Dawn, one of six children, was born and raised in East London to expats from Jamaica. At a young age she worked on a market stall as well as helping out at her family owned bakery before starting her adult career as a computer programmer/systems analyst.
Dawn’s desire to enter politics came from a deep-rooted commitment to address inequality and strong values imparted from her parents. She soon went on to work as an equality and race officer at the GMB union and an adviser to the Mayor of London.
Elected as the Member of Parliament for Brent South on 5 May 2005 Dawn’s maiden speech described her constituency as a “shining example of integration at its best”. Dawn later became the first elected African-Caribbean woman to become a Government Minister in the UK.
Dawn has always been a passionate campaigner for young people; she is an Honorary Vice President of the British Youth Council, was chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Youth Affairs and was made a member of the Children, Schools and Families select committee and Vice Chair of the Labour Party with responsibility for Youth. In 2008 she became an Assistant Whip in the Commons before her work on youth led to Dawn being appointed as the Minister for Young Citizens & Youth Engagement at the Cabinet Office by Gordon Brown.
Based in the Cabinet Office the Minister’s role was to coordinate government work to help young people engage with politics which involved working with ministers in relevant Government departments including the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) and the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) and other relevant bodies.
The recommendations of the Youth Citizenship Commission report were published in June 2009 and sought ways to help increase young people’s participation in their local communities as well as in local and national politics.
After a short break from elected politics, in which Dawn spent time working as a Magistrate and public speaker, Dawn ran a successful campaign in the 2015 General Election and won Brent Central back off the Liberal Democrats, securing a majority of nearly 20,000 – representing the largest vote swing in Britain at that election. She was again successful in the 2017 General Election, winning 73.1% of the vote.
A natural campaigner, since returning to Parliament Dawn has taken on the ‘Big 6’ energy companies over the excessive cost of pre-payment meters. She has held a Westminster Hall debate, launched a national petition and secured a commitment from the Prime Minister to look at this issue.
Dawn continues to commit her time in parliament to representing groups and people in society that are often underrepresented. In 2017 Dawn became the first MP in its history to sign a question in the House of Commons using British Sign Language. Dawn used sign language in her question to highlight the need to give the language full legal status. Dawn continues to run successful campaigns on Employment Tribunal Fees and is now pushing for the Government to publish full equality impact assessments on their policies.
Dawn was named the “most promising feminist under 35” by New Statesman magazine and was honoured as MP of the year at the 2009 Women in Public Life Awards. Since returning to Parliament Dawn was awarded two Patchwork Foundation awards, having been voted People’s Choice 2016 Labour MP of the Year and next receiving the Overall MP of the Year award 2017. In 2020 named one of the 25 most influential women in the UK by Vogue.
Dawn served as Labour’s Shadow Minister for Women and Equalities between 2017-2020.