When it comes to uplifting the voices and accomplishments of our community members, it’s critical that individuals of all identities get a seat at the table to share their experiences.
In her role as Pittsburgh City Paper’s arts and culture writer, Dani Janae shares Black-led community spotlights to highlight the stories of Black leaders and small business owners, and helps Pittsburghers become better acquainted with all their neighbors.
In our Behind the Byline interview, we discussed Dani’s passion for music and talking with musicians, her previous careers and her taste in shows and podcasts.
Where are you from?
I’m from Pittsburgh. I grew up in the Garfield area.
Where did you go to school?
I went to high school at Taylor Allderdice, and I attended Allegheny College in Meadville, Pa.
What got you interested in writing and local reporting?
I’ve been into writing for as long as I can remember. It started with writing little novels, poems and short stories when I was a kid in elementary and middle school. It wasn’t until after college that I started doing reporting. I didn’t go to school for journalism — I went for a degree in poetry and creative writing, but I had a couple journalism positions here and there.
I was a reporter for a small vegetarian and vegan publication called This Dish is Vegetarian when I was in college. I also did a column for a local zine called Steer Queer, where I interviewed queer people in Pittsburgh about what they do, their work and art. And then I didn’t do any journalistic writing for a while. I worked in educational nonprofits, I did banking for a bit, and then I got this job at Pittsburgh City Paper, and I’ve been here for a year now.
What’s your favorite part of your job with Pittsburgh City Paper?
I love writing about music and talking to musicians about their process and what it’s like making art that is so important in our society and culture. I think music transcends in a way that other written word doesn’t always have the power to do.
Is there anything specific about the Pittsburgh music scene that interests you, or anything unique you’ve learned about music in Pittsburgh that you want to share?
What’s cool about the Pittsburgh scene is there are people working within certain genres like hip-hop, pop or indie rock, but there are also a lot of Pittsburgh artists that bounce in and out of different genres and work with different mediums in their music. Pittsburgh artists are also really interested in collaborating in a lot of cool ways, whether that’s playing shows with other bands in different genres, or doing songs with other artists in the city, I think there’s a great spirit of collaboration in this city.
What have your interviews and community profiles taught you about the community you live in and the communities you’re a part of in Pittsburgh?
I really like doing community profiles, especially the Black-led community spotlights, because it has really expanded my knowledge of Black-owned businesses in the city. I interviewed Walter Lewis, the president and CEO of the Homewood Children’s Village a while ago. Growing up, I obviously knew of Homewood, but there was kind of a rivalry between Garfield and Homewood. My knowledge of Homewood was colored by that rivalry, so getting to know the work that they and other nonprofits do there that specifically serve children in that community was a really cool opportunity for me to get to know what’s happening in that region.
One of my favorite things is hearing people talk about what they’re passionate about. There’s so much passion in the Black community in Pittsburgh around sharing their expertise with other people. We did an interview with Samantha Black from The Greenwood Plan, and she was talking about putting Black businesses in touch with each other, so they know there’s a community out there. I thought that was a great interview experience for me. For the people I interview, it’s a really great opportunity to get a spotlight on their business and what they do, and it has helped me feel more connected to the community that I’m in.
What do you like doing outside of work?
Recently, I’ve been doing a lot of my own personal writing. I’ve been working on writing poems for myself and sending those out to publications. I’m very into horror movies — my friend and I have been watching a show on Netflix called “All of Us Are Dead.” I’m also a big podcast person. I like listening to podcasts that make me laugh or allow me to learn something.
– Maggie Medoff, WordWrite