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Freelance Journalist

CONTACT:  pennydickersonwrites@gmail.com

Penny Dickerson is an independent journalist with a passion for cool people, extraordinary places, and good sushi. Effective Jan. 2, 2020, she is senior staff writer for The Miami Times

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. Continue Reading »

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The Tragic Suicide of Bryce Gowdy

Could Bryce Gowdy have been saved?

The late Bryce Gowdy was a star wide-receiver, Georgia Tech signee and “professed momma’s boy.”

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Read the full edition of The Miami Times www.miamitimesonline.com

 

The bright future of Bryce Gowdy was darkened by his own demise on Monday, Dec.30.

A 17-year-old young man of promise, Bryce committed suicide and left behind remnants of a life wrought with mental health challenges, a family in financial disarray and homelessness.

In the aftermath, reports flourished that a Black male laid down his burdens and body on a Florida railroad track and was struck by an oncoming train. A national outcry reverberated as Bryce was one child too many claimed by systemic neglect.

The latter serves as a backdrop to Bryce being a celebrated wide-receiver poised to join Georgia Tech as a lauded recruit. Now, he will not be a Yellow Jacket at Billy Dodd stadium this season, another South Florida mother mourns a dead son and a community is charged with providing preventive measures to save more youth.Bryce Gowdy

Bryce completed classes early at Deerfield Beach High School to join his future collegiate team. Georgia Tech offered the following statement on the football program’s website:

“Our entire Georgia Tech football family is devastated by the news of Bryce’s passing,” Georgia Tech football head coach Geoff Collins said. “Bryce was an outstanding young man with a very bright future. He was a great friend to many, including many of our current and incoming team members. On behalf of our coaches, players, staff and families, we offer our deepest condolences to Bryce’s mother, Shibbon, and his brothers, Brisai and Brayden, as well as the rest of his family members, his teammates and coaches at Deerfield Beach High School, and his many friends. Bryce and his family will always be a part of the Georgia Tech football family.”

Broward County Public School district is the sixth-largest school in the nation and the second-largest in the state of Florida enrolling nearly 270,000 students. Bryce was one of those thousands and a definitive Black life who mattered. His mother referred to him as a “professed momma’s boy” and sentiments shared by friends on social media refer to him as “handsome with a contagious smile.”

Superintendent Robert W. Runcie and chair of the school board chair Donna Korn released a statement of their own Jan. 2 , days after Bryce’s death. It echoed reports that “Bryce was an outstanding individual in every way – on the football field and in life…”

Deerfield High language arts teacher Tonyshia Fletcher posted the following

Jan. 02:

Dear Brycer,

It has been difficult for me to wrap my head around the fact that you’re gone. I keep replaying our last moments in my mind & it literally breaks my heart. Had I known that it would have been our last conversation I would’ve stayed and talked with you longer.”

A candlelight vigil was held at Deerfield Thursday, Jan. 02. A funeral is scheduled to take place in the school auditorium, Saturday, Jan. 11.

Bryce attended school as a homeless student who intermittently lived in a car with his mother and two siblings. The night of his death they checked into a local hotel. The space and time between their socioeconomic circumstances cast a shadow on whether Broward County Public Schools offered the appropriate services to adequately support Bryce.

Carole Mitchell, district homeless education liaison coordinator for the Homeless Education Assistance Resource Team (HEART), told The Miami Times that the program knew of Bryce.

“Bryce had been identified and registered in our system,” said Mitchell, who deferred further comment to her supervisor, Dr. Laurel Thompson.

HEART SHOULD HELP

Responsibility for HEART includes upholding the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act of 2001, which was amended by the Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015. Federal laws protect the educational rights of students (PreK-12) who have lost housing and are living in transition, a page on Broward School system’s web site reads. “The ultimate goal is to remove barriers that might prevent students experiencing homelessness from enrolling, attending and succeeding in school.”

HEART can provide transportation coordination for students to remain in the last school they attended, access to school supplies and uniform items, free school meals, referrals school social work services, family counseling, medical, dental and mental health referrals.

Family counseling and mental health referrals may have been the most important components to the resource team reaching its “ultimate goal” and removing barriers for Bryce and his mother, Shibbon Winelle. It is unclear if they received such services.

Winelle reportedly said that both she and Bryce were experiencing socioeconomic distress and suffered “demons” and Bryce displayed irrational behavior in his final days. “He was talking about signs and symbols,” said Winelle.

“I been begging for help for months,” said Winelle who refers to herself on social media as “Love Win,” a mother musician and mystic. She is an orchestral level string bassist who was once gainfully employed.

Details of her family’s downward spiral are blurred, and the timeline preceding Bryce’s death is ominous beginning with Winelle’s Facebook posts:

Dec. 29 at 10:49 p.m.:

“This birthday I thought I had everything. My handsome Suns were happy and healthy and my parents and family were a strong part of my life, I had a corporate job paying $50K a year with benefits, great girlfriends, a happy 2 and a half year situationship with a man. This was only 3 birthdays ago…”

The post then morphs to a bleak status:

This year I spent my birthday in my car with my Suns. My youngest is with friends, while my oldest stayed by my side all day and still by my side now tonight while we wait for my middle sun to get off work. No time with friends because no money or gas to waste, no parents or family because a year and a half earlier I addressed childhood traumas that caused a rift between us…”

Winelle reportedly sent Bryce to the car to fetch her favorite blanket. Barefoot and carrying no wallet, he never returned.

By 4 a.m. Monday, Dec. 30, his body was found near train tracks. Tuesday, Broward County medical examiners ruled his death a suicide.

MENTAL HEALTH SOCIAL STIGMA

Kisha N. Bazelais is a psychologist at the Miami-Dade Counseling Center where she is one of a few African-Americans on staff. She encourages Blacks to seek help when their lives start to unravel.

“Barriers to African-Americans receiving counseling exist because of [social] stigmas, even when sought in a private setting,” she said. “I also manage my own private practice, and 70% of my client-base are people of color. Having the same ethnicity as your mental health professional is often what gets people in the door. People relate better to someone who they believe knows their culture, looks like them, and understands systemic issues.”

The example of Winelle’s family illustrates numerous Black families and students who suffer in silence. All do not end in death. More can be saved.

Rosalind Osgood is a Broward County school board member who is taking steps toward bridging communication between students and parents.

“A conversation has to take place in the African-American community. We’re silent about mental health, and it’s beginning to drastically impact our children,” said Osgood. “As a school board member and a community leader, I have to do something to have this conversation start from a community perspective…the adults in the community don’t understand.”

A “Black History Mental Health Symposium” sponsored by The Links, Fort Lauderdale chapter and Broward College will take place at 1:30 p.m. Jan. 18 at Old Dillard Museum, 1019 NW Fourth St., Fort Lauderdale. Latasha Russell, a clinical psychologist, will moderate.

“I have several kids who will be on the panel. A couple have attempted suicide,” said Osgood. “This is gonna begin the discussion.”

Bryce represented an unfortunate suicide trend.

According to data published in the Journal of Pediatrics October 2019, suicide attempts among Black children and teenagers have increased by 73% since 1991. Further, suicide is the second leading cause of death for teenagers in the U.S., but over the period studied, suicide attempts decreased among teens in every ethnic group except for Black Americans.

“This group always reported much higher rates of suicide attempts than any other group except for Native American Alaskan Indians since 1991,” said Sean Joe, a professor of social work at Washington University in St. Louis and one of the study’s authors.

“So now we’re seeing a stronger, significant increase – not only for males but also for Black females … the rise in suicide attempts among Black adolescents is marked by higher levels of hopelessness, increased stigma around mental health issues and lack of access to mental health care,” said Joe.

National Suicide Prevention

Lifeline

1-800-273-8255

 Chat  Official Website

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

 

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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.

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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 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.

CLICK LINK BELOW TO READ FULL STORY

ONYX_JULY-AUG-2018-

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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 

 

frankie beverly

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

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The Status of Homelessness in Florida

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TAKING ON HOMELESSNESS

Filed under EDUCATION, FLORIDA, METRO, NATIONAL

Florida conference sheds light on poverty plight in state, nation

BY PENNY DICKERSON
FLORIDA COURIER

Poverty and homelessness have lathered the Florida landscape with statistics growing at a rate that far surpasses the state’s ability to promote tourism.

During his speech at Stetson University, national homelessness expert Donald Whitehead, right, shows the Emmy he won in 2000.

According to the 2014 annual homeless assessment report, a staggering 31,000 individuals suffer from homelessness in Florida every day. The disturbing figure represents the third largest in the entire country behind California and New York. Continue Reading »

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Poverty and Homelessness Conference at Stetson

Daytona Times

 

 

POVERTY UNDER THE SUN: ADVANCING FLORIDA’S POOR

Filed under DAYTONA BEACH, LEAD STORIES, NEWS

Students open up about their experience with poverty and homelessness at DeLand conference.

Rajni Shankar-Brown moderates a student panel at Stetson University’s Poverty and Homeless Conference. Seated from left are VCS Instructor Gabriela Barros (homeless liaison), Chantial Vasquez, Tiffaney Langhorne, Alexander Greene, Chyina Powell and Bryanna Anderson.(PENNY DICKERSON/DAYTONA TIMES)

BY PENNY DICKERSON
DAYTONA TIMES

151029_dt_front02bBryanna Anderson is an African-American senior enrolled at Mainland High School in Daytona Beach. Amidst tears and fragile nerves, she shared an emotional story this month that chronicles a life of poverty and homelessness. Continue Reading »

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Bishop Vaughn McLaughlin: “Agent of Change”

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Filed under BUSINESS, FLORIDA, METRO, RELIGION 

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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 »

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