Freelance Journalist

CONTACT:  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 UniversityPassionate 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.

Lesley LogoMedia 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. Continue Reading »

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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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AHCJ Conference highlights Racial Disparity and Equity



Health Journalism
“We have to get back to prevention,” Dr. Otis Brawley said during a presentation at the conference.


From the podium as notable speakers to moderating panels, African-Americans were at the forefront of Health Journalism 2019 held May 2-5 at the Hilton Baltimore Conference Center.

Presented by the Association for Health Care Journalists and Center for Excellence in Health Care Journalism, the 2019 convening of journalists and stakeholders reigns as a record-setter for the organization with 800 registered attendees.

The annual conference serves as a comprehensive gathering for industry professionals to access cutting edge trends ranging from opioid epidemics, gun violence in public health, autism and mental health, pharmacology, women’s health, cancer and more.


The conference included multiple panel discussions, training workshops, field trips, exhibits and a plethora of information available to aid journalists in their role of providing accurate health care news to a global audience.

Corporate and medical sponsors surpassed the dozens along with endowing foundations, including The Leona M. Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust, which funded fellows including Florida Courier writer Penny Dickerson who was awarded an ethnic media fellowship.


Johns Hopkins University (JHU) served as the conference host, which kicked off on May 2 with an official welcome session featuring Dr. Otis Brawley.

A renowned cancer screening and prevention expert, Brawley joined the Johns Hopkins faculty in January where he leads broad interdisciplinary research of cancer health disparities at JHU’s Bloomberg School of Public Health and the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center.

Brawley works to close racial, economic, and social disparities in the prevention, detection, and treatment of cancer in the United States and worldwide.

“We have to get back to prevention,” stated Brawley, who previously served as chief medical and scientific officer for the American Cancer Society.

“When I talk about disparities, I’m talking about Massachusetts vs. Mississippi – less about White vs. Black than expansion of Medicaid vs. non-expansion.”


The former professor of oncology and hematology at the Winship Cancer Institute at Emory University in Atlanta led a captive audience through expert commentary and trending statistics:

It is estimated that 607,000 Americans will die of cancer this year.

If all Americans had the cancer death rate of college-educated Americans, the number would be 455,000.

Nearly one-fourth of cancer deaths (152,000) would not occur if all Americans had the access and utilization of preventive and therapeutic interventions enjoyed by the college educated.

“There are more trends in cancer than there are in fashion. Every couple of years, we have a new trend, a lot of them overhyped.” said Brawley. “As we get excited about the potential for new cancer treatments, we must also remember to balance realistic expectations and limitations.”


Dr. Darrell J. Gaskin, a JHU Bloomberg School of Public Health professor, led all-Black panel of experts in a discussion on health disparities and African-American women who remain a persistent problem even after years of research and numerous programs created to close the health gap.

“At the Center for Health Disparities, our focus is on not just on talking about the fact that there are disparities by race, ethnicity, and geography, but looking at ways to minimize those disparities,” said Gaskin.


Joining Gaskins was Linda Goler Blount, M.P.H., president and CEO of the Black Women’s Health Imperative; and Tanjala S. Purnell, Ph.D., M.P.H. an associate professor of surgery, epidemiology, and health behavior and society at JHU.

“Health disparities are not just a medical problem, not just a public health problem. They affect all of us and it will take all of our knowledge and expertise to address them,” Purnell said.

The panel was moderated by AHCJ board member Marlene K. Harris-Taylor, a reporter and producer at a Cleveland TV station.


Yannick Rice Lamb moderated a session titled “Diverse Sources.’

“Journalists are failing at diversity — in the sources and experts it calls upon to help the public (both) understand and digest the news of the day,” stated Alexandria Neason, staff writer and senior doctoral fellow at the Columbia Journalism Review.

That quote introduced a workshop session on “Diverse Sources” designed to provide reporters strategies and tips on how to find diverse expert sources in science and health care with the ultimate goal of changing the health narrative to reflect more diverse voices in health news. The latter is deemed good journalism.


Yanick Rice Lamb, chair/associate professor, Cathy Hughes School of Communications, Howard University and publisher of the FierceforBlackWomen.com moderated the session, which included Pulitzer Prize team awardee (Newsday) and multiple fellowship recipient Katti Gray.

“There’s a greater urgency for us to think outside the box. From a place that is both pedestrian and philosophical, we are not diversifying our sources,” stated Gray. “It becomes a way of ‘othering’ people… treating them like they are so weird, like you don’t quite know the question to frame or where to go. Just ask somebody!”

The latter is likely simplistic ease for a journalist of Gray’s stature, who is also programs and instruction director for New York University Urban Journalism Workshop. Gray seized a teachable moment by offering a nugget from her own professional mode.

“I tend to report from the ground up, so rather than going to the physicians first, I might go to a grassroots organization and say, ‘I’d like to find some recently released/formerly incarcerated folks.’ I want to know if they have a re-entry plan,” explained Gray. “That was part of what the Affordable Care Act provided for people who are coming out of prison. So, that’s where I start.”

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Soul Food: cultural lifestyle or disease trap?

new america media

Olean with menu backdrop

 Soul Food: cultural lifestyle or disease trap?

Florida Courier/New America Media , News Feature, Penny Dickerson, Posted: Feb 21, 2017

Photo: Olean McCaskill in her celebrated soul-food eatery, Olean’s.TALLAHASSEE, Fla.–The roots of soul food run deep within the annals of African American living. The South reigns as king of soul food cuisine. Its origins can be traced back to slavery when plantation owners allowed enslaved Africans to cook and eat only what known as the hog’s undesirable leftovers, the ears, feet, tail, stomach and the intestinal tract known as chitterlings or in the Southern vernacular, simply “chitlins.”

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Soul Food – New England Journal of Medicine weighs in


new america media



Filed under FOOD, METRO

Some African-Americans have adapted new approaches to cooking, which leads to better health and living longer.

Editor’s note: This is the second installment on the legacy of soul food. Part 1 appeared in the Feb. 17 issue of the Florida Courier.


Soul food has taken center stage in the millennium as both a Southern indulgence and palate pleaser.

Restaurants boasting the original recipe of elderly relatives have opened throughout the Southeastern region of the country, and the ubiquitous food genre is even the focus of the reality television show, “Welcome to Sweetie Pie’s.” Continue Reading »

Interview with Steve Harvey’s Personal Chef

‘Architect of flavor’ whips up Harvey’s healthy dishes

March 14, 2013 Filed under ENTERTAINMENT, FOOD Posted by




Judson Allen died of a heart attack earlier this year ( May 2018). May he rest in peace.


Judson Todd Allen is a winner who loves to lose.

He has won a battle with weight, losing more than 135 pounds. next food network starHe auditioned for the “Next Food Network Star’’ four times before joining the 2012 cast. He again, lost but recalibrated. Continue Reading »

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Miami Times: FLOTUS Speech calls for Party Unity


Miami Times Front Fold

Speech by FLOTUS calls for party unity to beat Trump

 By Penny Dickerson Special to The Miami Times | 7/27/2016, 2 p.m.

A timely balm to heal and unify the Democratic Party came following rifts that challenged the organization’s integrity. Dynamic speeches ...

Michelle Obama at the DNC Monday said passion is needed to elect Hillary Clinton as president.
 A timely balm to heal and unify the Democratic Party came following rifts that challenged the organization’s integrity. Dynamic speeches delivered by said Sen. Cory Booker, D-NJ, and First Lady Michelle Obama both won the hearts and ignited delegates during the kick-off of the Democratic National Convention (DNC), which convened in Philadelphia July 25-28.

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