Freelance Journalist

CONTACT:  pennydickersonwrites@gmail.com

Penny Dickerson formerly served as a senior staff writer and managing editor of The Miami Times and currently works as an independent journalist. She is passionate about 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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Black-owned businesses remain resilient and strong during crisis

miami times

Three Miami entrepreneurs navigate the COVID-19 crisis                 Penny Dickerson



Shuckin' and Jivin' staff

Ernisha Randolph, center, is owner of Shuckin’ and Jivin’ restaurant in Opa-locka where take-out and delivery help sustain a business.

The Sweet Butter dinner show was scheduled to illuminate the Kovens Conference Center on March 28. Collard greens had been prepped and slow-braised meats were on the menu along with New Orleans and Gullah Geechie-inspired cuisine. The Smash Room Project was tuned up and ready for the second installment of juke joint entertainment presented by Ernisha Randolph, owner of Shuckin’ and Jivin’ restaurant in Opa-locka.

But the coronavirus pandemic emerged and canceled it all.

Randolph had to surrender to a state-operated venue followed by brutal financial blows. Her challenges are shared by small business owners like Ed Haynes, founder/owner of Haynes Security Services, Inc., and Shawna Pointville, CEO of Excel Kids Academy.


Collectively, they are South Florida entrepreneurs who once thrived, but are now challenged due to coronavirus. They suffer dual indemnity as Black-owned businesses are neither prepared to endure nor equipped with the reserves to survive the sudden crisis.

A March 19 survey by Goldman Sachs revealed, that 50% of 1500 small businesses polled said they didn’t think they could continue operating for more than three months amid current conditions caused by the coronavirus outbreak.

These Black-owned business owners told The Miami Times how they’ve combined community resources, innovation, and fortitude to help them navigate the pandemic.


On March 15, Gov. Ron DeSantis issued a state of emergency followed by a succession of mandates hurled furious and fast. The straightforward language reinforced that DeSantis was neither shuckin’ nor jivin’.

The Dept. of Business and Professional Regulation Secretary Halsey Beshears, in coordination with the Florida Department of Health, issued social distancing guidance to restaurants and bars. That order was simultaneously followed by a letter to the federal Small Business Administration to turn on the SBA loan program. The latter could have been a game changer.

But two days later on March 17, DeSantis issued an executive order to mitigate the coronavirus spread. Florida restaurants were required to limit customer entry to 50 percent capacity, stagger seating and keep parties separated by a distance of at least six feet, in accordance with CDC guidelines. They were encouraged to remain open and expand take-out/delivery services.


The restaurant industry had been essentially shut down. Some establishments experienced immediate layoffs; most continue to suffer economic hardship; many have simply closed.

DeSantis signed his latest executive order Monday, March 30, extending the timeline before Southeast Florida could return to normalcy through the “middle of May.” Before the close of business the same day, he recanted saying he, “misspoke.” The shutdown will end on April 15.

“This is getting really real,” responded Randolph who told the Miami Times just two days before on March 28 that she had been able to keep all of her 22 employees on the payroll.

“Our restaurant has always been take-out and in-house delivery increased by 14%, over the weekend. Our walk-up profits decreased by 22% even with us being open on Sunday. People are just staying at home.”

The Miami Times reported on Jan. 29 that Randolph secured a contract to cater NFL tailgate for Super Bowl LIV. Randolph said that revenue “gave her cushion,” but the pandemic poses a fiscal threat.

On Friday, March 28, the president signed a $2 trillion economic relief plan that includes $377 billion in loan assistance through the COVID-19 Relief for Small Businesses Act 2020. The federal government has a duty to prevent any small business from falling through the cracks during this public health emergency.

For small businesses that are denied an Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL), the bill created a new grant program that awards up to $50,000 to small businesses that have between two and 50 employees and can demonstrate losses of at least 50 percent for a minimum of one month due to the outbreak.


“Access to more funding helps, and I have started, but not completed the SBA loan process,” said Randolph. “There are so many required documents, so even with leniency and extended deadlines, accountants are busy. We don’t even have our 2019 tax returns.”

Randolph’s entrepreneurial roots are catering. Her business penchant is ingenuity. She intertwined both to place bids with the city of Miami and Miami-Dade County to secure emergency catering contracts.

“Local municipalities expressed a catering need to prepare meals for Miami’s elderly,” said Randolph who was disappointed to learn Miami-Dade county received an undisclosed amount of “shelf-stable” meals from the state. That generosity adversely affects Black-owned businesses.

“Small percentage rate loans are debt, but when I heard about the catering, I said, now we have an opportunity to make some money and pay staff. But just like that, everything has changed.”



Ed Haynes

Ed Haynes is president of Haynes Security Services, Inc.


Ed Haynes is a retired Marine and law enforcement officer who formerly served security detail for Rep. Frederica S. Wilson’s 24th congressional district. In 2011, he launched Haynes Security Services, Inc., and the business earned $150,000 its first year.

In 2015, Haynes garnered contracts with Miami-Dade County Metrorail and Miami-Dade County Public Schools. The company’s 2020, year-end revenue is expected to surpass $3.4 million.

But the coronavirus is not a respecter of successful persons; Hayne’s business is economically threatened too.

“I have 120 employees and fortunately, no layoffs,” Haynes told The Miami Times on March 28.


“We’ve adjusted hours to help people keep the income. I have 24 security guards employed at 24 closed public schools, so we repurposed those positions. Our school maintenance and transportation staff continue to work during the shutdown.”

“Staff morale is a bit low because there is uncertainty about company viability,” said Haynes. “If we lose a contract, will they have jobs? They are also concerned about the risk of working in public.”

The pandemic’s greatest impact on Hayne’s has been employees needing to leave work to care for children home from school and daycare. Current law requires employers to pay exempt employees 12 weeks of wages.

“There’s no way I could afford to lose an employee, pay an extra salary to replace them, and pay lost wages too. That’s two salaries,” said Haynes.

Rep. Wilson invited business owners, including Haynes, to speak during the COVID-19 bill drafting process. Their contributions added language in the best interest of business owners.

“No small business owner can afford to wait three months for government reimbursement for lost wages,” said Haynes.


Excel Academy

Excel Kids Academy in Miami Gardens shut down Friday, March 27 to avoid liability-related social distancing mandates.


When The Miami Times first talked to Shawna Pointville on March 19, the Miami Gardens nonprofit business owner had just received emergency funding from The Children’s Trust. The provisions allowed her to meet childcare needs for 1st responders and essential workers.

On Friday, March 27, Pointville shut down Excel Kids Academy under the advisement of attorneys.

“Staff became worried about their safety and a liability of an outbreak in a school would not be good for business,” Pointville told The Miami Times on March 28.

“We were sustainable when the pandemic hit, but social distancing mandates limiting contact to ten people per room, six feet apart, made it difficult. With school-aged kids it was doable, but with babies and toddlers, all day from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.? That was impossible.”

Pointville employs 32 women who claim head-of-household status and two men, one of which is her husband Fito Pointville. The academy serves 160 children enrolled in grades K-5, after-school care and pre-school. During the pandemic lockdown, only 50 showed up.

“The Children’s Trust will continue to help. We will be able to reimburse government subsidized clients and maintain a sustainable contract,” said Pointville. “When we re-open, we will be able to pay light, phone, mortgage and some staff wages.”

Pointville said she will re-evaluate when to re-open by April 15 and hopes to maintain at least one emergency classroom for firefighters.

“Parents said they have to take a different driving route in the morning because the kids cry when they see their school,” Pointville shared. “We are a community landmark and have been a safe space for parents and students for 13 years.

Managing Editor

Penny Dickerson is a journalist joining The Miami Times following an Africa sojourn and 10-year freelance career in newspaper and magazine. She earned her master of fine arts degree in creative writing from Lesley University, and her bachelor of arts degree in journalism from Temple University.



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South Florida airports receive $340 million for COVID-19 relief


The CARES Act provides emergency relief funding

Penny Dickerson

Miami airport

Miami International Airport officials will use the grant to support the airport’s ongoing facilitation of essential travel and trade, and to prepare the global gateway to resume full operations as one of America’s leading passenger and cargo hubs.

The aviation industry contributes $1.7 trillion into U.S. economic activity and more than 10 million in U.S. jobs. More than 2.4 million passengers engage flights to 800 destinations in 80 countries and more than 58,000 tons of cargo is transported daily. Those collective statistics provided by aviation.org were impressive until the gravity of the COVID-19 pandemic grounded aviation.
In the immediate aftermath, major airlines continue to lose profits, industry unemployment has soared, some planes are flying with mostly empty seats and smaller carriers have halted operations altogether.

Emergency measures to restore industry viability were expeditiously taken, and the CARES Act was signed on March 27 which allocated $10 billion in emergency aviation relief funding.

The Federal Aviation Administration followed with an announcement that nearly $1 billion of those relief funds will be distributed to airports located within the state of Florida, and Congresswoman Frederica S. Wilson has ensured that more than $340M will be distributed to South Florida airports in her 24th congressional district.image-6

“I am pleased that seven local airports will receive financial assistance to help make up for lost revenue and to continue operations that have been disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Congresswoman Wilson, who sits on the House transportation and infrastructure committee.

“Miami is a popular tourist destination and the aviation industry is critical to our local economy. Ensuring that our airports have the funding to continue operating and preserve jobs is imperative.”

Miami International Airport was awarded $207 million in funding, making MIA the largest grant recipient among all airports in Florida. MIA officials will use the grant to support the airport’s ongoing facilitation of essential travel and trade and to prepare the global gateway to resume full operations as one of America’s leading passenger and cargo hubs.


“We are extremely pleased with the $207 million in relief funding for MIA,” said Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos A. Gimenez. “I appreciate the federal government for recognizing MIA’s critical role as the busiest international gateway in Florida and the third busiest in the nation. This aid will certainly help our County’s largest economic engine, which supports one out of every five jobs locally, make a speedier return to normal operations after the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic subside.”

Gimenez recently came to the defense of MIA when City of Miami Mayor Francis Suarez petitioned President Trump in a letter that asked for, “a ban on flights coming into MIA from international and domestic coronavirus hot spots.”

image-7Suarez, who tested positive for COVID-19 in March, was making an effort to mitigate the widespread coronavirus. Suarez has since recovered from the virus and received negative test results. In response, Gimenez issued the following in a report to Local 10 news:

“MIA is Miami-Dade County and our airport director has already written a letter to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and probably to The White House itself saying please disregard the letter. MIA and the flights in and out of MIA are vital to Miami-Dade County. MIA is one of the few pharmacy centers, pharm hubs, in the world, a lot of medicines fly in the bellies of those passenger airliners,” Gimenez said.

According to the Federal Aviation Administration, the CARES Act funding will support continuing operations and replace lost revenue resulting from the sharp decline in passenger traffic and other airport business due to the COVID-19 public health emergency. The funds are available for airport capital expenditures, airport operating expenses including payroll and utilities, and airport debt payments.

“The CARES Act funding, coupled with the financial relief plan approved by the Board of County Commissioners this month for our airport business partners, provides much-needed support for MIA to continue serving as the leading economic engine for our community,” said Lester Sola, MIA CEO and director.image-8

“As we maintain our passenger and cargo operations and prepare for travel demand to return, these monies will aid us in developing new protocols and facility renovations designed to enhance the travel experience and improve employee safety.”

The complete list of airports in District 24 receiving funding under the CARES Act are:

Miami-Opa Locka Executive Airport $157,000; Hollywood North Perry Airport $69,000; Miami International Airport $206,949,557; Miami Seaplane Base $20,000; Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport $157,000 ; Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood International Airport $134,958,902 ; Miami Executive Airport $69,000.

For more information about MIA’s response to COVID-19, visit MIA’s website.

Managing Editor

Penny Dickerson is a journalist joining The Miami Times following an Africa sojourn and 10-year freelance career in newspaper and magazine. She earned her master of fine arts in creative writing from Lesley University and bachelor of arts in Journalism from Temple University.

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


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


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 theyenjoyed lucrative careers.

They are powerhouse philanthropists boasting contributions to the nation’s HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) that surpass $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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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

florida courier

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

Penny Dickerson 2015

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 Dolphins Multi-Million Dollar Meal Partnership

miami times

Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross funds Miami Gardens Food Relief Program.

Penny Dickerson


Miami Dolphins
The Miami Dolphins

On Sundays, the Dolphins will partner with the faith-based community including area churches, local leadership, and community groups to purchase food from local restaurants to provide a minimum of 1,000 meals each Sunday that will be distributed to those dealing with food insecurity.

Ross and the organization will invest $2 million in the Miami Dolphins Foundation Food Relief Program and will campaign to raise an additional $1 million by matching all dollars raised by the South Florida community and Miami Dolphins fans worldwide for a potential $4 million total impact.

The economic toll of the COVID-19 pandemic created a food crisis that spared no socioeconomic class level. From unemployment to the sudden transition of households with children home from school during the day and the emergent needs of Miami-Dade County’s elderly and most vulnerable population, everyone was financially affected. For many, pride morphed into humility and forced them to pursue drive-thru, food giveaways. Now, the Food Relief program will offer a free, nutritious meal.

“I commend the Miami Dolphins Foundation, owner Stephen Ross and CEO Tom Garfinkel for their commitment to the residents of our community,” said Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos A. Gimenez. “They have set a high standard for others to follow as we all work together to provide food and jobs for those hit hardest by this pandemic.”

COVID-19 forced stadiums across the nation to go dark. Most fans mourned the loss of the NCAA tournament or their favorite sports season, but numerous major events across the country like Hard Rock Stadium’s Jazz in the Gardens were also canceled. As a result, thousands of hourly wage workers, some of whom were career employees, were left unable to pay rent or provide for their families without having health insurance or paid sick leave.

When the NBA suspended its season in March, Golden State Warriors general manager Bob Myers told USA Today, “We feel for the workers, mostly, the low-income wage earners that count on working our games. If you’re going to have empathy, have it for them, not for us.”

The Food Relief program will generate jobs and revenue for the local restaurant industry while employing guest services and security staff at the stadium that have been idled as a result of COVID-19-related event cancellations.

“We are committed to combating food insecurity and helping to provide consistent employment as the first step in rebuilding our community, starting in Miami Gardens,” said Ross. “We are thankful for the strength that our community has shown through this pandemic and it’s our hope that this program will inspire others to give.”

The Miami Dolphins Foundation Food Relief Program expands the Miami Dolphins’ efforts to combat food insecurity in South Florida. In March, the organization gave $500,000 to help meet the critical needs of the elderly and youth in the community. These funds were used to support school meal programs for Broward County Public Schools and Miami-Dade County Public Schools, relief efforts led by churches in Miami Gardens, and to bolster programs from Feeding South Florida to provide access to food for underserved populations in the area.

The Miami Times reported on April 22 that Ross also funded a $250,000 grant along with the Miami Dolphins Foundations that enabled four Miami Dolphins alumni and restauranteurs, including the late legendary coach Don Shula, to provide breakfast, lunch, and dinner options to those most at-risk. They included John Offerdahl, Offerdahl’s Off-The-Grill; Kim Bokamper, Bokamper’s Sports Bar & Grill; Bob Brudzinski, Bru’s Room Sports Grill. Over a three-week period, the restaurants delivered 35,440 meals and Pepsi provided 65,644 bottles of Bolt24.

The aforementioned Miami Dolphin team stars are all engaged in the food service industry and collectively teamed up to provide free meals to vulnerable populations severely impacted by the COVID-19 crisis, all while helping to keep workers from their restaurants employed and on the payroll. One month later, that need continues.

“Unemployment is growing and a lot of people are suffering and need help,” said vice chairman and CEO Tom Garfinkel. “It was important for us to start at home and help the most vulnerable in our community with a long-term commitment; not just a one-time event.”

In addition, Dolphins and Truist as part of its Truist Cares initiative partnered to support local small business and provide meals to the South Florida community as a result of the global COVID-19 pandemic. More than 2,700 pre-packaged meals were prepared by local food trucks and delivered to Miami Dolphins FOOTBALL UNITES™ community partners over a six-week period.

Mayor Oliver Gilbert welcomes the Food Relief initiative to his community as one more step in a positive direction toward a return to normalcy and economic restoration amid the pandemic.

“Given the uncertainty of this crisis, all hands should be on deck, and all available resources tapped,” said Miami Gardens Mayor Oliver Gilbert. “The Miami Dolphins organization is stepping up and providing needed support for our residents as we continue to fight against COVID-19.”

Individuals and businesses that wish to participate in the matching gift program can donate online at dolphins.com/meals. All gifts are tax-deductible with 100 percent of the funds raised directly benefiting food relief.

All donors who contribute over $50 will receive a special Miami Dolphins FOOTBALL UNITES™ gift from Ross and Garfinkel to show appreciation of participants in this matching gift campaign.

Managing Editor

Penny Dickerson is a journalist joining The Miami Times following an Africa sojourn and 10-year freelance career in newspaper and magazine. She earned her MFA in creative writing from Lesley University, and B.A. in Journalism from Temple University.

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