As a master makeup artist, Shannon Wright knows how to make things beautiful. She’s a whiz with a makeup brush.
But Shannon’s concerned about more than just giving people a pretty face. Shannon, who grew up in Sioux Falls and spent 15 years living in Boston before coming home, also wants to make South Dakota a more fair and equitable place to live.
That’s why she’s active in her community and never afraid to speak out, describing herself as “the protest leader, the instigator, the rebel who will speak out when others won’t.”
Shannon’s been involved in a variety of advocacy efforts over the years, focusing on reproductive rights, racial justice, LGBTQ+ and Two Spirit equality, and voting rights. Most recently, she participated in the ACLU’s Advocacy Academy and she’s been writing and directing a documentary on anti-trans legislation in South Dakota.
Focusing on what South Dakota legislators are doing in Pierre is important to Shannon.
"They are trying to take away basic civil rights in the areas of reproduction and the right of transgender people to even exist and this is not acceptable in any society,” she said. “When they are allowed to do this, what will stop them from taking away rights that you hold dear next? If we do not impress upon our legislators that they work for us and not the other way around it will have implications not only for us but for our grandchildren and their children.”
Q: Why do you think it’s important for people to be involved in their communities?
A: Nothing happens in isolation. I remember my parents lamenting the fact that no one even knows their neighbors anymore and I understand why they felt that way. When you know the people around you or meet new people, it opens up your world to new ideas and informs you about the issues on the ground.
I think one of the major issues we have right now IS this isolation partially caused by social media and exacerbated by the pandemic so, at the moment, my solution is to create through art to help spread a message.
Q: What is your favorite way to get involved in your community?
A: By speaking out through the energy of protests, by creating art, or by public speaking and leading groups.
Q: Do you consider yourself a changemaker?
A: Changemaker to me means disrupter. I am not one who goes into politics to effect change – I am the protest leader, the instigator, the rebel who will speak out when others won’t. (I got that from my dad!)
Q: Why did you want to participate in the ACLU’s Advocacy Academy?
A: The storytelling aspect particularly appeals to me as I believe that this is our oldest and most effective way of getting a message across. I can also be a better advocate for those who need it and can pass on this knowledge to others.
Q: Which of the ACLU’s issue areas are you particularly passionate about?
A: I am passionate about any issue that deals with injustice but most specifically reproductive rights, civil rights issues like those for people of color and the LGBTQ+ and Two Spirit community, and voting rights.
Q: Which of the Constitution’s amendments are most important to you?
A: The First Amendment. Free speech, free press, and the right to assemble are the rights most often denied to those in totalitarian and authoritarian societies. We must never let these go. The 15th and 19th Amendments, too. Voting rights are supremely important, especially right now.
Q: Do you have any advice for someone who might be interested in getting more politically involved in their community?
A: Find what you feel very passionate about. I was very uninvolved here until I discovered a wrong that needed to be put right and that galvanized me to be more active. Seek out information and find out what is happening in your state or community. Use your own skills and personality in the way you feel will help the most. Ask what is needed from those on the front lines.