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Freelance Journalist

penny_dickerson_caro_article-small_26761Contact: pennydickersonwrites@gmail.com

Penny Dickerson is an independent journalist with a passion for cool people, extraordinary places, and good sushi.

She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism from Temple University (Philadelphia, PA) and a Master of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing from Lesley University (Cambridge, MA).

 

Temple UniversityLesley LogoPassionate about words and writing, Penny has augmented her freelance writing life by working as an adjunct English professor at  Florida State College at Jacksonville where she taught English composition and Humanities courses including Writing for Non-Fiction, Introduction to Literature & Film and Literature.

Media contributions include: Orlando Arts Magazine, Jacksonville Arts & Business Magazine (ARBUS), EBONY.com, New America Media, Equal Voice, Miami Times,Mosaic Literary Magazine, Onyx Magazine, The News-Leader, Florida Times-Union, Florida Courier, Philadelphia Stories, Daytona Times, Tallahassee Women’s Magazine and others.

Journalism fellowships awarded include the New America Media Four Freedoms Fund Fellowship (2013); Henry Frank Guggenheim Fellowship (2015); Marguerite Casey Equal Voice Fellowship (2015); Journalists in Aging Fellows Program (2016) Measures for Justice/John Jay College Continue Reading »

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(Cover Story) The Kinseys: Family Legacy Expresses the Art of Giving

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ONYX Magazine celebrates the accomplishments and contributions of African-Americans and those of the African diaspora.

THE KINSEYS: FAMILY LEGACY EXPRESSES THE ART OF GIVING

Bernard and Shirley Kinsey personify family with a display of passion and humility often unique to African-Americans. Together, they publicly …

Story by Penny Dickerson

 

 

Bernard and Shirley Kinsey personify family with a display of passion and humility often unique to African-Americans. Together, they publicly emerged and claimed space as 21st century global icons who have traveled to more than 91 countries following a dual retirement from the Xerox Corporation where they enjoyed lucrative careers.

They are powerhouse philanthropists boasting contributions to the nation’s HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) that Image result for FAMU Marching 100surpass $28 million. Recently, they challenged Florida A&M University (FAMU), to raise $500,000 by matching the Kinsey’s personal $250,000 contribution. Their alma mater rose to the occasion and new uniforms, instruments, and an equipment truck were purchased for the renowned “Marching 100” band. In tribute, Kinsey is monogrammed on the back of uniform sleeves.

They are insatiable art curators who positively changed the trajectory of how America perceives African American history and art by intersecting the two in a ground-breaking exhibit at the American Adventure Pavilion at Walt Disney World’s Epcot Center. Distinctly titled “The Kinsey Collection: Shared Treasures of Bernard and Shirley Kinsey,” it is estimated that eight to 10 million tourists viewed the installation during a five-year duration.

They are phenomenal, to say the least. A charming couple whose matrimony celebrated 51-years in February, they are proud parents to son Khalil who serves as CEO and general manager of operations for The Kinsey Collection. It’s a family affair for the Kinseys who currently reside in the patriarch’s hometown of Los Angeles, Calif. Shirley is a St. Augustine, Fla., native, and the enthusing tale of how two people from separate U.S. coasts met is the beginning of Kinsey history as shared with ONYX Magazine.

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(Cover Story) Congresswoman Fredericka S. Wilson 5000 Role Models of Excellence

 

 

 

ONYX Magazine celebrates the accomplishments and contributions of African-Americans and those of the African diaspora.

Story By Penny Dickerson

Celebrating 25 Years of Excellence

Congresswoman Frederica S. Wilson has been an indomitable force for Florida’s 24th congressional district for four terms and each subsists as an example of her high-spirited will to improve lives and legislate change. Some of her most reputable quests include job creation, sustaining medicare and social security, prohibiting the foreclosure of homes and more. A former principal at Skyway Elementary School and a Miami-Dade county school board member, Wilson’s remarkable success includes a crowning achievement for at-risk youth: the 5000 Role Models of Excellence Project that will commemorate 25 years of infinite growth in 2018.

Founded in 1993, the project is a progressive education and mentoring program designed to nurture young Black males ages nine to 19.

Image result for Congresswoman Fredericka wilsonFounded by Wilson and initiated by the Miami-Dade county school board, Wilson exhibited passionate concern for the aforementioned demographic who often end up imprisoned, fall prey to drug trade, or became school dropouts. In an effort to change the latter, the project was kick-started and excelled as the 500 African-American Male Role Models of Excellence. Following immeasurable success and national recognition, it was renamed the 5000 Role Models of Excellence Project and expanded to include Hispanics.

“The success of the 5000 Role Models of Excellence Project has exceeded my wildest dreams.  I never imagined we would be able to touch the lives of thousands of boys and young men on a daily basis,” said Wilson. “We have transformed lives of countless students and put them on track to graduate and lead successful lives. Our mentorship does not end at graduation. We have provided millions of dollars in scholarships, and send many graduates to the city of Miami Fire College so they can become firefighters. We are always marveling at the accomplishments of our students and attribute their success to God, because some of their stories are truly miracles,” she added.

Wilson’s collective “We,” includes a bevy of political, celebrity, sport and corporate supporters including President Barack Obama and four U.S. presidents who preceded him. Celebrities like Tom Joyner and Gladys Knight are on board along with retired NBA player Shaquille O’Neal. The mentor list is rounded off by the faith-based community, law enforcement, legal education professionals , and families.

Image result for sean john collection logo“Sean John Collection, the retail arm of entertainment mogul Sean “P. Diddy” Combs, has come on board as one of our recent corporate partners. They provide suits for graduating seniors so they will have proper attire for interviews, work, or formal occasions,” said Wilson.

“Many  recipients have never owned a suit. I didn’t know much about Sean John before the, partnership, but they learned about our program and how we work to change the lives of boys and young men. I am humbled by the willingness of people who have supported the program since its inception,” Wilson added.

The project’s core model is to pair young males with professional, adult volunteers who provide advice, guidance, and educational assistance. According to Wilson, the  focus has remained the same: “to intervene in lives of at-risk boys, and provide them with alternatives that deter from a life of crime and violence.” Every involved chapter and school has the same mission.

“We have been fortunate to grow in a way that maintains consistency. We have programs in Pinellas, Duval, and our newest chapter, Broward County,” said Wilson. “We invite school district leaders and community members from districts interested in starting a chapter. They visit schools to observe how the chapters operate…academically, we have a curriculum that reinforces reading and writing skill development,” Wilson boasts: “Students in our program perform at higher levels than their peers because of the extra help we provide.”

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Image result for Pinellas County School BoardDr. Valerie Brimm has served as the Pinellas County program director since 2009 and oversees the operation, facilitates district initiative, and maintains data.

“Several program graduates have gone to Duke, Dartmouth, Howard and more,” said Brimm who added that sports scholarships have also been obtained.

According to Brimm, 83% of her participating students who began in 3rd grade thru high school graduate on time. The Black male graduation rate has increased by 7% over the last three years and is attributed to the 5000 Role Model’s program. Brimm is proud of Pinellas County but states, “The Miami-Dade program is on a whole different level with regards to sponsorship, data sheets, and corporate involvement.”

Wilson looks forward to her program maintaining its vision, but states the reach of the program will exponentially grow.

“When people visit districts that have a program or work with our boys, they frequently ask how they can get a program where they live,” Wilson explained. “There are so many former teachers, principals, an administrators who have left Miami, but call back to see if we can establish a program in their new district…we are hoping to expand the program to Detroit in the near future and the council of the Great City Schools, an association of America’s largest urban school districts, is exploring ways to establish the program in districts nationwide,” Wilson added.

Congresswoman Wilson is a proven winner, and her former elementary school is now her honorable namesake. She cites her dad as her mentor:

“My father was a huge influence in my life. He was a small business owner and community leader,” shared Wilson. People frequented our home for advice, and as a little girl, I would hide under the dining room table and listen to conversations.  My mother scolded me for eavesdropping, but that experience instilled within me a passion to help others,” she added.

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Orlando Signature Magazine: Thornton Park

20160605_183608-1 (1)Quaint downtown Orlando neighborhood Thornton Park offers walking, shopping, dining pleasures

Thorton Park: The Soul of Downtown

By Penny Dickerson

Thornton Park is one of downtown Orlando’s quintessential historic neighborhoods and currently reigns as the epicenter for all things hip. The upscale district, tucked east of Lake Eola Heights and centered on Lake Lawsona along Thornton Avenue, defies suburban clichés. This is one community where you can surprisingly walk just about everywhere, including to your office and local supermarket — unlike the burbs where driving is almost impossible to avoid.

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Interview with Sonia Sanchez: Truth to Power

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Click link to read full interview on EBONY.com

http://www.ebony.com/entertainment-culture/sonia-sanchez-speaks-truth-to-power-999#axzz303gQy0U3

Sonia Sanchez Speaks Truth to Power, Poetically [INTERVIEW]

The legendary poetic icon speaks on the Black Arts Movement and the ancestor voices of African-American letters

By Penny Dickerson

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Sonia Sanchez, great voice of the Black Arts Movement and beyond

Consider it a creative insult to limit poetry’s national recognition to the month of April. Nonetheless, I thank the establishment (a.k.a. the Academy of American Poets) for establishing National Poetry Month, as readers politely dust the dirt off poetry titles too often neglected. For sure, every day African-American poets amass work worthy to be read, studied, praised and adored worldwide.

What better authority than the legendary poet Sonia Sanchez to magnify the art form that pre-dates David’s psalms and continues to emerge through brilliant poetic voices—many of whom owe Sanchez praise for her tutelage?

RELATED: AMIRI AMOUR: BARAKA IN MEMORIUM

A formalist with wide poetic range, Sanchez’s vast body of work includes poems that delve into themes that resonate with those who’ve known isolation’s dance. She is liberation and libations; she is Home Coming and Home Girls & Hand Grenades; she is A Blue Book for a Blue Black Magic Woman and We a BaddDDD People.

The poetic spirit born as Wilsonia Bonita Driver has yet to rest.

She’s still writing and taking West Philadelphian three-mile strolls on a good day. Her open discourse is insatiable and leaves readers savoring her own recall of the 1960s Black Arts Movement, and inclusion in the Broadside Quartet collective (alongside poets and writers Haki R. Madhubuti, Etheridge Knight, Gwendolyn Brooks and, later, Nikki Giovanni).

She is exudes humility to the hilt, yet passionately embodies her indomitable role as activist, womanist, optimist and humanist. The consummate conversationalist talks to EBONY about her creative lifeline: poetry.

If the nuances of poetry render you lost beyond the random hip-hop couplet, Sanchez offers an apt definition of the art form in plain speak:

“To me, poetry is many things,” she begins. “Poetry is life, it is water, it is earth, it is sound, it is music, it is language that allows us to stay alive. Poetry is ancient, it is new, it is old, it is current. Poetry is a baby’s smile when he or she is smiling at you. Poetry is a burp from a child who is well fed. Poetry is a kiss from your lover. Poetry is a handshake from comrades. Poetry is a hug. But most of all, poetry is a language that says, ‘stay alive, do not die on me, do not move away from life.’ Because poetry is life, and it keeps people alive.” Eloquent.

Icons and influential legends of the Black poetic experience are now gone (most recently Amiri Baraka and Gil Scott-Heron). They served as pillars of artistic strength and have transitioned from earthly assignment, but their artistic contributions are eternal. Sanchez expounds on what it means to be a legacy beyond a poem published on a page.

“There are so many who are legends and gone,” she recounts. “Jane Cortez, Amiri Baraka, sculptor Elizabeth Catlett—who was a dear friend—Lucille Clifton, Audre Lorde, June Jordan. We’ve lost so many and have been speaking at so many funerals. But they are not dead, because they helped us change towards changing the world. And there is really no such thing as dead, as long as we do the work we are put on this earth to do and as long as we leave behind a legacy of work.

“It is a legacy that says simply, ‘I am a human being,’ ” she continues, “I must walk upright as a human being, I must make sure that other people learn to walk upright as a human being too. These are all great writers who maintained a certain amount of consciousness about the world, about themselves, and about what it meant to be a woman, what it meant to be a man, what it meant to be Black, what it meant to be a lesbian, what it meant to be gay, what it meant to walk upright on this earth. And what it meant to change the world, what it meant to say, ‘I am’.”

Says Sanchez, “The late, great Amiri Baraka came out of the village, that Beat Movement, up out of Harlem to start the Black Arts Repertory Theater which we all belonged to.”

In the mid-1960s, Baraka sent letters that called upon musicians, actors, poets, playwrights and teachers to come and do the work of social uplift uptown in Harlem. He urged them to “Come help me continue Malcolm’s work.” This era became known amongst them as A.M. (After Malcolm), and influenced the poetic writing of self and soul for Sanchez and others in the Black Arts Movement.

Sanchez recalls those defining times.

“I remember in that place at [Black Arts Repertory Theater], Sunday afternoon at 3:00 p.m., Abbey Lincoln—that gorgeous woman, that genius of a singer with her beautiful, short natural—came and talked about, Who will revere the Black woman?

“It was an amazing moment for all of us Black women who sat there and listened to her talk. And [we] said, ‘I want to be like her, and look like her too.’ That was the joy of doing that kind of work.”

Poet-actor Saul Williams immortalized the hip-hop generation’s slam poetry in 1998’s Slam. Russell Simmons advanced spoken work via HBO’s Def Poetry. And we all love the mid-air finger snappin’ of the modern romance classic Love Jones. But poetry, spoken work or no, is not nouveau, nor has it outgrown its metaphoric roots. Sanchez balances the oral tradition’s truth with both wisdom and a charge.

“From the very beginning, poetry was to be spoken out loud,” she says. “It was very much a part of both community and tradition. At a birth, someone would write a poem; at a death someone would write a poem. There was always music too, and that part is not new.”

Since her earliest days writing about being a little girl, alone and not feeling pretty, Sanchez has since published 16 books of her own, but suggests all poets read the classics.

A lot of my undergraduate students go on to graduate school and say, ‘Langston Hughes is too simple.’ And then I say, very calmly and in as gentle a fashion as I can, ‘No, no, no, no, this not a simple poet.’ I recommend every kind of poet from Langston to Baraka, Lorde, Nikki, June Jordan and Robert Bly. But I also recommend Adrienne Rich to Pablo Naruda to the great Nicolas Guillen, whom I met when I went to Cuba.”

Sanchez says she has notebooks with “more than a million writings never published,” and continues to write in her study with a photo of Guillen, Langston and Ernest Hemingway above her head.

“A poet writes ’til their last breath,” she says with finality.

Penny Dickerson is a Florida-based journalist whose work can be viewed at pennydickersonwrites.com.

 

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Levar Burton Interview: Orlando Arts Magazine

Levar Burton OAM Cover

As a graduate student at Lesley University, I penned a poem that ventured the impact the mini-series “Roots” had on both my family and formative years. I wanted Alex Haley to be my daddy and all the girls in eighth-grade were teased and called, “Kizzie.” The more haunting truth was it was the last time I could remember that my family convened together in the same room, at the same time, for anything. It was the last “Kodak moment my mind conjured of us merged like one huge afro” to watch television together.

“Roots” was a unifier, a television-viewing change agent, and a history lesson that created “tension” for how we viewed ourselves, our pasts, and the contributions of African-American ancestry. I never thought I’d ever personally meet and converse with “Kunte Kinte,” the lead “wild gazelle” who is now giving my three-year-old granddaughter “Journey” the opportunity to digitally enjoy “Reading Rainbow.”

Click link below to read Orlando Arts Magazine feature:                                                    LeVar Burton OAM PDF

Levar Burton High Res Head Shot

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Click link below to read Florida Courier long-feature: http://flcourier.com/2015/10/roots-digital-rainbows/

Penny Dickerson 2015

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Frankie Beverly’s Amazing Career

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March 25, 2014

Frankie Beverly Talks 38 Years of Maze [INTERVIEW]

The voice behind every Black picnic, BBQ and wedding of the past four decades discusses the longevity of Maze

By Penny Dickerson 

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The one, the only Mr. Frankie Beverly

Every funk band has a front man. It’s an old-school law obeyed by Maurice White, whose vocals reigned supreme as Earth, Wind and Fire’s fourth element, and Sugarfoot, who kept the Ohio Players roller-coastin’. Frankie Beverly is every bit as iconic—a raw soul master.

He’s the sing-and-sweat powerhouse who personified all-white sexy before Diddy anointed the Hamptons. He’s the stylin’ lady magnet who catapulted the baseball cap as much as the hip-hop movement. And he’s amazing—world-renowned and still selling out world venues with the Maze sextet right behind him.

RELATED: [VINTAGE VISION] MARVIN GAYE GETS IT ON

An inside glimpse reveals a man whose conversation feels familiar without flirtation, save for an occasional “honey” or “sweetie” to segue thoughts. But Frankie Beverly is California cool, a tempered spirit; just an ordinary guy from Philadelphia who turned a “doo-wop” dream into a mind-blowing career.

Beverly’s Beginnings

Born Howard Beverly, the future Frankie Beverly harbored so much love for heartthrob Frankie Lymon that he jacked his name. “I was Frankie Lymon crazy when he came on the scene,” he admits. “People would call me ‘Little Frankie.’ I used to sing Frankie Lymon songs on street corners and people use to throw me money.”

The labyrinth to stardom is a story told over and over, and shared by many in Beverly’s era. In Frankie’s case, church singing transitioned to a teen group called The Butlers, which musically morphed into Frankie Beverly’s Raw Soul. The big break came when the one and only Marvin Gaye made the band his opening act with a single stipulation:  change the name. That nudge originated the moniker that stuck: Maze.

Now Beverly is 67, and the Maze’s “raw soul” identity is more frequently marketed as urban contemporary soul. Their loyal fan base is trained to expect timeless music, as Frankie leads “Joy and Pain” and “The Morning After” jam sessions. Both tunes are legendary for making grown women (and some men) straight scream.

Gratitude, God, but no Grammy

Gratitude and humility seem to precede any and all Frankie Beverly motives, and no one is more surprised by his career than the man who made “Happy Feelings” an anthem long before Bobby McFerrin or Pharrell Williams whistled hits.

“I am most amazed by the success of our longevity,” says Beverly. “I never, ever, ever thought it would be like this. I’m laid back, and I know music is a gift given to me to initiate, and I take that serious. I thank God I have people around me I can trust, they’ve been with me for 30 to 40 years. It’s a real blessing.”

Maze featuring Frankie Beverly, ‘Joy and Pain’

Maze featuring Frankie Beverly, ‘Joy and Pain’

Despite an amassed catalogue of classics, the Maze featuring Frankie Beverly Grammy Award remains elusive, but it’s an industry snub Beverly takes in stride. “The love the people give us is most amazing,” he offers. “I don’t care about no Grammys. It’s about the reward, not the award. I walk around on my knees I’m so thankful.”

Sam Cooke—Still His Main Man

Does Frankie Beverly meditate? Yes. Does he work out to stay in shape? Negative. He claims no special fitness regime and cites the stage as his ultimate workout. Beverly also hasn’t eaten red meat in 35 years—occasionally chicken, and fish “for protein.”

A high-octane schedule defines Beverly’s existence, so what (if anything) does he listen to for slowing down his internal metronome?

“I don’t really play a lot of music, believe it or not. And when I do, I prefer jazz,” said Beverly, who reiterated a preference for the standards. “I like smooth jazz too, but Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, those guys really still do it for me. At this time in my life, jazz does it. I tell you who I really like is Chris Botti. His music is very nice. But I still like listening to Sam Cooke.”

The late Cooke remains Beverly’s lifelong inspiration. “We were at Philly’s Uptown Theatre trying to get his autograph. [I] said, ‘Mr. Cooke, Mr. Cooke, can you sign mine?’ He said, ‘Have you guys ever been backstage? Well, come on!’ ” The story is credited for Beverly’s own generosity. “I don’t turn people down. I always think of Sam Cooke and how kind and patient he was. He didn’t have to do that for us.”

Beverly on Beyoncé

Frankie Beverly has a simple message for today’s musicians: get back to basics.

“You have to still go back. It’s hard for today’s industry. Studios can’t get business; people are using machines. No matter how much money is at stake, people still want the ‘real deal.’ I want today’s music acts to return to the real deal. No mixing, no machines.”

Black women nationwide owe Beverly a bevy of thanks for time-honored respect. But for the music industry’s hardest working and wealthiest woman, he offers a profitable prediction: “I think Beyoncé is ready to take her next step, and I tell you what I mean by that. She can really sing, but I would like to see her show her skills. I mean, she’s a mom and a wife now. So I’d love to hear her record Christmas carols or perform live with an orchestra… just sing.”

New Music from Maze

A wisdom grin and goatee with gray sprouts are a welcome presence for Beverly, who resides in California’s Bay Area and is “grandpa swaggadocious” to three precocious grand fans he insists “use and abuse him.” Mention retirement and he balks.

“I hope not,” he says. “Something would have to be wrong [with me]. I just want to keep on doing this until I can’t do it anymore.” And he doesn’t plan to stop. But will the eternal performer’s career be complemented by new music?

“I’ve been thinking about it, but ya know, we are a working act,” he says. “It’s not like I can tour and come home. I can’t make great music that way. Back when it was the Kool Jazz and Budweiser Festivals, we could work three months and then take time off to go into the studio. But we aren’t going to piecemeal making music.”

Beverly vows the new music will still be love music—life music— and that he and Maze aren’t going to stray from what they’ve been doing.

“I’m tickled about a new piece on the album titled ‘The Jam of My Life’,” Beverly shared with a sinister snicker. “You meet someone, but you’re already with someone. I know about that all too well, and athletes and these young musicians—or the average person who just has a lot to do—they know these situations all well too.”

We Are One

Maze featuring Frankie Beverly has unified the masses with a legion of hits, but the single closest to Beverly’s heart is 1983’s “We Are One.” No explanation is needed. Still, he offers this: “It’s true. If you are lucky enough to travel around the world, you’ll find we’re all the same and want the same thing: love! People for the most part are good. If not, we would have torn the world apart by now. I’ve learned to not be racist in my life. Our White brothers are our brothers too, and I’m not trying to be some kind of love guru or anything. We are the same.”

Penny Dickerson is a Florida-based journalist whose work can be viewed at pennydickersonwrites.com.

Read more at EBONY http://www.ebony.com/entertainment-culture/frankie-beverly-talks-38-year-of-maze-388#ixzz2xVpCryi5

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LeVar Burton talks “Roots & Digital Rainbows”

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LeVar Burton speaks exclusively to the Florida Courier in advance of his November appearance at Rollins College in Winter Park.

BY PENNY DICKERSON
FLORIDA COURIER

LeVar Burton is best remembered in the archives of American culture for his debut  in the 1977 mini-series “Roots.” In his first audition and role, the 19-year-old was cast as Kunta Kinte, the wide-eyed Mandinka warrior who fled slave masters with the speed of a wild gazelle.Levar Burton High Res Head Shot

Burton’s character not only personified rebellion, he made it look cool. He was a hero who gave Blacks nationwide a license to cheer for their own identity and freedom. Continue Reading »

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