Dawn Dawn, a peanut butter-toned black woman with naturally curly hair, stands against an olive background with hands on her hips.
Dawn meetswith Rep. John Lewis Dawn S. Smith (R) discusses health care policy with Congressman John Lewis, in his D.C. office. Pictures and plaques line the walls.

Dawn was undaunted. She submitted it to EMBODI, an LA-based theatrical company. The choreoplay opened to favorable reviews by the Los Angeles Times and LA Weekly and had multiple runs. Sunshine also appeared in the This Woman's Work Theatre Festival in New York. Dawn was not there to enjoy the performances. She was fighting insurance companies for coverage. When MoveOn, a political action committee asked people to share their health care stories, Dawn told her experience. Soon, she was on a speaking tour. She walked the halls of Congress and into insurance executives' offices. People stuffed pictures of their sick loved ones into Dawn's hand. She shared their stories with conviction.


After grueling brain tumor symptoms began to affect Dawn's ability to write, her mother challenged her to write a sentence a day until she found her voice again. Dawn is still here, and she has a story to tell.

About Dawn S. Smith

Already an author and video-journalist at 19, Dawn S. Smith came into her twenties with the belief that storytelling can inspire action. She was studying at the University of Georgia when an advisor with a new publishing company overheard her asking Pearl Cleage for advice and offered to release her book of poetry. Cries of a Young Girl hit local bookstores the following year.

CNN was about to give the student-author another opportunity. The network needed reinforcements during the 1996 Olympics. Executives promoted Dawn and a handful of other students to full-time video-journalists just three days into her internship. The job was supposed to be temporary. When summer was over, Dawn was the only student asked to stay onboard. Her life became a blur of book promotions, classes, and work until the one-hour commute convinced her to concentrate on her studies full-time.

Dawn entered the corporate field with the belief that marketing campaigns did not have to be less evocative or informative than other forms of writing. At least two of the startups where she contributed to the creative direction entered the Fortune 500. (Founders of both startups credit Dawn with making their companies attractive to buyers.) Entry packages written by Dawn garnered two mostly unknown, women-owned enterprises finalist spots in the Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award (EOY). In both cases, EOY's selection committee credited Dawn's copy as the reason her employers were able to compete against more established enterprises.

Dawn did not abandon creative writing. She self-published a second book of poetry, the dawning. The Atlanta Film Festival recognized her screenplay, Poor Man's Blues, as a finalist in its 2004 Perfect Pitch Competition. By the time The New Jomandi Theatre Company workshopped her choreoplay, Sunshine for a Midnight Weary, Dawn was making a name for herself in Atlanta's arts community. The theatre planned to premiere Dawn's choreoplay the following season. The writer received devastating news: She had a brain tumor and the theatre company abruptly closed for financial reasons.