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

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Disney Dreamers Academy with Steve Harvey and Essence Magazine


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March 14, 2013 Filed under METRO Posted by
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Florida teens participate in Disney Dreamers Academy hosted by Steve Harvey, Essence Magazine


High school students converged upon the state last week for the sixth annual Disney Dreamers Academy sponsored by Walt Disney World Resorts with Steve Harvey and Essence Magazine.

Congratulations Disney Dreamers Academy Class of 2013

The 100 students arrived from as far as California and Vermont with a cluster of Midwestern states represented. Bodacious dreams were packed along with stories as warm as the sunshine during a four-day, three-night weekend held March 6-10.Male students at opening parade (Photo Credit Penny Dickerson)

Each student was challenged to boldly reach for the stars like the foremost signature dreamer: Walt Disney. Among them were 11 Florida “Dreamers” selected from 5,000 submissions.Winning essays articulated everything from cancer adversity to presidential award achievements, and collectively they are the next generation of physicians, journalists, James Beard award culinary chefs, Academy Award-winning actors and Disney Imagineers.

‘How bad do you want it?’
Dwight James (Jacksonville) recites a poemStudent Dwight James of Jacksonville was in awe of motivational speaker Jonathan Sprinkles who made a splash so big, he was awarded a Golden Mickie. “He gave one quote I’ll never forget,” said James. “Fear is nothing but false evidence that appears real.”

Keeping it real was thematic for the notable men who inspired. Florida A&M University graduate and film producer Will Packer encouraged teens to, “Stay focused, be consistent, and be known as someone who always delivers with excellence.”

Los Angeles philanthropist and entrepreneur Bernard Kinsey gave a presentation on Black history from The Kinsey Collection, which debuted at Epcot’s American Heritage Gallery.Bernard Kinsey Lectures on African American History from The Kinsey Collection

“Henry Assian Flipper was the first West Point graduate in 1877,” stated Kinsey. “He wasn’t spoken to for four years due to his color and what did he still do? Graduate. How bad do you want it?”

‘Fly Girl 101’
“American Idol’’ runner-up Kimberly Locke left an indelible impression on Reaghan Wooster, a Harvard University bound 14 year-old from Yalaha, which is located in Lake County.

Reaghan Wooster (Land O' Lakes, Florida)“I was inspired when she shared relationships were not supposed to be abusive,” said Wooster. “I have a stable family environment, but appreciated hearing abuse is not acceptable.”

A “Fly Girl 101” session was facilitated by twin sisters Brandi and Karli Harvey, daughters of Steve Harvey. Celebrity guests included Chaundra Wilson of “Grey’s Anatomy’’; celebrity chef Carla Hall, a co-host of “The Chew’’; and “Sunday Best’’ runner-up Jessica Reedy. Female Dreamers were given tips on everything from skirt length to confidence.

Erica Thomas, 16, from Land O’Lakes, kept it girl-power real. “I’m a Girl Scout,” she remarked. “When is it cool to not help someone? You’re never too old.”

Hands-on workshops
In “Deep Dives,” Dreamers delved into careers guided by industry professionals. Aisha Louis of Hollywood, Fla., was not accepted last year, but dreamed her way into the 2013 class where she wrote a front-page article for a newsletter produced by students during the academy.Florida student Aisha Louis (Davie, Fl) at Journalism Career Workshop

“Since last year’s application, my writing skills grew,” Louis explained. “What I thought was my story wasn’t. I learned how to express.”

“They’ve been committed from the start,” said Tanisha Sykes, senior managing editor of Essence Magazine. “I’ve seen them focus, adhere to deadlines, and just have fun. It’s been phenomenal,” she added.  Her leadership, along with Demorris Lee of the National Association of Black Journalists, saw the project through.Essence Magazine Sr. Editor Tanisha Sykes leads students during workshopk (photo credit Penny Dickerson)

Marcus Burns, Jr. dreams of becoming an artist. The Jacksonville teen rendered art so impressive during his “dive’’ that Dwayne Edwards, former designer for Jordan Brand Shoes, recommended him for a potential internship.Marcus Burns, Jr. (2)

Actor Lamman Rucker worked with creative dreamers while celebrity chef Jeff Henderson helped hone culinary skills.Chef Jeff Henderson and students (photo credit Penny Dickerson)


Parental pow-wow
“Take care of yourself first. Healthy people raise healthy children,” advised Dr. Steve Perry. The CNN education contributor motivated parents during a personal session. “Beyond liking your kids, you have to lead them. You lead people you love.’’Dr. Steve Perry advises DDA Parents

Perry’s words resonated with parent Terlisa Sheppard, who is fighting stage four breast cancer. She receives chemotherapy but accompanied 14-year-old Alyah Sheppard, whom she calls her “miracle child.”  The Orlando family further beat odds in 2011 when daughter Alexis Sheppard was also was accepted into the academy.

A parent or guardian was invited to accompany each Dreamer to the academy. The parents and students had a complimentary stay at the Disney Port Orleans Resort. Most mornings for the students began at 6:30 a.m.

Harvey’s advice
Dreamers were armed with portfolio notebooks and 100 personalized business cards. They were encouraged to network.

Steve Harvey joked with parents, “This weekend was created for the young people with the red shirts on. We just have programs for ya’ll so you can stay out the way.”Steve Harvey at Press Conference photo credit Penny Dickerson

Punch lines were frequent but Harvey equally kept it above board.

“Whatever you do, whatever path you choose to take, please, please listen to me, put God right in the middle of your base,” pleaded Harvey. “That’s the best way. It will ensure your success; it will guarantee you get there.”


Essence Magazine Editor-At-Large Mikki Taylor echoed with purpose.  “As you pour into your dreams, please don’t focus on money. It’s just paper…you were created to do more than make paper,” stated Taylor.

“Pursue your dream in the full recognition that your gift is not just about you.”Mikki Taylor Editor in Chief of Essence Magazine (DDA Partner)

‘All have a dream’
The World Showplace hosted a celebratory commencement featuring gospel legend Yolanda Adams. Yolanda Adams

Parents presented Dreamers with class rings by the company Josten, and tearful hugs.Marcus Burns (Jacksonville) receives graduation ring from mom at commencement

Thomas Darby (Apopka, Florida) receives his Jostens School Ring from his motherTracey Powell, Executive Champion of the Disney Dreamers Academy, leads the team responsible for program success. “This year has been fabulous,” stated Powell. “Every group of 100 is different and special, but the commonality is they all have a dream.”Tracey Powell

Powell welcomes applications in June from all who dare to dream in 2014.


What a great time I had covering this event. The “Dreamers” were absolutely incredible young men and women and the Walt Disney world staff displayed their expected perfection and “be our guest” flair. From the beautiful accommodations at the Animal Kingdom Resort to the first parade down to the closing ceremony featuring a lion king performance, it was simply incredible. That is the single, most befitting word that I can offer: incredible. Well done Steve Harvey, essence magazine, and disney!

Lion King Graduation

Related stories

The Mark of ZORA!

The Florida Times-Union ~

Festival celebrates talents of Eatonville author Zora Neale Hurston

By Penny Dickerson Tue, Jan 21, 2014 @ 12:24 am | updated Tue, Jan 21, 2014 @ 12:32 am

Zora Neale Hurston is perhaps best known for her 1937 book, "Their Eyes Were Watching God."  Special

Zora Neale Hurston is perhaps best known for her 1937 book, “Their Eyes Were Watching God.”

The mark of Zora Neale Hurston left an indelible impression on a global fan base.

And for a quarter of a century, Hurston’s Eatonville hometown has hosted an annual multi-day, multi-disciplinary festival to celebrate her literary legacy. This year’s event Jan. 25 through Feb. 2 commemorates a silver anniversary-themed: “Celebrating Our Milestone: 25 years of Zora! Festivals.”

The novelist, folklorist and anthropologist lived in Jacksonville in the 1920s and returned a number of times until her death in 1960. She is perhaps best known for her 1937 book, “Their Eyes Were Watching God” and is said to have influenced such writers as Alice Walker, Toni Morrison and Ralph Ellison.

Mildred Alene Murrell, a 95-year-old Jacksonville resident, wrote the book, “Zora Neale Hurston: In and Around Jacksonville, Florida in the 1920’s, 1930’s and 1940’s.”

“Well, Zora was like a genius,” Murrell said at a Ritz Theatre book signing last year. “She was talented in so many areas. She could sing. She could dance. She could do poetry. She could write. Her storytelling was fabulous, because she could make up such funny stories, especially when she was talking to the little ones.”

Congresswoman Corrine Brown traditionally holds an annual town hall meeting at the festival, but for the anniversary celebration this year, she plans to host international dignitaries to illuminate Hurston’s research abroad as a distinguished Guggenheim Fellow.

Another highlight will be Maze featuring Frankie Beverly, who will headline an outdoor performance at 3 p.m. Feb 1.

The festival also includes workshops and discussions, a Bethune-Cookman University concert chorale, book fairs, a brunch and party, family day, garden tours, the silver anniversary gala and outdoor festival of the arts, among other events. Some events have a nominal charge, others are free.

Hurston’s legacy also extends to Jacksonville’s Clara White Mission.

“Eartha M.M. White and Zora were close friends during an era difficult for Negro women with few rights,” said Clara White CEO and president, JuCoby Pittman.

“It’s important to expose others to how far we’ve all come with the help of others.”

CooperMorgan Dance Theatre: At The Gates.

Link to Florida Times-Union (Sun Community)

Creative duo Dewitt Cooper III and Savery Morgan
blessed Jacksonville with a phenomenal, ensemble dance performance on Sunday, June 19, 2011 at  one of downtown’s new, eclectic venues at 111 E. Bay Street.  The second story conclave of brick walls complemented by visual art from local artists was transformed into a riveting temple of lyricism and power before a packed house that confirmed the First Coast has both a genuine thirst for performing arts and a talent base that delivers.

 At The Gates celebrated expressive and limitless human form from lines and balance to aerial awe that defied gravity. Through eight original works, 20th century concert dance progressively traveled with triumph and strength as a multicultural ensemble modeled the freedom and fluidity made famous by Martha Graham to the West Indian influences of Katherine Dunham’s polyrhythmic fusion of continual movement.  Also present were the techniques of Lester Horton, Jose Limon, and Merce Cunningham.

Grounded in groove and contemporary in approach, Gates was inspired by the positive transition Cooper and company members are currently experiencing.

“We wanted to set a piece that represented moving through life and being at the threshold of change, “ offered Cooper.  The monumental work marks the fifth season the energetic pair has offered a mainstage concert in conjunction with their            summer dance intensive held at The Performers Academy (Beach Blvd) under the direction of Kezia Hendrix-Rolle. Forty students – ages 8 to 23 – were placed into two, separate levels and trained from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. over three weeks in the rudiments of French and Russian ballet, modern and repertory classes in preparation for a July 1st performance at LaVilla School of the Arts (Admission: $5.00).

Twelve year-old Kaila Justice is a summer scholarship student who has a promising modeling career, but continued to hone her dance technique at the intensive. “I really feel that Mr. Savery challenges me during ballet class and it makes me want to be better and work harder, “ said Justice.

The precocious beauty looks forward to her upcoming performance, but admittedly hates stretching and conditioning class and defers on the turkey sandwiches  they occasionally served for lunch. Preferred by Justice are chicken nuggets accompanied by milk and fruit, plus an afternoon snack.

“Kaila is one of those kids who proved me wrong,” said Morgan. “She has grown by leaps and bounds this summer and is by the far our most improved student.”

Most summer intensive students were present when Gates opened with Thank you Mr. Fagan, a choreographic tribute to Cooper’s mentor Garth Fagan (Lion King). Set to music by Portico Quartet, long, linear limbs merged with playful palms, fists, and the fun flexing of feet, as diverse duos emphasized how art and relationship coexist: often lateral, quickly moving and leaping, but never standing still.  

Alvarez featured Morgan bare-chest and denim jeans clad paired with recent Douglas Anderson School of the Arts (DASOTA) graduate Hillary Bodin in a sensual Pas De Deux performed en Pointe. The duet’s performance challenged the rigid constraints of classical ballet and served as a calm segue to guest choreographer Kavin Grant’s  impressive Testimony. The spirited work served as its own testament to how six men in black, neck ties, and two women give volume and voice to innovative staging, spatiality, and angles.

New World Miami graduate Julie Williams choreographed a moving rendition thematic of Ragtime the Musical. Pride featured Cooper in a interpretive, theatrical solo followed by LASOTA Dance Chair, Michelle Ottley-Fisher’s emotive Pedersi set to new music by R&B legend, Prince. Fisher’s three couples included former Jaguars “Roar” cheerleader, Dawn  Schlosser partnered with talented newcomer Samuel Hills who journeyed a complex story of how love and not so love figuratively rises above highs and low and dominance and yield. The parallelism was aptly portrayed with passion, agility, and intense floor work.

Prior to a 10-minute intermission, honors were bestowed upon Kezia S. Rolle for the support she  consistently provides her former students. “What a stimulating performance! Cooper Morgan supplies Jacksonville with a home for professional level dancers. We have needed a company of this caliber of a long time. It’s about time,” said Rolle.

“I am proud to watch the JCA influence and remember training 80% of the company as beginners. It’s so interesting to watch the dancers perform and showcase their technique and level of expertise. I am truly a proud momma and wish the company longevity and success,” she added.

Also honored for artistic mentoring was JCA instructor and former Martha Graham Company Member Suzanne Saltmarsh who offered, “I believe that dance transcends cultural, economic, and religious  beliefs and has the power to communicate on an international level. It can reach students of all ages, and all backgrounds to create a more informed and aware community that strives to benefit from one another.”

JM Family Enterprise was recognized for serving as the sole, Gold level sponsor; however, several  contributors helped the production on a Platinum level including Carol Alexander, Executive Director of the Ritz Theatre and LaVilla Museum, Barlow Orthodontics, Libby Smith, Debra Smith (Atlanta, Ga.), Dale Turner (Los Angeles, California), and the philanthropic generosity of Charles and Luis Schlosser.  Bronze level contributors included Dontecia Seymoure Genny Lis Padilla (New York, NY) and Paul and Tracie Parsons.

Following Tribute, a female quartet by Julie Williams, Gabriel’s Army took stage and was the evening’s most fully-realized work as a collaborative effort of Morgan and DASOTA alumnae David Freeland, both of whom also performed.

Gabriel earned an audience ovation for the weightless calisthenics of eight, war-ready men dressed in silhouettes of sheer white pants and leotards. With command, Wesley McIntryre (University of North Carolina School of the Arts) and Joshua Abbott (Jacksonville University) captivated the stage with larger than life extended leaps, flashing infra-red lighting, and storied precision, while Freeland’s vigor, strength, and keen sense of musicality proved why he was sought by the SUNY Purchase dance department and is destined for  professional success.

The evening closed with the dynamic, signature finale At The Gates which was performed in six movements and set to original music by Ohio composer Alex Cooke. Thematic to CooperMorgan’s goal to unravel the conflict that transition brings, the stark contrast of night and day was conveyed through absolute costuming in black or  white. The measured contributions of featured luminaries Kelsey Dickerson (Jacksonville University) and Michael Supado Brown helped temper and pace the anchoring movements: Prologue and Redemption. Dressed in white, the two earlier partnered in Ottley-Fisher’s Perdersi.

Julie Williams performed breathlessly in the fourth movement, At The Gates: for better, for worse.  Dunham technique was prevalent as West African dance influences helped simulate artistic battle to define conflict versus resolution and the constricted movement that precedes transition’s emotional escape. DASOTA students Carmen Cage and Ashlee Williams more than held their own as the company’s youngest performers along with the refreshing breakout performances by Tyveze Littlejohn and Akeem Edwards, both of whom are new to CooperMorgan.

David Freeland – SUNY Purchase

New heights are inevitable for CooperMorgan as they each transition to new artistic ventures. Cooper will soon perform on Norweigian Cruise Lines following the April close of his run on Broadway’s national tour of In The Heights. Currently, he performs in Walt Disney World’s Finding Nemo, and is a trailblazer who is the first African American male to graduate from the Musical Theatre Program at Florida State University and also the first male of his race to earn a MFA in Contemporary Dance from Case Western Reserve University. Morgan’s path includes training and performing with Florida Ballet, Dance Theatre Harlem, Greensboro Ballet, and Atlanta Ballet, and he is enjoying his sixth season as a company member of Atlanta’s Ballethnic. Each are a symbol of artistic pride, both have impressive performance resumes, and collectively they are examples of how focus and discipline keep CooperMorgan Dance Theatre on the threshold of success.

Photo Credits:   Dewitt Cooper III – Amy Barnard (Los Angeles)

Savery Morgan – Mr. King

Kaila Justice – Blue Francois (Blue Franswa FotograFia)

Suzanne Saltmarsh – Doug Eng

All performance photos: Mike Erdeyli


Penny Dickerson 2011

Celebrating 25 years of ZORA! Festivals


Click link to read original EBONY.COM feature with full photo gallery

Rachad Bouhlal, Ambassador (Embassy of the Kingdom of Morocco), Congresswoman Corrine Brown (D-Fl), Bruce Mount (Mayor of Eatonville) - Copy

The ambassador to Morocco, a Florida  congresswoman, two mayors, an Emmy-award winning actress, and a Tony-nominated  Broadway star were among the prestigious in attendance for the silver  anniversary celebration of the Zora Neale Hurston Festival of the Arts and  Humanities held in Eatonville, Florida—“the oldest incorporated African-American  municipality in the United States.”

A novelist, folklorist and anthropologist, Hurston is the town’s  distinguished native daughter. And in her honor, a nine-day, multi-disciplinary  gathering has attracted global Zoraphiles whose prodigious adoration has  overwhelmingly sustained the event. “Celebrating Our Milestone: 25 years of  Zora! Festivals” convened the last week of January, and included a plethora of  intellectual panels bookended by poetics, comedy, drama, an outdoor street  festival and an African elegance and black tie honorarium gala.


Congresswoman Corrine Brown served as honorary chair, but is a longstanding  festival supporter who secures sponsorship, and in 2010 ensured that Haiti was  an integral theme following its devastating earthquake. Brown’s political  influence is credited for the presence of Ambassador Rachad Bouhlal, of the  Embassy of the Kingdom of Morocco, who shared, “A photo of Zora Neale Hurston is  in the Morocco airport, which is a testament that she is loved all over the  world.”

A notable Harlem Renaissance presence, Hurston embodied deserved hubris and  an indomitable spirit that served as a blueprint for survival during an era that  suppressed Black women’s dreams. In 2003, the United States Postal Service  granted her likeness the ultimate stamp of approval, and lapel pin replicas were  Congresswoman Brown’s gift to thousands of attendees.


The exclamatory Madame Zora would have loved the revelry, beginning with a  Black History Month kickoff hosted by sponsor Onyx magazine in the  rotunda of Orlando’s city hall. Opera singer extraordinaire Curtis Rayam, Jr.  lifted his booming voice and sang during a program that recognized contributions  extended by municipal officials and representatives from the Association to  Preserve the Eatonville Community, Inc., under the leadership of President  Marie-José Francois, M.D. and Mayor Bruce Mount.

Orlando mayor Buddy Dyer presented keys to the city, and while the evening’s  programmatic agenda was necessary, dual midnight parties awaited. Wednesday and  Thursday’s Round ’Bout Midnight Spoken Word and Stand-Up Comedy set the tone for  an arts awakening in Eatonville reminiscent of Hurston—an effervescent wit and  storyteller said to have tickled the hiccups out of all whom embraced her.


Emmy-winning actress Lynn Whitfield joined actor Avery Brooks onstage Friday  night for a dramatic presentation, arguably the festival’s highlight. ZORA  LIVES: An Evening with Zora offered an attentive audience a stirring portrayal  of Hurston (personified by Whitfield), while counterpart Brooks weaved through  song and baritone delivery with masterful finesse.

The Zora! Festival Celebrates 25 Years

Zora Neale Hurston Festival 2014

Michael Dinwiddy and Elizabeth Van Dyke, each seated parallel upon a stool,  conceptualized and directed the program of readings set under soft lights.  Whitfield and Brooks captivated the audience with whimsy and reverence through  Hurston’s literary catalogue, including Dust Tracks on a Road, Mules and  Men, Their Eyes Were Watching God, and Moses, Man of the Mountain.   A series of notes titled A Life of Letters offered intimate  insight into the pride and pain Hurston experienced through her storied life.  Despite her untimely 1969 death, for a single evening among surviving relatives  and friends, Zora lived.


Friday invited busloads of students and “everyday folks” to party down  Kennedy Boulevard.  Saturday welcomed sun, and women donned hats and  attitudes for the famed HATitude Brunch in remembrance of Hurston’s ubiquitous  style, featuring fur-trimmed and feathered chapeaus.Ronita Sanders shows HATitude Flair at Saturday's Brunch - Copy

Rows of white tents saluted each side of the street, where vendors sold  select must-haves and youth from Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church performed  Negro Spiritual and Hymns: Down Through the Years. An international  food court pleased the palettes of an amassed crowd sprawled on the festival  lawn in anticipation of a sold-out concert.

Famed R&B crooner Frankie Beverly proved he’s still got  that fit body and the sultry vocal goods to lead Maze through a series of funk  favorites including “Joy and Pain,” “Back in Stride,” “Happy Feelin’s” and the  unifying hit, “We Are One.”Soul Crooner Frankie Beverly proved He's Still Got ItFrankie Beverly and Maze entertained a field of fans for Saturday's concert

Dinner and an awards ceremony closed Saturday evening with red carpet  sophistication. Voice and violin was offered by former Island Records recording  star Miles Jaye, while Melba Moore hit high notes and held them long with an  impromptu a capella tease. Referencing early career discrimination and her  discovery of the Schomburg Center for Black Culture, poet, activist and scholar  Sonia Sanchez accepted the Richard A. Long Award for long-term dedication to the  Zora! Festival.

Poet, Activitist, and Retired Professor Sonia Sanchez accepts the Richard A. Long Award for longterm support to ZORA! Festival What began in 1989 with a table and a dream ended on a poignant note by  Elizabeth Van Dyke, who closed the evening with class:

“I love Zora. I love my people. I love African-American people, and I love  N.Y. Nathiri [director of multidisciplinary programs]. We have to just keep on  doing what we’re doing… keep pushing and pushing that rock up a hill.”

Penny Dickerson is a Florida-based independent journalist. Her  work can be viewed at

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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.”

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ZORA! Festival 2013 “Sustaining a Culture of Color.”

 ZORA! Sustaining a culture of color

February 7, 2013 Filed under METRO

Annual multi-day festival celebrates life of folklorist Zora Neale Hurston with plenty of art, crafts, history

Master Artist Charles Bibbs is renowned for his ability to bring the nuance of African-American culture to life through his visual artistry. The California resident’s work, like the one above, was showcased at the festival.(PENNY DICKERSON/SPECIAL TO THE FLORIDA COURIER)

Master Artist Charles Bibbs is renowned for his ability to bring the nuance of African-American culture to life through his visual artistry. The California resident’s work, like the one above, was showcased at the festival.


The town of Eatonville celebrated the 24th annual ZORA! Festival with the theme:  Zora’s Eatonville: Culture as Conservator of Community’s Heritage. The multi-day Zora Neale Hurston namesake event kicked off on Jan. 26 with its traditional pageantry and robust arts and cultural contributions from the African Diaspora to Florida.

A global perspective of the Humanities gave the 2013 occasion a unique educational approach with invited guests from Moscow, Russia and a rare view of Native American life through the lens of award-winning documentary producer Anne Makepeace. The event ended on Feb. 3 with a practical approach to preventive disease for African-Americans by Celebrity Chef Marvin Woods.

The Association to Preserve the Eatonville Community (P.E.C.) has presented the Zora Neale Hurston Festival of the Arts and Humanities since 1990. Broadly known by the exclamatory epithet – ZORA!, this year’s festival marks the conclusion of a two-year celebration of Historic Eatonville’s 125th anniversary as the nation’s oldest incorporated African-American municipality.eatonville-logo

Arts and literature
A distinctive voice in 20th-century literature, Hurston is best known for the 1937 iconic novel “Their Eyes Were Watching God.’’ ZORA Portrait                          

The anthropologist, folklorist, and essayist emerged as a creative force during the Harlem Renaissance and advanced to literary stature as an intellectual who was imbued with a unique ability to vividly portray southern life

Historically deemed nomadic and restless with an exuberant personality and penchant for wearing hats, Hurston was born Jan. 7, 1891 and died Jan. 28, 1960.  The festival in her adopted hometown of Eatonville is held each January in her posthumous memory through visual arts, oral history, traditional crafts, film, and, above all – literature.

HATitude a festival tradition
HATitude in BlackWomen wearing brims as wide as their shoulders and pillboxes touting plumes and netted veils convened at the downtown Orlando Crown Plaza for HATitude!

An intimate affair of brunch and haute couture, the tradition is known as the festival’s hottest ticket in town and allows women ages 21 to 54 an opportunity to be “the stars” for an advance price of $50 and $55 at the door. Rhythmic to attitude, HATitude is celebratory of Hurston’s colorful existence and Renaissance flair for finishing outfits with a hat.

Marjorie Phillips chose a standard black felt hat that was complementary to her petite frame and didn’t make as much noise as the more contemporary and flamboyant chapeaus at her table.HATitude Brunch #1

“I am not really a hat lover at all, “said Phillips. “I’ve heard so many great things about the brunch, but the most important thing I was told was you can’t get in without wearing a hat. For a few hours, I can learn to love a hat.”

Art in Eatonville
Master Artist Charles Bibbs is renowned for his innate ability to bring the nuance of African-American culture to life through his visual artistry. The southern California native currently resides in Riverside and began his career as a street artist who worked as a supervisor for Boeing aircraft.

“I left aviation and became a full-time artist in 1993,” offered Bibbs. “African-American people created a market for African-American art and I was in the right place at the right time.”

Bibbs cannot boast any formal training, but has a degree in business with a minor in Art. From California streets to Eatonville’s Kennedy Boulevard, the spectacled genius joined colleagues on fine arts lane where he welcomed a continual host of fans and emerging artists eager to meet the man who masters both his people and color.Charles Bibbs Master Artist in Residence

“I’m a mixed media artist, mainly acrylic and ink,” explained Bibbs. “I’m a believer that you paint by what you know and what you experience and that’s what I’ve done over the years and I’ve been successful at it…the important thing that I preach is that we need to breed collectors. And they need a starting point.

They need to be able to buy a poster and a print and as they move on, they will be able to understand what they are buying through education.”

According to Bibbs, art is based upon affordability and he belongs to a community of artists who seek to merge the efforts of a mainstream and elite audience to advance the art form and opportunities for all. When asked the advice he would give potential artists, Bibbs imparts, “Approach it like a business and not something so special you can’t part with.”

From tofu to turkey
Everybody screamed for the fresh churned, homemade ice cream and additional sugary delights during the popular “Outdoor Festival of the Arts.” Amidst children performing on the steps of Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church, street peddlers pushed red wagons filled with candy apples down Kennedy Boulevard while vendors prodded visitors into rows of white tents.Family eating ice cream

For a fixed or bargained price, attendees could purchase everything from pure African shea butter to T-shirts from President Barack Obama’s inauguration. In the biggest tent, adjacent to preferred soul food and fried fish that has watered festival palettes for years, Celebrity Chef Marvin Woods led a one-man campaign to help African-Americans prevent the prevalent diseases that affect our race: diabetes, high blood pressure, and cholesterol. Behind a colorful set of fresh fruit, exotic spices and natural grain ingredients, Woods simultaneously lectured and demonstrated a healthy recipe using either tofu or turkey for chili.130208_metro01c

“I’m giving you a recipe that is easy and nutritious,” said Woods. “African-Americans are used to smoked meats that are not really naturally smoked, but rather injected with smoke flavors. That’s sodium and creates a high salt intake and leads to diseases that can shorten lives.”

Woods suggested smoked paprika for a spice and the grains Quinoa and Farro as white rice alternatives. Upon sampling the final product, many guests were shocked at their affinity to adapt to the recipe. “I eat any and everything, but I do it in moderation,” explained Woods. “People need to learn the concept of eat more weigh less: 64 ounces of water, five meals a day, and some form of exercise.”

Bridging the Black male gap
Consistent with the festival’s theme, innovative artists represented projects created to give voice to the role of communities in the preservation of heritage.

Houston activist and artist Rick Lowe, founder of Project Row Houses joined Hank Willis Thomas for an opening reception and gallery talk on the cutting edge transmedia art project titled Question Bridge: Black Males.Panel on black male issues at Question Bridge gallery talk

The brainchild of innovators Thomas and Chris Johnson, the two collaborated with Bayete Ross Smith and Kamal Sinclair to document provocative dialogue that stemmed from a five-channel video installation representing more than 150 Black men in 12 U.S. cities. Considered more of a “megalogue,” the stream-of -consciousness inquiries run the gamut of family, love, sexuality, community, education, and the most prevalent dilemma for today’s black men: violence.

A predominantly female audience attended an evening community engagement and panel discussion on Feb. 1 in the Eatonville Library following a walk-through tour in the Zora Neale Hurston National Museum of Fine Arts on Kennedy Boulevard.

“The project is not just about Black males, it’s about people and how people react when put in a group, and how they react within that group,” explained Thomas.

Featured males posed questions like the poignant, “What is common to us as Black males?” A male responds: “Our commonality is in our history. Our beauty is who we are as Black people.” That respondent then poses his own question and the cyclic inquiry continues.

Captured responses ranged from the candid, “What’s so cool about selling crack?” to an incarcerated Black male in the San Diego prison being asked, “Are you ready for freedom?”  A continued “Talk Back” session was held Saturday afternoon during “Family Day.”

Sustaining ZORA!
N.Y. Nathiri Director of Multidisciplinary Programs outcry for philanthropy to save ZORA“We need a little bit of money from a whole lot of people,” pleaded N.Y. Nathiri, director of Multidisciplinary Programs and Chair of the ZORA! Festival National Planners. The committee dedicated a full page in the festival guide outlining their appeal to “those who value ZORA! Festival. The following is explicitly outlined as follows:

“For the first since the P.E.C. began competing for tourist development tax grant dollars (2002), ZORA! Festival 2013 was not recommended for funding. However, on October 16 (2012), in a first-ever, one-time exception, Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs and the Orange County Board of County Commissioners, in a 6-1 vote, allocated the $150.000, $1-for-$1 cash match grant to P.E.C. as long as our organization was able to meet certain stipulations…one of those stipulations was to make a report on April 2013 which addresses how well our organization has been able to expand its funding base; and to demonstrate a “broad public endorsement” of ZORA! Festival by documenting the individual financial investments we receive during “the festival cycle,” i.e. November 1, 2012 – April 30, 2013.”

Their first effort to address the aforementioned was to charge admission. Attendees ages 17 and younger were admitted free. Those older were asked to give a cash donation. The future of ZORA! Festival and Hurston’s cultural legacy rests in the contributions left in envelopes provided by the community. Next year the festival will celebrate its 25th anniversary.

“The Bank Robbery” Resolution

“The Bank Robbery” short story read during class serves as an excellent example of how a narrative can be effectively told in a finite amount of space.

As we continue to learn and study composition and genres, play close attention to how Effective organization comes into play, the importance of revision and editing, and that “Less is more.”

Please view the following youtube videos to better appreciate the difference between Standard American English and Slang.  You should never use slang, jargon, or colloquial language in you academic writing, and both videos comically demonstrate how important this is.


Slang versus Standard English:  

Ebonics Pyramid Show.

Say what you mean (Never assume your audience knows what you mean)

Ms Swan at Starbucks:

The remainder of your assignments are as follows.

Note:  Please make sure you read, and re-read, the directions carefully.

To recap, the following are the elements of a short story:

During our reading and class lecture, we discussed several literary devices the author employed including metaphor, similes, and personification.  Further lecture discussed the use of abstract and concrete words and how they can either lend to the effectiveness of writing and/or weaken syntax (meaning).

Please refer to the link below for a more thorough and self-guided view of the lecture notes:

Abstract, Concrete, General, and Specific Terms by John Friedlander (Southwest Tennessee Community College)

Your assignment(s) are as follows:

English Assignment Help

  1. Re-read “The Bank Robbery.” 
  2. Revise the “Resolution.”  (The resolution is the END…the outcome as explained by the author.)
  3. Be imaginative, creative, and use concrete examples and literary devices where you deem them necessary.
  4. Your “hypothetical” resoluti
  5. on should be about the same length as the original author’s paragraphs.  I am not instructing you to re-write an original short-story.
  7. Follow the structure and form already set forth by the author. For example, if you choose to utilize quotes, indent. If you choose to write another “note,” italicize it.
  8. Everyone will have the same title:  “The Bank Robbery Resolution”

  Your due dates is:

ENG 1102 Deerwood -  20 February 2014

Do not compose more than one, double-spaced page of prose (period).

As discussed in class, YOUR resolution, should be equitable in length, consistency of theme, and content as the authors.  If your double-spaced resolution were to be single-spaced, it would not take up more than one-half of a page.  Consider this when composing your work.

Also, please be mindful to include literary devices consistent with the authors: metaphors, similes, personification.  You are NOT re-writing the entire short-story.  If your submission spans beyond one, double-spaced page, I will not grade your work.

Follow directions and email questions.

    MLA Header

 Sara Student

Professor Penny Dickerson

ENG 1102 – Deerwood

20 February 2014

The Bank Robbery Resolution

Here’s to good writing!

Should you have questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact me at:

Professor D.

Why It’s Hard To Date A Black Woman

Top Ten Reasons Why It’s Hard To Date A Black Woman by Matthew Lynch (Black

  1. Black women make black men feel under appreciated, unwarranted and irresponsible and   regressive.
  2. Black women are too aggressive and no longer patient in waiting on the pursuit of a man.
  3. Black women are strong headed, too independent which presents great challenges in relationships.
  4.  Black women are masculine in that they are controlling and like to run the relationship.
  5. Black women expect too much. They are gold diggers who will not look twice at a blue collar black man.
  6.  Black women are hot headed and have bad attitudes.
  7. Black women stop caring about their appearance after a certain age.
  8. Black women are not as sexually open as other races, especially in regards to oral sex.
  9. Black women’s tolerance is far too low; they are no longer empathetic to the black man’s struggle in white America.
  10.  Black women do not cater to their men.

What’s troubling about this list is its title: Top Ten? Does that mean this disgruntled man is holding out on reasons 11 to 20?

I’m not certain who this author, Matthew Lynch, really is, but I have one question for him:

“How long have you been an insecure, emotionally irresponsible, non-condom wearing, excuse-prone plumber who lives with his mother and is further on the down low?”

Black women could easily compile a comparable, defamatory list, but we’re too busy writing our top ten life goals, so we don’t have time for such foolishness and blaming. Matthew Lynch has alot of time for such, and I’m sure growing up with the last name “Lynch” has everything to do with his posture.

My initial approach was to defend the “Lynch List” line by line: precept by precept, but then I thought about it (because I’m a black woman who thinks). Upon conclusion, my mind conjured the following which I’m sure will inspire shock and appall.

The Top Ten Reasons Why It’s Hard To Date A Black Man by Penny Dickerson

1, Black men don’t know how to date. They lack imagination, innovation, discretionary funds, a sense of adventure, and their expectations for an initial date far exceed the mental and intelligence investment offered.

2. Black men take responsibility for nothing in their lives. Black women, The Man, their 3rd grade teacher, the lady at the bank, their ex-wife, ex-girlfriend, ex-cellmate, baby’s mama, and the weather are responsible for everything wrong with their lives.

3. Black men don’t really want a black woman to love; they want their mother.

4. Black men don’t wear their wedding rings, lie about their relationship status, hype their employment and life goals, and don’t reveal their real number of children. (A man who denies his child will deny me, PLUS, men who deny their children suck).

5. Black men expect a woman to have pride in her appearance through the years, but give zero consideration to their own beer belly, poorly manicured nails, they neglect oral hygiene, but I’ll give them this: a black man will always have a fresh hair cut.

6. Black men have a poor sense of time, a poor sense of timing, and think their monetary worth is all black women are concerned with. (This black woman desires honesty, a strong sense of self, a sense of humor, and needs you to own a working watch).

7. Black men think sex, oral or otherwise, is the answer to everything. Sexual responsibility and knowledge of STD and HIV transmission has eluded the black man for far too long. Intimacy transcends sexual encounters.

8. Black men forget that without black women, there would be no black men. Black women are more often than not left as single parents without financial or emotional support from black men, and the pressure of single parenting inspires a critical sense of independence, strength, and mad, crazy ambition that threatens black men. Black women are the creatures you created. (Big ups to my daughter’s father who never missed a child support payment and continues to carry her on his health insurance).

9. Black men think white women are the standard. In our natural state, you say you are attracted to black women, yet you gaze and pursue white woman for their long hair allure, submissive demeanor, and tolerance level (note: tolerance and patience are not synonymous).

10. Black men are struggling with their identities in record numbers which has created a global pool of homosexual, bi-sexual, and Down Low men.

11. I know I said ten, but I must add this: Black men fail to realize how ATTRACTIVE humility is. We want to applaud you and stop listening to you 24-7 brag and boast about yourself and your penis size, but I do admit that black women need to clap more loudly for the little things as well as the big. Last but certainly not least, black women more often than not feel misunderstood and judged right out the gate.

Black women are individuals as are black men.

The REAL reason it’s hard for a black man to date a black women is because black men don’t approach us. We are given a quick glance and then sized up as being like your ex, her best friend, the woman in the movie, the girl who rejected you in college, the last girl who didn’t dance with you at the club or the minimal expectations you exude that morph black women into being the object of negativity you expect.

Dating in the 21st century is a challenge and the older you become, the more intense the challenges. We all have baggage, but is your baggage Louis Vuitton or Samsonite or the Thrift Shop Special with a bent key?  Sometimes we see people traveling and think they are world-class because of the bag they are carrying, but the naked eye can’t tell if that bag is empty or full or stuffed with trash to appear full. Warning: baggage can be deceptive. I’d date a blue collar worker because sometimes the Thrift Shop Special with the bent key may have more substance inside and be easier to carry than the more embellished and ornate Louis Vuitton. What it looks like ain’t always what it is.

I am also not overtly opposed to black men who marry outside their race, nor do I view it as a “betrayal” when a black man dates white women. That does not mean he rejected me and my entire racial gender, it simply means he chose her…and that is his right. My preference is a man who loves and respects me: black or white.

Why then is my black list so loaded? Well, it is experienced-based and the collective offering of many conversations, late night phone talks, lunches, “Girl he lied” moments and brink of divorce soirees with my coveted Sistah circle.

Relationships are just tough: black, white, Jewish, interracial, Baptist, Catholic, or divorced and single. It’s all tough and despite the lists offered by both me and Matthew Lynch, I suggest that each individual comprise a list of what you SEEK in a mate and then pursue that. If your only list is one that emphasizes what you don’t want or have already had, you are mort likely to subconsciously and consistently attract the same type of people.

Dump the lists and give each new person you meet a fresh start, tell ‘em what time it is, and smile. The rest is left to destiny and chance.

Penny Dickerson 2011