Dana Canedy is a well-respected journalist, author and publishing executive who won the Pulitzer Prize in 2001 for her series, “How Race is Lived in America.” She has worked at The Palm Beach Post, The Plain Dealer and the New York Times. Her touching and insightful memoir, A Journal for Jordan: A Story of Love and Honor, which was published in 2008, has been turned into a major motion picture through Sony Pictures Entertainment and will be released on Christmas Eve, December 24, 2021. The film stars Michael B. Jordan and Chanté Adams and is directed by Denzel Washington. She kindly sat down with We Are The Mighty for an interview this past week.
- What has the experience been like seeing A Journal for Jordan go from memoir to feature film with some of Hollywood’s most talented professionals bringing it to life?
It’s a blessing. I feel strongly that it’s not about me and my story, it is about my honorable Charles, and the sacrifices that men and women and their military family members make every day. I was hoping to be able to highlight those sacrifices so that people can understand even more that we respect our military. It’s not just soldiers who serve when they go off to combat; the family serves as well. For every soldier who goes off to a warzone, there is a spouse, partner or mother/father who is left behind to keep the homework checked, the car tuned up and the bills paid. All the while wondering every day if that day is going to be the day they are going to get that regrettable, horrible visitor from the military telling them their loved one has died.
2. How has your faith in God strengthened through the process of writing the memoir, raising Jordan and now taking it to the silver screen?
The truth is that it’s the only way I could have done it. That’s the honest truth. I used to think that if someone close to me died, I’d be angry with God and actually the opposite happened. It’s the way I got through it. I felt God’s presence palpably in the days after Charles passed in very, very specific ways. He just enveloped Jordan and me in love and…got me through it. It was the hardest day of my life — I collapsed onto a hardwood floor screaming. I remember that day and thinking, How am I going to ever get off of this floor?’ It was only by the grace of God that I was able to do it.
3. You write about your view of the military in A Journal for Jordan and the change you experienced with Charles. How has that view of the military continued to evolve since the publishing of the book?
The military has really supported us with this movie and I am grateful for that. Jordan has had a chance to go to the Pentagon and run around the Pentagon where they have been so gracious to tell him about his dad and just about military service. We were permitted to shoot a scene for our movie in Arlington Cemetery, which is rare. They’ve really done everything they could possibly do to support us with this film and we’re grateful for that.
4. What is your most important message from the film you want your audience to feel and believe?
I think people will take away what they need from this — I really believe that. If I had to point to one thing it would be that when you go through tragedy there is hope on the other side. You can get back to a place of joy, resilience and happiness. It takes a long time. That day I collapsed on the floor I never thought I would be able to say that. Ever. Someone said something to me that I think is important — in some of my weakest days, someone said, ‘Oh my gosh, you’re so strong,’ and I would get frustrated by that — I didn’t feel strong at all. They said, ‘You don’t have to feel strong to be strong.’ I think that is important and there were days I didn’t feel strong, but I knew I had to keep going. There are moments in life where you feel stuck, scared, frustrated… and you have to hold on. Hold on to your faith and hold on to your village. And sometimes just lay in bed and feel sorry for yourself for a day or two, but then get up. So I’m hoping that people come away with a sense from this movie that while there are some sad moments, there are also some funny parts, there are some uplifting parts, it’s entertaining, but ultimately it’s a message about patriotism and about resilience. Let me say one more thing…about patriotism. It made me proud that this was a story about a solider fighting for and being willing to die for our Constitution and our rights to love each other or disagree with each other, but ultimately it reminded and I hope it does audiences that we are the United States of America. And if we can’t be that and live up to that – the ‘United’ part – then we might as well change our name.
5. What are your next projects and goals?
I’m the publisher of the Simon and Schuster publishing imprint. I want to continue to put important books into the world. Books that help us to laugh and understand each other and give us some context about history. I want to write some more books myself. People keep asking me to write a book about resilience; I’m thinking about doing that. I tell you, I mean this from the bottom of my heart, I’m at a very peaceful place in my life. I want God to lead me where He wants me to go and what He wants me to do. I want to spend the rest of my professional life in service to God. I started writing when I was 12 and I knew what I wanted to do. And when I got out of school and got my first job I would always put my hands over the keyboard and say, “God please use this talent for good.” I don’t know what that’s going to look like after this, but that’s what I want to do. If I can do that and continue to raise my son I can’t ask for anymore. Americans all over this country have been coming up giving me hugs, you know, and I get to talk to people like you who care about our story. I am one blessed woman. I’m good. I take what I do seriously I don’t take myself seriously. I tell Jordan that there are always going to be people who have more than us and there will always be people who have less than us, but what we have is enough. For anybody who thinks they are better than you, they are only better than you until they need your bone marrow. Life is the great equalizer.