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 an 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 previously working as an adjunct English professor at  Florida State College at Jacksonville where she once 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, 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). Continue Reading »

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Penny Dickerson awarded GSA Fellowship 2017

For Immediate Release
November 11, 2016
Contact: Todd Kluss
(202) 587-2839
America’s Top Reporters on Aging Chosen for Fellowship ProgramThe Gerontological Society of America (GSA) and New America Media (NAM) have selected 16 distinguished reporters for the next cohort of the Journalists in Aging Fellows Program, now in its seventh year. They represent a wide range of general audience, ethnic, and senior media outlets, including several public radio affiliates, daily newspapers, and national publications.

The fellows will convene during GSA’s Annual Scientific Meeting — scheduled for November 16 to 20 in New Orleans, Louisiana — and utilize the more than 450 presentation sessions and 4,000 expert attendees to develop a major aging-focused story or series. These proposed projects, to be published in 2017, will span such concerns as elder isolation, homeless seniors, the digital future, and aging in ethnic populations.

“The GSA meeting presents a comprehensive look at aging, and our new fellows will serve a vital role by cultivating public awareness of what it means to age in America,” said Karen Tracy, GSA’s Senior Director of Strategic Alliances and Communications. “We provide a unique venue to help them understand everything from the latest discoveries in the health sciences to the impact of the 2016 elections on older adults.”

The fellows program is supported by funding from The Silver Century Foundation, AARP, The Commonwealth Fund, The Retirement Research Foundation, and The John A. Hartford Foundation.

“Our fellowship collaboration with GSA has been essential for educating reporters and the increasingly diverse communities they inform about the challenges of growing older.” said NAM Executive Director Sandy Close. “The wide range of topics this year and the depth of the proposals shows that journalists are grasping the impact of these issues in every community.”

In New Orleans, the fellows also will report on new developments in aging and participate in a day-long workshop, where experts will discuss the latest research and provide insight on key issues facing Americans as they age. Continuing fellowship grants also are being provided to allow nine previous fellows to participate in the meeting. A continuously updated list of stories generated by the program’s more than 100 alumni is available at www.geron.org/journalistfellows.

The program is co-directed by Todd Kluss, MA, GSA’s senior manager of communications, and Paul Kleyman, senior editor of NAM’s ethnic elders newsbeat. Kleyman also is the founder and national coordinator of the Journalists Network on Generations, which includes more than 1,000 writers on aging.

The new fellows:

Francisco Castro (La Opinión)
Project: Varied series on the daily struggles of food and rent for older Latinos, elder abuse among Latinos in home care facilities, and “old love.”

Lois M. Collins (Deseret News, Salt Lake City)
Project: Redefining “community” in old age.

Alice Daniel (KQED Public Radio’s “California Report,” San Francisco)
Project: Mental illness in older Hmong and Lao refugees.

Merdis “Penny” Dickerson (Florida Courier/Daytona Times)
Project: Hunger among older African Americans.

Neil Gonzales (Philippine News)
Project: Barriers to and opportunities for healthy aging, particularly within the Filipino and Asian American community.

Leoneda Inge (North Carolina Public Radio – WUNC)
Project: The “reverse migration” of black retirees to North Carolina.

Erica Manfred (SeniorPlanet.org)
Project: Accessible hearing-loss technology.

Deborah Martinez (KSFR-FM, Santa Fe, New Mexico)
Project: Varied series on navigating Social Security and Medicare, the challenges and opportunities facing New Mexico’s retirees, and recent lawsuits brought against two Santa Fe elder care facilities.

Sister Charlene Muhammad (Los Angeles Sentinel/L.A. Watts Times Weekender)
Project: Intersection of homelessness, dementia, and substance abuse.

Elizabeth Payne (Ottawa Citizen)
Project: A series of articles related to falls, including prevention, causes, costs, and consequences.

Katy Read (Star Tribune, Minneapolis)
Project: Individual and community initiatives to address the dangers of isolation and loneliness.

Randy Rieland (Smithsonian)
Project: Use of artificial intelligence to combat social isolation.

Michael O. Schroeder (U.S. News & World Report)
Project: Financial exploitation of older adults.

Afi-Odelia E. Scruggs (Alldigitocracy.org)
Project: Ageism in the media and its coverage of older adults from minority communities.

Chandra Thomas Whitfield (NBCBLK/NBCNews.com)
Project: Challenges faced by LGBT older adults of color.

Ke “April” Xu (Sing Tao Daily)
Project: Scams haunting Chinese older adults in the U.S.


The Gerontological Society of America (GSA) is the nation’s oldest and largest interdisciplinary organization devoted to research, education, and practice in the field of aging. The principal mission of the Society — and its 5,500+ members — is to advance the study of aging and disseminate information among scientists, decision makers, and the general public. GSA’s structure also includes a policy institute, the National Academy on an Aging Society, and an educational branch, theAssociation for Gerontology in Higher Education.

New America Media (NAM) is the country’s first and largest national collaboration and advocate for over 3,000 ethnic news organizations. Nearly 60 million ethnic adults connect to each other, to home countries, and to America through ethnic media, the fastest growing sector of American journalism. Founded by the nonprofit Pacific News Service in 1996, NAM is headquartered in California with editors in New York and Washington, DC.

Follow GSA on Twitter and Facebook!








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Penny Dickerson Awarded Guggenheim Fellowship

John Jay LogoThe Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation



Florida Courier writer awarded Guggenheim Fellowship



Florida Courier writer Penny Dickerson was selected as one of 20 U.S. journalists from print, online and broadcast outlets to receive an H.F. Guggenheim reporting fellowship organized by the New York City-based John Jay Center on Media, Crime and Justice housed at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice at the City University of New York.

Penny Dickerson Freelance Journalist & Adjunct ProfessorOver the next year, the Florida Courier will publish a series of stories titled, “Race, Justice, Community: Can We All Get Along?” written by Dickerson, a veteran journalist based in Jacksonville.

Dickerson is the third Florida Courier writer to receive a journalism fellowship. Senior Editor Jenise Griffin Morgan was awarded a 2013-2014 Rosalynn Carter Fellowship for Mental Health Journalism. Publisher Charles W. Cherry II is a 2009 Guggenheim Fellow.

Diverse experience
Dickerson, a longtime contributor to the Florida Courier, has been a freelance reporter since 2001, advancing from local to more regional and national affiliates. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism from Temple University and a Master of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing from Lesley University. Continue Reading »

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Penny Dickerson Awarded New America Media Fellowship

new america media

2015 Equal Voice Fellows and Scholars Announced

NEW YORK — (August 21, 2015) — Marguerite Casey Foundation has announced the recipients of the 2015 Equal Voice Fellowship and Scholarship.

Sixty journalists nationwide competed this year for six journalism grants to support at least one or a series of investigative and exploratory reporting projects on critical poverty issues in underserved communities. These include projects on faces of poverty in the southern Appalachian region; economic struggles that Latino families face in Los Angeles; and the interface between poverty, race, gender and HIV.

Selected fellows will receive a stipend of $2,250, plus up to $1,000 in travel reimbursement, while $500 and up to $800 in travel reimbursement for the scholars. Continue Reading »

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Am I supposed to be a racist (now)?

The world around me feels loud. It’s voluminous and lathered with election minutiae along with alternate facts followed by protests and marches by women whose roar and righteousness was recently heard worldwide. I’m down. I would have marched. I would have joined the masses and pieced together an eighth-grade poster board sign that spoke to the immeasurable value of my uterus or my 1st Amendment right to be in the midst of mayhem. But, I didn’t. Instead, I was on Jeckyll Island, Florida cheering on my granddaughter Journey who is a proud member of the “Dynamic Xplosion” cheer squad.

Yes, she is four-years-old with zero aspirations to ever become a Dallas Cowboy Cheerleader, but this level of cheerleading (at her young age) teaches Journey to be pro-girl; it’s discipline-centered and respect-driven; it’s fun and it’s community.  This was the march of me and my girls on Saturday while the rest of our gender flooded hi-ways and bridges and mid-town arteries.

Between cheering and marching and protests pumping “Pro,” too much of the world feels loud. My (private) writing life feels threatened during an era that welcomes widespread clap-back. I can’t even hear my own agency, my social construct, my guiding framework that has steered me clear from all things divisive. In my Marvin Gaye alto-croon, “What’s Going On?”

Am I a racist (now)? Am I a sell-out if I am NOT a racist (now)? Am I supposed to be mean and spew hatred via social media to prove my ethnic loyalty and post-civil rights sensibility? I conclude that I am just supposed to be me, and for 53-years, that has served me well.

So, why am I feeling nervous and jittery about the blonde man who spoofed the nation (the world). I voted. You voted (didn’t you)? We all publicly act as though we voted but apparently, we weren’t all on one accord regarding WHO we were supposed to vote for.

Our strongest voice of reason instructed us well, “Don’t Boo, Vote!”    

He then upped the ante on his instructions over the weekend and said, “Don’t be mad that it’s over, be glad that it happened!”

Gosh he was smart and timely; stately and dignified; presidential (and fine).

But, the 44 is long gone. He’s a political ship sailed in a wind called yesterday, and now all the masses can do is be loud? Racist AND loud? What bothers me more often than not are those voices of volume who are so perfectly-inaccurate. I call them, “The screeching mouths of the wrong.” Dare I opine about any of it, and yes, I do have something to say, but mine is not an every-hour quip or side-line seconds to advance pithy wit.

I agree that America is on the precipice of change, but how much will be our own creation? I’m not out of touch (either). Nothing about me is delusional or thinking “Can’t we all just get along?” We’ve never ALL gotten along, and racism has never served as a utility for unity. Never. I feel many emotions at this juncture of ….this juncture of…I don’t even know what to call it. This juncture of “pissed-off-peopleness.” That works.

My objectivity as a journalist is separate from my aerial view as a human being, a woman, a mother, a grandmother. In general, I am a loud woman, but this time and space we’re in right now requires significant thinking before we speak; I am firm on that. Loose tongues and fiery hearts have never resulted in anything productive towards change.

I am resigned to be cautious in matters of speech and some would cry foul citing voices like mine are needed in this derogatory climate of “Now.”

I am observant; I am closely listening to the “whispers”and “the loud” knowing neither are a finite solution. In all fairness, I don’t know what is. I just know the world feels loud.


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New Lens on Aging






florida courier



‘New Lens on Aging’

Filed under HEALTH, METRO

Scholars shine light on Blacks and aging during annual scientific meeting of the Gerontological Society of America


Little Freddie King is a 76-year-old Blues master and New Orleans icon whose performance range includes appearing in Beyonce’s “Lemonade” video and portrayal on the 2015 poster for the French Quarter Festival.

Little Freddie King is a New Orleans Blues legend. He’s a self-taught guitar player who has always used his thumb versus a pick. It allows him to feel the music better. King appeared alert, spry and possessed the mental facility to fully engage a standing room only audience as he told the story of how he hopped a train from Mississippi to New Orleans when he was merely 14 years old. “The Big Easy” has been his home since.

King is now 76 and lives as a statistical example of aging elders who served as the focus of study at the 2016 annual scientific meeting of the Gerontological Society held Nov. 16-20 in New Orleans. A field of study often confused with geriatrics, gerontology defined is the scientific study of old age, the process of aging, and the particular problems of old people. Continue Reading »

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Florida Courier writer Penny Dickerson, a cancer survivor, reflects on her personal challenges and blessings during this year’s holiday season.

The Florida Courier

Before cancer and after cancer. Here’s a formal portrait (in classy black and white) and a selfie from my hospital bed. (Portrait by GREGORY McKINNON)

Cancer and Christmas share a confounding irony for me this year.

On Dec. 1, I was admitted to Shands Hospital in Jacksonville for a CT-guided kidney biopsy. One month prior, a definitely solid renal mass was found resting leisurely on the outer pole of my right kidney.

The remainder of the month, I’ve endured holiday grandeur, including “Jingle Bells” carols; and pine and spruce trees lit with bright, multicolored bulbs and layered with elaborately wrapped presents topped by ornate bows.

It’s the season to be jolly – if you don’t have to deal with a health woe like cancer.

Instead of cheerfully speaking catch phrases like “joy,” “peace,” and “hope,” my seasonal vocabulary sounds like it’s taken from pages of the “Physicians’ Desk Reference:” “peripherally inserted catheters,” “renal cell carcinoma,” “cryoablation,” and “cancer surveillance.” Continue Reading »

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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 ancestry. Fifteen-years ago seems quite like 2015. But, I’d 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

florida courier

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

Penny Dickerson 2015

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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.

“We can’t devolve into a nation where our highest aspiration is that we tolerate each other. We are not called to be a nation of tolerance. We are called to be a nation of love,” Booker said.Image result for corey booker at the democratic national convention

Booker’s thunderous oratory and prevailing words served as a motivational springboard to help unite a party that remains divided following a contested primary between the Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who continues to court a legion of passionate supporters.

Delegates representing the 50 United States, Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands and Guam convened July 25-28 in the nation’s birthplace to participate in four days of caucus gatherings, momentous speeches and the pivotal task of Tuesday’s roll call. Clinton is expected to accept the party’s nomination, which, if elected, will make the former New York Senator and Secretary of State the first woman to be president of the United States of America. Democrats are hoping Clinton will gain momentum to defeat Trump following the convention.

Clinton has selected former Virginia Governor Sen. Tim Kaine as her vice-presidential running mate, and the two will face-off against Republican candidate Donald Trump and Mike Pence in the November 2016 election.

While Sanders has offered Clinton a public endorsement, his supporters continue to exhibit a relentless zeal coined “Feel the Bern.” Both delegates and Sanders’ supporters were incensed by the email scandal that overshadowed the start of the convention.

Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, chair of the DNC, was reprimanded following a public leak of almost 20,000 DNC emails dating from January 2015 to May 2016.

Among the most egregious allegations was language that “bad mouthed” Sanders and negatively influenced the senator’s voter support. Wasserman Schultz has been forced to resign and has no prominent role on the convention stage.

A strong contingency of Sanders’ protesters posed a minimal threat outside Philadelphia’s Wells Fargo Arena, incensed by the leak of the sometimes disparaging emails.

“I want to say something as your vice chair; I sincerely apologize for those of you who took offense or were offended, for those of you who feel betrayed and were betrayed for those ridiculous, insensitive, inappropriate emails that should have never been sent,” offered political analyst Donna Brazile, who serves as the DNC vice chair for civic engagement and voter protection. Brazile has been selected as the DNC interim chair.TandT Percy Johnson Florida Delegate

Florida Delegate for Hillary, Percy Johnson represents the 20th congressional district (Palm Beach County/Broward County). Johnson reverberated emotional responses shared by many delegates.

“I was very disappointed with the whole scandal regarding the emails,” said Johnson. “I feel like Debbie probably needs to go home and take care of her district. She needs to talk to the people in her district and convince them that she deserves to return to congress and save her face,” Johnson added.

Johnson further cited that Wasserman Shultz can regain respect by becoming accountable for inconsistency of the national party with regards to fundraising and supporting new candidates and those who challenge republicans.

“The over-arching theme in this convention is that we are stronger together. Together as one party we will change the nation,” said Johnson. “We will uphold the equality and fairness that this country believes in. For Florida, the most pressing need is the environment. We need clean water, we need air, but we have a governor that seems to not believe in that right now,” he added.

The 20th congressional district is represented by Congressman Alcee Hastings, whose hallmark 2014 election quote was, “I’m not afraid to stand up to anyone when it comes to defending those who need defending, or arguing for policies that are just – whether they have a chance of passing this Republican-dominated congress or not.”

Florida is a pivotal state in the 2016 election and Johnson believes jobs and funding for childcare to enable working families are national priorities. But before any Republican-challenged policies or legislation can be drafted, voting remains a priority.

“Our votes count. South Florida is needed, and to win this election we all have to be counted,” said Johnson. “The only way we are going to be able to win Florida is with Black women from Jacksonville to Miami and a no vote means you are going to deliver the election to Donald Trump. Everyone needs to get registered and participate in the primary election, which is Aug. 30,” added Johnson.

Former NAACP President and Sanders Delegate Ben Jealous offered insights critical to voter perspective.

“Right now, our party is in a cocoon called a convention,” said Jealous. “We came in with two candidates through the primary and emerge united to defeat Donald Trump this fall, so what’s happening right now is that people are working through the [Clinton-Sanders] division.

“Three weeks ago we had a milk-toast platform, but we came together and now we have the most progressive platform in history this weekend…we have a lot of really positive signs that this party is a party for all of us and it’s time for us to get together and fight like hell to beat Donald Trump,” added Jealous.

First Lady Michelle Obama struck a chord among the American viewing audience and in the convention arena where tens of thousands in attendance held high, vertical signs that simply read: “Michelle!”

Obama’s emotive speech has resonated as the evening’s show-stopping presentation. She echoed a litany of personal convictions regarding children’s views of the world including her own two daughters — Malia and Sasha —who she referred to as: “two beautiful, intelligent, Black young women.”

“I want a president with a record of public service. Someone whose life’s work shows our children that we don’t chase fame and fortune for ourselves,” said Obama. “We fight to give everyone a chance to succeed.”

Crucial elements of the speech applauded the candidacy of Clinton, who Obama referred to as “our friend.”

“… Hillary understands that the presidency is about one thing and one thing only. It is about leaving something better for our kids,” shared Obama. “That is how we have always moved the country forward— by all of us coming together on behalf of our children. Volunteering to coach the team, teach the Sunday school class, because they know it takes a village,” she added.

The first lady ended on a poignant note and charge for American voters:

“Between now and November, we need to do what we did eight years ago and four years ago. We need to knock on every door; we need to get out every vote; we need to pour every last ounce of passion into electing Hillary Clinton as president of the United States of America. Let’s get to work …”

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