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Mindful : October 2019
INTERVIEW BY VICTORIA DAWSON • PHOTOGRAPHS BY STEPHANIE DIANI Jenée Johnson shares how she is bringing mindfulness to the San Francisco Department of Public Health and encouraging meaningful conversations about race, trauma, and unconscious bias. CHANGING THE NARRATIVE Jenée Johnson wants the San Francisco Department of Public Health—all 9,000 employees—to take a deep breath. And another deep breath. And another. She wants them—janitors and judges, IT technicians and social workers—to find, in those breaths, the opening notes of a mindfulness prac- tice. Those moments of calm, she believes, are the foundation of emotional intelligence and its skills of resilience and compassion. In effect, Johnson’s title—Program Innovation Leader: Mindfulness, Trauma, and Racial Equity —positions her as the municipal agency’s chief mindfulness officer. In that capacity, she is bringing mindfulness into the agency’s ongoing work with trauma. That work includes mandatory training for every employee about the prevalence of trauma; how it can affect both the agency’s clients and its workforce; and how to take a systemic approach to foster wellness and resilience. Johnson also forged the agency’s partnership with the Google- bred Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute, where she completed a nine-month teacher certification program. Previously, Johnson served for 15 years as the director of the agency’s Black Infant Health Program, incor- porating mindfulness into her intervention work with mothers. Johnson lives with her husband in Oakland, where they raised their son. October 2019 mindful 39