Exploring Kongo Art & Culture (Harn Museum)


[AFRICAN CONNECTION] Kongo Across the Waters

Penny Dickerson explores the Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art’s  celebration of the Kongo Kingdom

Click here to read link to Ebony.com:
Ndunga MaskThe global perception of Africa is  often lathered with stunning scenery from the Serengeti and the symbolic pride  of former South African president Nelson Mandela. Indeed, the second  largest continent in the world is an amazing conglomerate of regions—a resource  for wealth and a tourist magnet for its sprawling beauty. But beyond the  beatitudes are historic war atrocities, an AIDS epidemic, gross famine and  shameful middle passage origins. If respectable balance exists, it’s the uplift  and celebration of the rich culture Africans have contributed to  humanity. Among them are archived remains which confirm the relevance of a  powerful kingdom called Kongo.

Kongo Across the Waters is a groundbreaking art exhibit that opened  October 22 at the Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art (at the University of  Florida—Gainesville). The vast installation invites a national audience to tour  distinct, artistic aspects of Africa for free. With an emphasis on West Central  Africa, more than 160 maps, artifacts, sculptures and contemporary works  comprise an impressive collection spanning 500 years that is educational in  approach, yet culturally appreciative through creative layout and  design.

“At its height, the Kongo Kingdom occupied a pivotal  position—geographically, geopolitically and culturally—in the continent’s early  interaction with Western colonial powers, creating a legacy that can still be  felt today in the Diaspora communities of the American Southeast,” offered Susan  Cooksey, curator of African art at the Harn. “We’re especially pleased to  include in this exhibition several artifacts from the Kongo Diaspora that have  rarely been seen in a museum setting.”Kongo 2

The Royal Museum for Central Africa (RMCA) in Tervuren, Belgium co-organized  the unique collaboration with the Harn museum, which was inspired by numerous  directors, curators and scholars who have invested decades of study in African  Art. Serendipity merged initial meetings between Guido Gryseels, the  director of RMCA, and David Sammons, dean of the University of Florida  International Center. Perhaps yards away on the same campus, Cooksey and  colleague Dr. Robin Poynor, professor of art history, were in the midst of  ongoing discussions to develop an exhibition dedicated solely to the Kongo. All  great minds eventually met and Harn Museum director Rebecca Nagy unequivocally  endorsed the genesis of Kongo Across the Waters.


According to Dr. Poynor, who has authored numerous books on  African art, the Kongo kingdom was chosen for the exhibit for a number of  reasons. “They have exquisite art, they were one of the early kingdoms  known throughout Europe, and the Kongos were involved in the early slave trade,  so there were a great number of Kongos who not only sent slaves out but came as  slaves,” Poynor explained. “An underlying foundation for African-American  culture is Kongo culture.”

The task of compiling a “visitor-friendly” exhibition void of complexity  could have been daunting for the team; however, innovation, accurate timelines  and a commitment to dignify and uphold the ancestral heritage, philosophies and  preserved Kongo identity served as formidable guidelines for success.Bedia-Sarabanda_CP

Thematically divided into five distinct sections, Kongo  Across the Waters begins with 1598 European maps of the “Congo” depicting  the Kongo Kingdom as a separately established territory from the town of Mbanza  Kongo, located south of the Congo River. The Kongo kingdom was in place prior to  European arrival in 1483, but when the kingdom actually began remains  debatable.

First and foremost the exhibit is about the Kongo people—their lives,  customs, and culture. Kongo nobility and elitism is evidentiary as they  exchanged prestigious gifts with Europeans, which illustrates the Kongolese were  intellectual and savvy traders who later evolved as artists that recognized  their masterpieces were valuable commerce. An array of antiquated wood, copper,  brass and metal crucifix symbols and Saint Anthony figures substantiates that  Christianity conversion and religious zeal served powerful roles in Kongo  culture.Nkisi

Museum walls painted in earthen-tone hues separate each  exhibit section, further complemented by larger than life murals to create a  powerful visual aesthetic. While most of the authentic arts and artifacts are on  loan from Belgium’s RMCA, Kongo culture travels across the water that brought  African-Americans like cargo to the United States in 1619 during the slave trade  in a section II segue.

Recent excavations reveal startling archaeology discoveries exposing  cultural treasures, ranging from a jeweled rosary with two medals and a  conjurer’s cache of stone, pins and quart found in the Charles Carroll house  excavation in Annapolis, Maryland. The latter is believed to be the personal  hidings of an enslaved woman. Colonoware pottery from the Dean Hall plantation  in South Carolina and Ft. Mose in Florida are also on view.

Culture and custom merge in sections III and IV, as the  exhibit visually crosses the water and returns to the Kongo kingdom, where rites  and rituals are explored in the examples of iron and vegetal fiber double bell, ngongi, and wood carved whistles. A Voudou (voodoo) Medicine  Packet from the History Miami Museum resonates the role of early Haitian  spiritual beliefs.

Huge Nkisi

Hanging displays of massive raffia mats and stunning textiles used to lay  upon graves and numerous “anthropomorphic power figures” known as nkisi reinforce that Africans believed in the preservation of life through  healing, embraced high regard for the existence of spirits, and gave eternal  honor to the dead.

Remarkable is the selection of contemporary art submitted by  a culturally diverse quintet of artists, which brings the five-century Kongo  journey millennium-forward. Among the standouts is a mixed-media collage by  Radcliffe Bailey. The framed “medicine cabinet” traces his own identity and  roots, including his DNA sequence to slave ships, Marcus Garvey and more.RB08%20001%20Returnal%20HR_CP

An interactive music platform includes sound sticks and earphones that allow  patrons to experience five separate tracks of traditional Kongo music, while a  commissioned video produced by a Louisiana trio (Royce Osborn, Freddie Evans  Williams and Luther Gray) combines the folkways and emerged customs from gospel  to hambone to juba and jazz.

From coiled baskets and bowls, pots topped by human figures,  face vessels from the Smithsonian National Museum of American History and an  extraordinaire 20th century memory jar, Kongo Across the Waters gives honor to a  delicately restored and preserved cultural heritage African-Americans perhaps  unknowingly retain to this day.Kongo 5

Kongo Across the Waters will remain in Gainesville, Florida until  March 23, 2014.


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Eight-year-old Martin Richard: The first dead brother of the Boston Bombing Blast.

Breaking Boston News

Boston Marathon Street SceneJust like the rest of the world, last week’s bomb that blasted Boston during the world’s most famous marathon shook me at my core. Again? Terrorism? A bomb?  For the most part I avoided television beyond the initial day and opted to read numerous reports from national news affiliates.

Afterall, reading is fundamental.Headlines from around the globe

On the third day, I decided to write. I was tremendously moved and saddended by the death of eight-year-old Martin Richard. I am a mother, a grandmother, a human being with compassion. So many of the details I read made the circumstances worse. No one was reporting (widely) about his sister who is now an amputee or his mother who endured surgery on her brain.

Since last week, reports have emerged regarding the brothers, white cap and black cap, both of whom have been named prime suspects in the bombing, a cowardly act of domestic terrorism with proported foreign terrorism links.

I refuse to glorify the two Chech brothers and further refuse to type their names. They have become the foremost subjects of the bombing as suspects. Less we forget who the real victims are. Eight-year-old Martin Richard was also a brother. An older brother. A younger brother. A son and a human being who deserved to live.

The following are my thoughts from last week’s writing which somehow emerged as both a blog and a poem…guess that makes it a plog or a boem.

Eight-Year-Old Wins Boston Marathon

dedicated to Martin Richard

boston martin richard








Two days ago, a bomb blasted Boston.

Two twin booms, 12 seconds apart startled the tension of trained marathon runners.

Pre-race worries were simply the strength of their Achilles.

Airborne limbs have left the innocent labeled amputees and

once again a young dreamer named Martin has lost his life.

Eight-years-old and already a symbol for peace;

a pint-sized recipient of a headstone he didn’t earn.

Pressure cookers were believed the suspected culprit.

Pressure cookers were believed to be smuggled in duffel bags ─ dark and heavy ─ like gathered skin sagging beneath a coward’s eyes.

According to the White House, President Barack Obama betrayed no emotion in offering his statement to the press:

“Any event with multiple explosive devices ─ as this appears to be ─ is clearly an act of terror.”

This can only mean one Commander-in-chief thing: It’s ON!

The city of Boston has been blasted.

The remnants have birthed blame and the young, late Martin Richard’s mother can’t sleep. Her baby boy is dead. She, too, was damaged by the bomb ─ surgeons’ saved her brain. Oddly, God protected her maternal psyche.

His sister lost her leg and a husband and father is simply left to mourn.

America joins him.

I, too, am a woman losing sleep over life. This bomb attempted to erase my memories. Boston was the city of popular frequent during my Lesley University graduate school days. Cambridge and Harvard Square were neck-tie nice and summer-stroll cool but,

Boston’s where you trekked to feel good noise.

Everybody thinks they know Boston for baked beans, clam chowder, and the Sock-it-to me Red Sox, but the bookstores (baby), the massive museums, the jazz and that  Baaahhston dialect that slips through lips as though syllables were birthed to yawn.

There’s something kindred about a bomb at the footstool of folks you knew and still know. Lives were lost; bodies were injured and hurled down streets I casually walked. It feels like a domestic or foreign visitor roamed the same asphalt and spit in patriotic wind.

Boston belongs to everybody because we were 6th grade history, massacre-forced and double s – double t drilled to spell Massachusetts. But I Phyllis Wheatley, Henry Louis Gates, Jr. know Boston.

I former flight attendant ─ Logan Airport remember Boston before the blast. Frankly, I’m feeling all “What the hell?” and 911 pissed all over again. A bomb has killed a beautiful young boy?

While blogging, I’m pumping Quincy Jones’ “Back on the Block” album from way back when.

Big Daddy Kane kicked it off with rhyme;

Birdland has blared;

Sarah Vaughn screamed a sassy scat;

And now Take 6 is acapella acting out.

I’m waiting for Maestro Jones to bless Boston with the reason I’ve always loved Track 12:

Tomorrow ─ (A Better you, a Better me)” featuring Tevin Campbell

 “I hope tomorrow will bring, a better you, a better me.

I know that we’ll show this world we got more we could be

So you should never give up on your hopes and your dreams

You gotta get up, get out, get into it, get it on to be strong…”

 Martin Richards will never see another tomorrow, feel his mother’s warm embrace, or spike chicken nuggets in ketchup during lunch with his third grade classmates. Martin’s race is over; he crossed the Boston Marathon finish line first.

 We are a strong America. We get up, get out, get into it, and get it on.

We keep it movin’ and

We are not deterred by terrorism.

I hope tomorrow will bring a better you, a better me…

I hope tomorrow will bring a better world.

This was the dream of two Martins.

 Penny Dickerson 2013

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Destination Orlando: Experience “Grown Folks Magic.”

Click link to original EBONY.COM original article with photo gallery
14  February 2014

Life  /  Travel

Destination Orlando: Grown Folks’ Magic!

Hey travelers, don’t sleep on the Central Florida haven. It’s so much more  than you thought.

     The Aloft Hotel
Don’t get me  wrong ─ Mickey Mouse and Tinker Bell’s pixie dust still  rule, but the city of Orlando, Florida’s tourism epicenter also embodies a plethora of  ­­treasures designed to satisfy the adult travelers’ insatiable  thirsts. Forget packing the kids and a salivating Labrador in the family SUV for  a multi-day, whine-a-thon. It’s the 21st Century folks. It’s time for  some “Grown Folks Magic!”

The new kid on the block and beacon of light in the city skyline is the Aloft─the  quintessential hotel and hub for millennium travelers seeking “style at a  steal.” The usual bells and whistles dubbed amenities are inclusive, but these  rooms boast some serious cool; the sleek ambiance alone frees endorphins.  Eclectic décor complements massive living space and mature guests gather nightly  in the WXYZ lounge for wasabi almonds and Smirnoff smiles.

Valet park and experience frugality with finesse by engaging downtown  Orlando on foot ─ grown folks hate traffic! Cultural entertainment is on deck at  Dr. Phillips Performing Arts Center (November 2014) and a brisk walk several  blocks leads to Church Street Station for hip nightlife and diverse dining  from sushi to subs.  Start with happy hour and end with midnight martinis.  All choices in between are ideal for responsible adults perusing town sans  wheels.  When you’re ready to bounce, Orlando Magic hoops are a  trek away at the Amway  Center.

But, what about your inner child? For those who still crave youthful  engagement, I’ve got three words for you: The History Center.  This multicultural museum is  “Smart, Surprising, Fun” and welcomes The Art of Warner Bros. Cartoons through March 2014.  So, get ready to revive your Looney Tunes  memories.  What know this generation about a Wabbit or a Putty cat?   Orlando is the popular cultural capital of the world for its theme park  allure, but this exploratory jewel is so inexpensive, it’s free every Monday  during the summer. “Grown Folks” love free!

Hidden in the heart of Orlando’s municipal district, the Orange County  Regional History Center is a Smithsonian Institute affiliate encompassing four  floors of a restored 1927 courthouse. Interactive limited release exhibits  complement permanent installations like the impressive How Distant Seems Our  Starting Place.  James Weldon Johnson’s poignant poem birthed the  title and patrons of every race can celebrate African-American heritage.   Ancestral beginnings progress to an awareness of Central Florida trailblazers  like Bessie Coleman, the nation’s first licensed black pilot; Folklorist and  author Zora Neale Hurston; and Paul Perkins, the areas first black  lawyer.

Meet the Mack Daddy of Magic in exhibits that chronicle how Walt Disney altered the city landscape with a world that now  includes Africa ─ no passport required.  A short drive invites you to  indulge the Disney Animal Kingdom Resort and Serengeti.  Embrace authentic  African cuisine at Jiko [The Cooking Place] or head back to town for  soul food at Chef  Eddies, a 40- year legacy.

For business or just a quick getaway: visit Orlando. It’s ripe with options  and “grown folks” love alternatives. —Penny Dickerson

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The Kinsey Collection: African American Family Debuts Cultural Exhibit at Walt Disney World


A Whole New World: The Kinsey Collection

An art and history loving African American Family debuts their coveted  collection at Walt Disney World

By Penny Dickerson

A Whole New World: The Kinsey Collection

“The Walls” from the Kinsey Collection

If the art of sharing were worth its weight  in gold, the amassed cultural treasures of Bernard and Shirley Kinsey  would easily personify Ft. Knox. The philanthropist couple have gathered 400 ‘authentic and rare art, artifacts, books, documents and manuscripts that tell  the often untold story of African American achievement and contributions.’ The  culminating result is an impressive touring exhibit spanning more than 400 years  of history aptly titled, “The  Kinsey Collection: Shared Treasures of Bernard and Shirley Kinsey.”

More than 3 million people in seven U.S. cities including the Smithsonian  Institute in Washington, D.C. have been exposed and culturally enriched. And  now, a global audience can experience ‘the intersect of art and history’ at Walt  Disney World in Orlando, Florida.

Earlier this month, The Kinsey Collection opened to the public at the  American Heritage Gallery of the American Adventure Pavilion at EPCOT Center  where it will remain until 2016.  The private unveiling took place during  the 6th Annual Disney Dreamers  Academy weekend hosted by Steve Harvey with Essence magazine. The competitive program selects 100 students from across the  country to indulge in four days of mentoring workshops facilitated by  celebrities like gospel sensation Yolanda Adams, American Idol runner-up  Kimberley Locke, Actor Doc Shaw from Tyler Perry’s “House of Payne,” CNN  education contributor Dr. Steve Perry, and more.

Bernard Kinsey─patriarch of the namesake collection─also honored the 2013 cohort with a  historical lecture, “The Myth of Absence” which aligns with the Kinsey’s  ultimate goal: education.Bernard Kinsey Lectures on African American History from The Kinsey Collection

A Disney partnership effectively broadens the collection’s outreach, but a  unique agreement with the Florida Department of Education  fills a void  Kinsey believes is omitted by most African American textbooks. The Kinsey’s  self-published coffee-table book bears the collection’s title and has been  approved to teach K-12 history in Florida schools.

The publication works in concert with the collection as a visual and  kinesthetic educational component. Readers embark upon a 198 page, picturesque  journey in print that begins in 1632 and travels to the present. The art of  Stephen Duncanson and Romare Bearden are complemented by 17th century  documents from historical abolitionist Frederick Douglass and Dr. Martin Luther  King. Jr., whose legacy encouraged everyone to ignite a dream.

“This exhibit presents truth, but is not an exercise in  victimhood,” said Bernard Kinsey to a captive room at EPCOT World  Showplace. “We have the courage to uplift and do justice to an integral part of  American history that dispels the myth that our history is absent from the  whole.”

The Kinsey Collection

The Kinsey Collection Opening at Disney World

Cross-referencing visual slides from the collection, Kinsey’s unwavering  passion for history reverberated as he described the 1832 slavery ‘Bill of Sale’ that inspired the collection. From his confident podium stance to his  matter-of-fact wisdom, he remained candid about everything from the 1619  Mayflower arrival to Buffalo Soldier pride.  Images of black bodies lined  like sardines beneath a slave ship’s belly were displayed along with the dismay  of Dr. Selma Burke’s original mold being used to create Teddy Roosevelt’s  likeness on the American dime. The African American sculptor was never given  credit. Throughout, Kinsey remained unapologetic in his posture that the African  American presence in history is not one of invisibility.

Among the engaged dreamers was 15-year-old Dwight James of Jacksonville,  Florida who expressed genuine excitement: “I loved when he said Christopher  Columbus didn’t discover America. The Indians found America. America has been  re-owned,” said James, who dreams of becoming a writer.

Sharing his sentiments was spoken word artist Husain Abd’Allah from Jamaica,  NY. The ninth grade homeschooler is a Schomburg Junior Scholar in African  American studies who was intrigued by the gallery, “It was such a wonderful  exhibit,” he said. “We got to see how it all came together. They had a lantern  where you just turn the handle and it starts giving you an overview of the  gallery.”

Most impressive for Abd’Allah was Mrs. Fisher’s Cookbook, the first  known cookbook by a Black person. Husein, like many in attandance, had never  heard this information prior to The Kinsey Collection.

It was Carmen Smith, Vice President of Creative Development  of Walt Disney Imageering whose unwavering vision lead to the Kinsey-Disney  partnership. She learned about the Collection from Bob Billingslea, former Vice  President of Corporate Urban Affairs and Minority Outreach, and eagerly  presented the idea to theme park executives. “We saw this as a unique  opportunity,” she said. “More than 20 Disney executives were taken to Los  Angeles, California to view the entire collection. It was simply magical! There  were no hesitations to bring it to the American Gallery.”

The bulk of the Presidential Award-Winning collection remains housed in a  converted wine cellar in the Kinsey’s sprawling Pacific Coast home. Of the 400  available pieces, 40 were hand-selected to comprise the Disney exhibit, but  every six months they will be rotated until the entire collection has been  viewed. To preserve the integrity and protect from light and moisture damage, some items in the exhibit are facsimiles.

Innovative Disney “Imagineers” teamed to create a gallery  experience consistent with attractions throughout the resort’s multiple theme  parts. Their daunting task was to build an interactive exhibit that brings  African American history to life. Anthony Sparks, M.A. served as the  writer/consultant for the project. For more than four months, the University of  Southern California scholar and former stage actor (“Stomp”) worked to perfect  the exhibit. “The big question was how to make a gallery kid-friendly?” he  explained. “My goals were simple: appeal to families, all ages, and create  something that worked on many levels.”

The project further involved condensing vast material to tell a cohesive  story that was not all inclusive but gave a sense of the African American  experience and five tenets of The Kinsey Collection: Hope, Belief, Courage,  Heritage, and Imagination. Lanterns, symbolic of the freedom path, were given  narrative voice by Academy Award winning actress Whoopi Goldberg. Additional  A-list celebrities lending their sound were Chaundra Wilson and James Pickens,  Jr. (Grey’s Anatomy), Kerry Washington (Scandal), ABC News Anchor Diane Sawyer,  and others.

For Kinsey and wife Shirley, the realization of their cultural inheritance  is an overwhelming achievement and accomplishment. “It now has a voice, a name,  a personality,” offered Kinsey.

The Kinsey Family serves as a formidable example of African  American resilience and strength. The Florida A&M University alums met  during the civil rights movement and remain married 40 years later.  Both  are Xerox Corporation retirees who mastered  saving money in their  early lives together. The dividends have allowed them to travel more than 91  countries and help raise more than $22 million dollars to support HBCU’s. Their  son Khalil currently serves as general manager of operations for The Kinsey  Collection. While in grade-school, he exhibited an inquisitive nature regarding  his family history. Both parents eagerly addressed his cultural thirst. The rest  is Kinsey history.

Penny Dickerson is a Florida-based independent journalist. She is a  frequent contributor to the Florida Courier, Florida Times-Union and other  regional and national publications. Her work can be viewed at  pennydickersonwrites.com.

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Edward Waters College Accepts $2 Million Gift


florida courier

Click link to the Florida Courier website/article:


pajcic law fir

Click link to view the Pajcic & Pajcic Law Firm’s announcement.



Cultivating a friendship proved rewarding for Ed­ward Waters College President Nat Glover. His child­hood friend and renowned attorney Steve Pajcic donat­ed $2 million of his personal funds to the HBCU with no strings attached. But even with friends like Pajcic, the college needs additional funding.Nat Glover

Community stalwart and respected alum of the col­lege, Glover broke a 100-year barrier when he was elect­ed Jacksonville’s first African-American sheriff in 1995 and was appointed the institutions 29th president 15 years later.

He is credited with raising more college funding than any predecessor and further allocated his $250,000 pen­sion benefits toward scholarships for low-income stu­dents.  But even with a president like Glover, more stu­dents need financial assistance.

Long time friendship

Accompanied by his wife Anne, Pajcic chronicled his long friendship with Glover with a jovial approach that ended on a poignant note.  Among the parallels shared were how they grew up as kids on separate sides of Jackson­ville’s Beaver Street.Steve Pajcic

The Milne Auditorium at the college was packed with a sea of students, fac­ulty, and community leaders for Mon­day’s announcement.

“Anne and I have perspective on this gift. Yes, it’s $2 million – which is a lot of money for us – but it is far short of what is needed, said Pajcic. “Obviously, we believe in charitable giving and we’re hoping others will ‘step up’ and do their part for Edward Waters.’’

Remarks by Mayor

Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown shares political success with Glover as the city’s first African-American to hold the office. Brown also is an EWC alum. In reiterating the donation’s gravity, he shared, “I think when Edward Waters College is successful, Jacksonville is successful. We can’t be successful without each other.”

With a goal to increase student enrollment by 1,000 in the year 2015, Glover expects to primarily use the funds for scholarships and additional institutional needs.

“The good thing about Pajcic’s gift is that they didn’t require us to name anything after them or say do this, that, or the other,” explained Glover.  “We have a num­ber of needs, but one of our main objectives is to get as many young people in school so they can access an ed­ucation.”

EWC Logo





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Angela Robinson “Jacksonville’s OWN Star!”

Arbus NovDec 2013 FKudos to Angela Robinson for serving as a master-example of how a girl with a dream can become a woman boasting stardom.  She is a Jacksonville-native and graduate of William M. Raines High School who has journeyed a route to be admired and an apt lesson for all who dare to dream and are confronted with the “fear of failure.” Angela looking beautiful

What knows Angela Robinson of failure? Nothing. Disappointments? Yes, but she has persevered and shares with readers how they, too, can do the same.

Click the Link below to read: Angela Robinson, “Jacksonville’s OWN Star!”


Beyond her natural beauty is an admirable narrative that takes readers from the halls of her high school years to the Broadway stage.  Now, she’s a leading television actress on Oprah Winfrey’s OWN Network in Tyler Perry’s first scripted drama, “The Haves and The Have Nots.”

Just in case you’ve been living under a rock and were not among the 2 million+ viewers from season one who tuned in, Robinson portrays the affluent “Veronica” and will emerge in season two with an “Ice Queen” persona. Hash Tag –  #twodarnhot.

Haves and Have Nots

Thank you Angela for always being willing and available for interviews. While I’ve previously interviewed you for print journalism during “The Color Purple” National Tour run and the first season of “The Haves and The Have Nots,” this interview and photo shoot marks my writing debut for Arbus Magazine, Jacksonville’s foremost arts and business publication.

Angela Robinson over Jacksonville

This editorial experience was unique in that Arbus requested a personal photo session with Angela Robinson and provided a make-up artist (Kimtasha.com) and Angela provided her own personal stylist. Scheduling was a challenge, but like a trooper, Angela made it work.  Many have asked me, “So…how’d you get that interview?”

Simple:  “I asked.”

But here’s the caveat, while Angela Robinson and I are friends, I have established a proven track record of interviewing her and publishing those works with a “polished voice” that not only represents the best interest of her professional career and image, but also advances my personal body of work as well.

Click the Link below to read: Angela Robinson, “Jacksonville’s OWN Star!”


She didn’t “owe me a”yes” because we’re friends, I approached the project professionally, communicated as instructed with the OWN Network in California (a one-hour conversation, but well worth it), and followed their specifications as well. Angela is a contracted actress with a major broadcasting entity and production studio.  It would have been mega easy if I could have just called her and said:

“Chile, let me slap your photo against some words to make a few bucks.”                       (Gasp! I would never.)

Also, it didn’t happen overnight. I think I spoke to OWN in July 2013, the Florida Courier article went to print in September 2013, and Angela coordinated her photo shoot with Arbus in October.  The publication debuted as a feature in the December/January 2014 issue.

Six months

How patient are you to be the necessary professional that allows other professionals to unequivocally trust and represent them? I have learned to be exceptionally patient…although I have my moments of angst (but, don’t we all folks? Don’t we ALL?)

I appreciate you immensely Angela, not simply because we’re “back-in-the-day-to-now” close friends, but because you’re a professional and respect me and my writing endeavors as the same.  I am proud to call you friend, but even more excited to call you: “Jacksonville’s OWN Star.” 

Angela Photo Shoot

Click the Link below to read: Angela Robinson, “Jacksonville’s OWN Star!”


Angela Solo on Haves and Have Nots

To stay updated on Angela’s career, use Twitter handle

@angelarobschild or visit whiterobingroup.com

And did I mention, click the Link below to read:

Angela Robinson, “Jacksonville’s OWN Star!”


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Safe Zone


florida courier


Floridians Fight for LGBT Workplace Rights

Florida Courier/New America Media, News Report, Penny Dickerson, Posted: Nov 29, 2013

Gay rights took a leap forward when the U.S. Senate voted 64-32 to approve the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). The Nov. 7 landmark victory bans workplace discrimination against members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered (LGBT) community who have been on the frontlines of workforce protection for the past 17 years.

The bill now goes to the Republican-dominated House of Representatives, where it faces an uncertain future. If it does pass the House, chances are that President Obama will sign it.

Still, for LGBT Floridians, Senate passage brings optimism that the law will extend their current civil rights and safeguard them from discriminatory employment practices that hinder promotions and sometimes lead to termination.

Seeking acceptance

When Sarah Perez left her St. Croix, Virgin Islands hometown in 2006 to live in the United States, her family didn’t know she was a lesbian. They still remain in the dark.

Perez was one of many Hispanics forced to live in a shroud of secrecy in the West Indies, where alternative lifestyles are shunned – if not forbidden.

“Two women holding hands in St. Croix is something you just never see,” said Perez.
At age 19, she moved to Jacksonville with her former lesbian partner and childhood friend.

“I also moved to the U.S. because I wanted to be able to be myself,” explained Perez. “Back home, I couldn’t even dress the way I wanted to.”

For the past two years, she has been an employee at an AutoZone auto parts retailer in Jacksonville. She started as a part-time sales clerk; she recently was promoted to sales manager.

Ridiculed in workplace

Though her employer has recognized her ability to get the job done, Perez admits she suffers occasional ridicule from co-workers, but she doesn’t experience direct employment discrimination.

“I told my job I was gay because I knew they suspected after my girlfriend kept coming in the store,” she said. “They make jokes that sometimes hurt my feelings, and the other day a transgendered male came in and one of the employees laughed and said, ‘Did ya’ll see that?’ Transgenders always have it worse, but everyone in the LGBT community gets ridiculed,” she added.

Bipartisan state bill

In a March poll conducted by the Bob Graham Center for Public Service in conjunction with the University of Florida Bureau of Economic and Business Research, 73 percent of Floridians support a bill that would protect gay and lesbians against workplace discrimination.

On Nov. 5, State Representatives Joe Saunders (D-Orlando) and Holly Raschein (R-Key Largo) pushed for passage of a bipartisan bill to ban discrimination in the state for the LGBT community in employment, public accommodations and housing.

An anti-discrimination measure titled HB 239, the Florida Competitive Workforce Act, would amend Florida laws that currently prohibit discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, handicap or marital status.

Democrats recognize that 26 municipalities in Florida have implemented ordinances for gay rights – most in the southern portion of the peninsula. Statewide legislation would eliminate limitations to have workplace rights protected in one county, yet denied less than 25 miles down the road.

“From the GOP perspective, our main focus is the economy and jobs,” stated Raschein. “And this is what we’re talking about. People’s jobs, people’s livelihoods.”

Supported by company

The vocal presence of LGBT women helps the legislative efforts.

One of them is Gina Duncan, who ran for Orange County (Orlando-area) commissioner in 2012 as an openly transgendered candidate. She told the Nov. 5 press conference how she worked at Wells Fargo, managing more than 200 people, when she went through a sex change process. The company supported her.

“Corporate America is good with Florida’s Competitive Workforce Act,” said Duncan, who is on the board of Equality Florida and joined Saunders and Raschein as a state co-sponsor. “Corporate America wants this bill.”

Advocates for change

Willetta “Mamado’’ Smith of Jacksonville said working as an independent musician and club owner has proven to offer more personal freedom and peace than being antagonistically mocked on the job.

Smith, 54, has been openly gay since she was a teen and is engaged to marry her long-term partner, Universal Recording artist Alea Janee Dennis. The lesbian couple applauded the efforts to defeat the Defense of Marriage Act and efforts to ban gay marriage. But she believes greater advocacy and sensitivity is necessary for ENDA to become law.

“In the late 1980s, I worked for UPS and helped stock trucks,” said Smith. “I always felt like they never really wanted me there and I never would have gotten that job, but my father was a 40-year company veteran so that got me in.”

In an incident she reported, Smith cites a group of men on their lunch break watching her load trucks outside.

“I heard them laughing and one said he could tell I was a ‘dyke,’ ” Smith related. “I didn’t want an altercation or to say anything I’d regret, so I asked UPS management to move my work duty inside, and they did.”

Challenges for immigrants

Immigrants on the path to citizenship who also are members of the LGBT community face a unique double jeopardy. They must provide evidence of employment to secure a visa.

According to analysis by the Williams Institute, a national thinktank headquartered at the UCLA law school, there are nearly 1 million LGBT adult immigrants living in the United States today. Thirty percent are undocumented.

“Both segments of the community living at the intersection of a marginalized population need workforce protection,” Sharita Gruberg, policy analyst for the Center for American Progress, a Washington, D.C.-based independent nonpartisan educational institute, said this week.

“They need ENDA to pass and provide a ban against employment discrimination because loss of employment equates to poverty, they lose ties to communities, and it affects their social, economic, and psychological well-being.”

Gruberg added, “We have discovered that the passage of ENDA is not just about an LGBT endorsement. People don’t want their government to support discrimination against anyone – whether they are immigrants or gay.”

This article was produced as part of New America Media’s LGBT immigration reporting fellowship sponsored by the Four Freedoms Fund.


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