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).
Passionate 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. Continue Reading »
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.
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?
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.
Bishop Vaughn McLaughlin of The Potter’s House International Ministries in Jacksonville continues to serve parishioners and patrons through the church’s thriving mall and academy.
BY PENNY DICKERSON
SPECIAL TO THE COURIER
Bishop Vaughn McLaughlin keeps it real. He is the founder and senior pastor of The Potter’s House International Ministries and approaches evangelism with a Bible-based, down-to-earth approach.
A people-person who welcomes smart phones in the pulpit to capture baptismal moments, he is an ad-hoc comic with a servant’s heart. Moreover, he is an agent of change focused on economic empowerment – a multimillion-dollar community epicenter is his testament. Continue Reading »
THESE FLORIDA HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS ARE REPRESENTING THEIR GENERATION AT ITS BEST.
BY PENNY DICKERSON SPECIAL TO THE FLORIDA COURIER
Meet Generation Z, the newest installment of innovative young adults to populate the earth. They were born in 1995 and onward, and unlike their Gen X and Y predecessors, who were reputed to be narcissistic and less concerned about civic engagement, Gen Z’ers are characterized as technology savants who insatiate online research.
They are dynamic entrepreneurs labeled culture creators and they are high achievers who dream. The latter is personified by 12 Florida students who attended the Disney Dreamers Academy with Steve Harvey and Essence held March 21-24 in Lake Buena Vista.
The program focuses on career immersion and inspired 100 students nationwide to discover new opportunities.
Here are some Floridian stories that demonstrate how Generation Z is changing the world.
Julia Shepherd has never earned a grade of B. The 16-year-old is a straight A, Apopka High School student who takes advanced placement (AP) courses at Valencia Community College.
Boasting a 5.4-grade point average, she is on target to graduate as valedictorian of her class. Admittedly ambitious, Shepherd aspires to earn the Gold Award in Girl Scouts, an organization she’s been actively involved since age 10 and sees Eagle Scout within reach now that girls too can be scouts. But most impressive is her selfless contributions to the Lupus Foundation of America.
“My aunt Laura passed away from lupus when I was 5,” shared Shepherd. “I was too young to understand everything but committed myself to being involved when I got older.”
Shepherd founded Lupus Outloud, a nonprofit organization that has raised $1,000 annually for the past six years to benefit “Walk to End Lupus Now” held in Tampa. She also is writing a children’s book about lupus.
“I have a passion to help people and want a career where I can do that,’’ Shepherd said.
VAST LEADERSHIP EXPERIENCE
Anthony Taylor is a Miami-based servant leader who volunteers for area homeless events and foster care.
The latter can be deemed lightweight for a young man whose leadership spectrum further includes being senior class president, teen president of the Miami chapter of Jack and Jill of America, National Honor Society, Key Club, debate team and a pre-college STEAM program. Impressed yet?
“Leadership is not always about giving direction,” Taylor said. “You have to be able to understand, listen, and give objective advice so that everyone accomplishes goals.”
Taylor is a 17-year-old, dual-enrolled student at Young Men’s Preparatory Academy and Miami-Dade Community College (Wolfson campus).
Angela Taylor attributes the following to her only child’s success: “Being consistent and parentally involved has made a difference,” she said. “I followed through when required and exposed him to the world including a trip to Spain. He also attended private school grades 6 through 9 at Miami Country Day.’’
A student-athlete who plays on the varsity basketball team, the teen said he’s glad his mother both believes in and encourages him.
“I know that I will attend an HBCU, major in engineering and fulfill my dreams,” said Taylor. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
Gabrielle Wright is African-American. She’s also Native American, White, Greek and claims a hint of German. With a 4.5 GPA, her dream to attend New York University and become an actress will likely come true.
A freshman at Circle Christian in Orlando, Wright enjoys pageantry, dance, acting, singing and karate. She’s an ordinary girl who just happens to be executive director of her own charitable nonprofit organization – A Birthday Party Wish.
“Imagine if you were 8 years old, homeless, and never had a birthday party,” posed Wright. “I started my nonprofit with my brother Johnny to change that.”
According to the organization’s website, “a Birthday Party wish allows a child to pick a party location, cake theme and flavor, choose their birthday gifts, and invite friends and family.”
“My passion in life is to bring happiness to others,” said Wright.
SCHOOL, WORK, TRAVEL
With ease and a smile, Jalen Sanders wakes up thankful every morning and ventures to Madison High School and North Florida Community College where the 17-year-old senior is dual-enrolled. When classes end, Sanders’ day doesn’t. He heads to either Taco Bell where he works part-time or a community center to mentor elementary students. Sanders is no stranger to hard work.
“My mom died when I was 4 years old and me and my twin sister were raised with love by our father and relatives,” explained Sanders, who said his father and grandfather are loggers who deliver pine trees to the local mill.
Sanders experienced Disney World for the first time this year at the Disney Dreamers Academy and previously enjoyed his first plane ride as a select student attendee to the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) in Washington, D.C.
More travel is on Sanders’ radar along with attending Florida A&M University in the fall where he will major in education.
“I strive to do my best every day so that my future will be bright,” Sanders noted.
CAPTAIN NOW, DOCTOR LATER
One day she hopes to be called Dr. Grace Allen, but for now, the 17-year-old high school senior remains busy as director of photography for Orlando’s Lake Highland Preparatory School where she is also captain of the nationally ranked varsity volleyball team.
Allen has been accepted to Harvard University and will also play on the Ivy League’s Division I team.
“I hope to pursue a career in neurology and help facilitate the introduction of technology into modern medicine,” said Allen, who plans to work at both Barnes and Noble Bookstore and Starbucks this summer to earn extra cash.
“I believe success comes to those who chase it, and I am not one to shy away from challenges,” Allen shared.
One Disney Dreamer was gifted a unique name by her native West Africa, Sierra Leone parents. Her mother is Mina Sylvia and Brian is her father. The merging of the names belongs to Bransyl Boston, a 17-year-old senior attending Middleburg High School. She’s a math fanatic who has been accepted to the University of South Florida.
“I chose USF because they have a great med school and offered me an excellent financial aide package,” said Boston, who added that she loves math because it is easy to comprehend and has one final answer.”
Boston is immersed in extracurricular activities, including Family, Career, and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA), Spanish club, and her senior class committee. Despite an aptitude for math, her dream is to become a physical therapist.
“I want to help people who’ve had surgery on the road to recovery,” said Boston.
She added, “I’d like to become an international travel physical therapist, so I can help people around the world.”
It’s taken me a minute to upload my feature on King Street Studios which was featured in the July/August issue of Arbus Magazine – Northeast Florida’s Arts and Business Magazine.
I interviewed Shannon Reeves back in 2009 for the Florida Times-Union when she was still a proprietor in Historic Five Points. Relationship(s) matter, and I strive to develop those that stand the test of time. It was a pleasure to catch up with the eclectic and talented Shannon who is now a bona fide married chick and a mama too.
As always, the women in business, artists in non-traditional settings, and the cultural community (period!) are generally underrepresented by the mainstream press. I don’t specifically declare the latter as my literary mission, but I absolutely embrace it as a passion.
Click the link below to view and read the article via an archived digital copy of arbus magazine!
If by chance you have not caught wind of or visited first hand one of Florida’s finest establishments, allow me to introduce you. “The Enzian Theatre,” indulges adults via cinematic cool, an on-site-upscale “Eden Bar” and gourmet food that makes popcorn seem soooooo yesterday, read my feature on the 30th Anniversary of ENZIAN and the 2015 Florida Film Festival just published in the March/April 2015 issue of Orlando Arts Magazine.
Kudos to Angela Robinson for serving as a master-example of how a girl with a dream can become a woman boasting stardom. She is a Jacksonville-native and graduate of William M. Raines High School who has journeyed a route to be admired and an apt lesson for all who dare to dream and are confronted with the “fear of failure.”
What knows Angela Robinson of failure? Nothing. Disappointments? Yes, but she has persevered and shares with readers how they, too, can do the same.
Click the Link below to read: Angela Robinson, “Jacksonville’s OWN Star!”
Beyond her natural beauty is an admirable narrative that takes readers from the halls of her high school years to the Broadway stage. Now, she’s a leading television actress on Oprah Winfrey’s OWN Network in Tyler Perry’s first scripted drama, “The Haves and The Have Nots.”
Click the Link below to read: Angela Robinson, “Jacksonville’s OWN Star!”