female saying it, she quipped. “I remember attending a forum where the owners of all of L.A.’s Black newspapers were all speaking. I got up and asked why there weren’t more female voices and people under 40 on the op-ed pages of Black newspapers. Danny Bakewell, Jr. said starting next week, that’ll change with your op-ed. I’ve been writing for the Los Angeles Sentinel ever since.”
Bakewell, who is the paper’s executive editor, said, “Jasmyne is a true leader in our community. She represents and leads members of our community both in her work as a political advocate as well as regarding community issues. She works tirelessly to improve the quality of life for African Americans and all people, and for that we are truly appreciative.”
NBC 4 Los Angeles anchor and reporter Beverly White took Jasmyne under her wing and pushed her into joining the National Association of Black Journalists, a move that opened doors for her around the country and eventually led to her penning the July 2008 cover story for Ebony Magazine on Serena Williams and appearing on NBC’s Dateline after she wrote a compelling op-ed on the Don Imus controversy.
White says, “Jasmyne came into my life as a gifted journalist and I have watched her blossom into an energetic activist and communications professional. She devotes amazing compassion and intellect to everything she does. I am proud to be her friend.”
Long time radio talk how host Dominique DiPrima of Radio Free 102.3 KJLH’s Front Page said, “Jasmyne Cannick is the real deal. She manages to be politically savvy about the inner workings of government and still keep her ear to the streets.”
Today she’s a well-known and respected public policy and communications professional with a successful track record in the areas of public policy, issue and campaign strategies. Jasmyne has used her experience working for office holders on all three levels of government to assist underserved and vulnerable population groups. From working in Washington D.C. in the House of Representative to her work California’s State Legislature, where she worked for long time politician and mentor Assemblymember Mervyn Dymally, Jasmyne continues to assist African-American candidates running for elected office. She recently worked on the successful campaigns of Assemblymember Steve Bradford, Senator Curren D. Price Jr., and Carson Councilmember Mike Gipson. She currently serves as the Director of Public Affairs for a firm in Los Angeles and works on local-and-state candidate issues and campaigns.
California Assembly Speaker pro Tem Isadore Hall III reflected, “Jasmyne has been and remains to be a prolific journalist who is able to break down politics using her cultural and urban voice. I call Jas’ my friend because she has always been able to keep it real and walk a fine line of working in politics while also writing about it. That’s rare in an environment where those qualities aren’t the norm.”
Along the way, Jasmyne made a name for herself sticking up for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community among Blacks. From calling out the racism in white gay America to the homophobia among Blacks, Jasmyne has been a tireless advocate for both Black people and Black gays. But she’s quick to tell you that gay issues aren’t all that she focuses on.
“As a Black person living in Los Angeles, there’s no way I could afford to limit my scope of activism to lesbian and gay issues. Black gay people are suffering like Black people are suffering. So today, I try to focus on those issues that affect us all and bring all of us to the table.”
Jasmyne co-founded the Washington D.C. based National Black Justice Coalition, the nation’s Black gay civil rights group. In addition, she is the former co-chair of the National Stonewall Democrats Black Caucus and a current member of the National Association of Black Journalists. In 2008, Jasmyne and Eric “Lil Eazy E” Wright Jr. formed My Hood Votes, a voter registration and education initiative involving a grassroots education and mobilization campaign designed to engage non-traditional voters in underserved Black neighborhoods. She’s been selected as one of BET’s “Who’s Who” in Black Gay America three years in a row and will appear in the fall in a BET news special on the subject of Proposition 8 and the African-American community.
Her work style, ethic, and commitment to the African-American community have her widely respected among Black elected officials, clergy, and activists whom she often works with on various social justice issues.
Newly elected Board of Equalization Member Jerome Horton said, “Jasmyne, is a creative, intelligent, and artistic linguist with the political instinct of a Kennedy and the vision of Eleanor Roosevelt.”
One of her many mentors is Yvonne Wheeler, a staple in the Labor field. Wheelersaid, “It’s difficult for me describe Jasmyne and what she brings to the table because she is so multi-talented and multidimensional. She possesses so many great qualities-integrity, courage, commitment, toughness, brilliance and talent. Whether it’s using her numerous talents in communications and media relations or her passion for defining the candidate’s message, she excels in all she does.”
Jasmyne has said that even with all of these accomplishments under her belt at such a young age, what she’s most proud of going from a size 24 to a size 12. Having documented her weight loss on line in her weight loss diary, she narrated every step of her weight loss program from the beginning to the present.
To help her lose the weight, she became an avid tennis player – playing daily at Rancho Cienega Tennis Courts and taking lessons from the Venus and Serena Williams Tennis Academy’s tennis coach Le George Mauldin.
“When she interviewed Serena Williams for Ebony Magazine, she told her, “I was thinking about taking up tennis. She told me to go for it and that’s just what I did. There’s nothing like learning something new as an adult. The sense of accomplishment makes one feel that all of the hard work is worth it.”
In 2008, thanks to her good friend actor Isaiah Washington whom she traveled to Sierra Leone, West Africa with in 2007, Jasmyne traced her African ancestral roots through AfricanAncestry.com to Equatorial Guinea and Cameroon.
When not working, Jasmyne writes about the intersection of pop culture, race, class, and politics as played out in the African-American community. She was selected as one of ESSENCE Magazine’s 25 Women Shaping the World and is a frequent voice on local and national radio.
Ninth District Councilmember Jan Perry quipped, “Jasmyne represents a new voice reporting in our community and beyond. She has mastered the art of reporting through all modes of communication. Her reporting style is strong, opinionated, well-researched, often laced with humor and satire. I expect that she will be quite famous one day. But for now, she has set the bar very high in community-based journalism. People…take note!”
“Sure Jasmyne has a distinguished history of being both a political and community activist, but I have always been most impressed with her skill and relationship with the media,” commented 8th District Councilmember Bernard Parks Sr. “She is creative, resourceful and has a never-say-die approach when it comes to getting her story in the paper, on TV, the radio, or the web.”
Recently Jasmyne was the Associate Producer for a new documentary about the L.A. Chapter of the Black Panther Party, entitled “41st & Central.”
“Jasmyne Cannick, in my opinion is a modern day cross between Sojourner Truth and the late Congresswoman Barbara Jordan,” commented Carson Councilmember Mike Gipson. “Jas is a strong community advocate, standing up and fighting for what she strongly believes in, regardless of what polls may show, or what people and groups may say. She has become, and is a strong leader in our community, and she is not afraid, scared nor troubled by taking on those who seek to distort or misrepresent the truth about the African American Community. Keep on being who you are!”