Murders over Money: Bethune Cookman Tragedy

Miami Times Front PageMurders over money

Tragedy leaves gunman, two Bethune-Cookman students dead

Penny Dickerson | 9/23/2015, 2 p.m.
Tragedy leaves gunman, two Bethune-Cookman students dead

“Murders Over Money” Miami Times Online

DAYTONA BEACH — Money meant everything to York Zed Bodden. Human life meant nothing.

The convicted felon from Miami had dollar signs etched on his chest when Florida Department of Law Enforcement officers arrested him on Friday. He was the sole suspect in the murder of two Bethune-Cookman University students and attempted murder of a third. Bodden was also the rogue wheel in the trio’s roommate set-up. They offered him $200 to leave. But that wasn’t enough—Bodden insisted on $400.

Following a domestic dispute that morphed into a violent fist fight, the 27-year-old felon left the Carolina Club apartment in Daytona Beach and retrieved what police believed was a 9mm or .380 mini-revolver. Within minutes, he returned to the scene and shot in the head Timesha “A’lisa” Carswell, 21, and Diona McDonald, 19. Both were struck at point blank range. He then pumped six bullets into the face and jugular vein of Michael Parham , their 21-year-old male roommate who remains critically injured and clings to life.

Bodden fled the crime-scene and managed to evade a statewide manhunt. At 1 p.m. on Friday, Federal law enforcement agents arrested him at a North Miami apartment. The next day, his short-lived life ended. Prisoner #150020036 was found hanging in the K-28 section of the Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center in Miami-Dade.

The three shooting victims were music majors from Michigan. McDonald is a Detroit native and Carswell and Parham are from the neighboring town of Inkster. Carswell was dating Bodden who authorities confirmed had been living with a Daytona Beach State College student just one week earlier. A criminal motivated by money, Bodden’s victims lived honorable lives that were the polar opposite:

“There were no signs of drugs or (drug) money anywhere in the house or in the student’s cars,” Chief Michael Chitwood of the City of Daytona Beach Police told the Miami Times. “Every one of those students were good young men and good young women who’ve never been in trouble with the law. They were good students and well respected at Cookman, so that’s what makes this really difficult. These are kids that had a brilliant future. These are kids that would be the future of what America is all about,” he added.


The bedrock of communication is rooted in conflict-resolution, but for college roommates who realize, “things weren’t working out,” even a voice of reason may not be enough to intervene.

“Micah and Timesha felt it wasn’t going to be pretty when they asked him [Bodden] to move out, so they asked their classmate Sidney Washington of Oklahoma if he could come over and lend some support,” said Chitwood.

“And they were right. When they asked him to leave, a big fight erupts between Micah and our shooter. It got so violent that Mr. Washington armed himself with a knife and you can see in the back room that somebody got shoved through the wall because all the sheet rock was busted, so it was a physical fist fight first.”

 A conciliatory agreement ended the brawl and Bodden went as far as to shake hands with both men. But none of the students could have been prepared for the fatal events that followed when Bodden returned. And police were not prepared to discover a crime scene that revealed how the students ran for their lives.

One female victim was found dead at a closet entrance. The other was on a bedroom floor. Parham was  initially shot in a closet, but made his way to the kitchen floor. Washington initially tried to overtake the shooter, but ultimately dodged death by jumping through a first-floor window. He escaped harm.

FELONS WITH GUNSBCU Campus from Bethune Blvd

The tragedy took place off-campus and almost five miles away from Bethune-Cookman. The university is an institutional jewel that is rich in Southern heritage and seeks to develop students who enter to learn and depart to serve. Carsell and McDonald both departed before their time and at the hands of a felon who never should have been in possession of a gun.

These brutal murders mark the ninth gun-related crime at Bethune-Cookman in the past seven months. Previously, nine students were wounded—this time two students and a shooter are dead. Amplified is Florida’s existence as a fledging “Gunshine state” that continues to search for law enforcement and criminal justice solutions to curb gun-related crimes.

“How do you stop somebody, especially in our society that is so pro-gun everything? You can’t stop ‘em from getting a gun. Especially here in Daytona Beach,” said Chief Chitwood. “All you gotta do is drive into a parking lot and see an F-150 flying the rebel flag and you can rest assure there’s a gun in there. He’s got his bumper sticker screaming ‘I love the NRA’ and ‘Long live the second amendment,’ and that’s what the bad guys break into. They get guns that way.”


York Bodden

York Bodden may have died in a damp county jail, but he left a legacy of felony arrests and convictions that began eight years ago and continued in three-year increments.

• 10/26/2007 False Imprisonment.

• 10/26/2007 Felony Battery

• 04/16/2010 Burglary of an occupied dwelling

• 04/16/2010 Burglary of an unoccupied structure

• 09/17/2015 Capital Murder in the first-degree and aggravated assault.

• 09/19/2015 Felony Suicide

Had he not hung himself, Chitwood’s recommendation would have been life in prison.

“Part of me is a death penalty advocate and part of me isn’t. He should (have) sat in that jail cell and rot the rest of his life away thinking of what he did to those families,” said Chitwood. “Whatever it was to be, his days of being free and able to hurt anyone else should be done….life in prison may even be too good.”

At press time, the Miami Times was unable to contact Bodden’s next of kin for comment.

Meanwhile Walter Clark, president and CEO of Special Consultant for African-American Government Employees (SCAAGE), is questioning why an inmate in transit ended up dying in police custody.

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King Street Studios featuring Shannon Reeves

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!


Arbus Cover

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ENZIAN Theatre & Florida Film Festival 2015


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.

 Click link to read Penny Dickerson’s feature.

OAM M-A 15 Feature-FFF

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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.




Exploring Kongo Art & Culture (Harn Museum)


[AFRICAN CONNECTION] Kongo Across the Waters

Penny Dickerson explores the Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art’s  celebration of the Kongo Kingdom

Click here to read link to Ebony.com:
Ndunga MaskThe global perception of Africa is  often lathered with stunning scenery from the Serengeti and the symbolic pride  of former South African president Nelson Mandela. Indeed, the second  largest continent in the world is an amazing conglomerate of regions—a resource  for wealth and a tourist magnet for its sprawling beauty. But beyond the  beatitudes are historic war atrocities, an AIDS epidemic, gross famine and  shameful middle passage origins. If respectable balance exists, it’s the uplift  and celebration of the rich culture Africans have contributed to  humanity. Among them are archived remains which confirm the relevance of a  powerful kingdom called Kongo.

Kongo Across the Waters is a groundbreaking art exhibit that opened  October 22 at the Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art (at the University of  Florida—Gainesville). The vast installation invites a national audience to tour  distinct, artistic aspects of Africa for free. With an emphasis on West Central  Africa, more than 160 maps, artifacts, sculptures and contemporary works  comprise an impressive collection spanning 500 years that is educational in  approach, yet culturally appreciative through creative layout and  design.

“At its height, the Kongo Kingdom occupied a pivotal  position—geographically, geopolitically and culturally—in the continent’s early  interaction with Western colonial powers, creating a legacy that can still be  felt today in the Diaspora communities of the American Southeast,” offered Susan  Cooksey, curator of African art at the Harn. “We’re especially pleased to  include in this exhibition several artifacts from the Kongo Diaspora that have  rarely been seen in a museum setting.”

Kongo 2

The Royal Museum for Central Africa (RMCA) in Tervuren, Belgium co-organized  the unique collaboration with the Harn museum, which was inspired by numerous  directors, curators and scholars who have invested decades of study in African  Art. Serendipity merged initial meetings between Guido Gryseels, the  director of RMCA, and David Sammons, dean of the University of Florida  International Center. Perhaps yards away on the same campus, Cooksey and  colleague Dr. Robin Poynor, professor of art history, were in the midst of  ongoing discussions to develop an exhibition dedicated solely to the Kongo. All  great minds eventually met and Harn Museum director Rebecca Nagy unequivocally  endorsed the genesis of Kongo Across the Waters.


According to Dr. Poynor, who has authored numerous books on  African art, the Kongo kingdom was chosen for the exhibit for a number of  reasons. “They have exquisite art, they were one of the early kingdoms  known throughout Europe, and the Kongos were involved in the early slave trade,  so there were a great number of Kongos who not only sent slaves out but came as  slaves,” Poynor explained. “An underlying foundation for African-American  culture is Kongo culture.”

The task of compiling a “visitor-friendly” exhibition void of complexity  could have been daunting for the team; however, innovation, accurate timelines  and a commitment to dignify and uphold the ancestral heritage, philosophies and  preserved Kongo identity served as formidable guidelines for success.Bedia-Sarabanda_CP

Thematically divided into five distinct sections, Kongo  Across the Waters begins with 1598 European maps of the “Congo” depicting  the Kongo Kingdom as a separately established territory from the town of Mbanza  Kongo, located south of the Congo River. The Kongo kingdom was in place prior to  European arrival in 1483, but when the kingdom actually began remains  debatable.

First and foremost the exhibit is about the Kongo people—their lives,  customs, and culture. Kongo nobility and elitism is evidentiary as they  exchanged prestigious gifts with Europeans, which illustrates the Kongolese were  intellectual and savvy traders who later evolved as artists that recognized  their masterpieces were valuable commerce. An array of antiquated wood, copper,  brass and metal crucifix symbols and Saint Anthony figures substantiates that  Christianity conversion and religious zeal served powerful roles in Kongo  culture.Nkisi

Museum walls painted in earthen-tone hues separate each  exhibit section, further complemented by larger than life murals to create a  powerful visual aesthetic. While most of the authentic arts and artifacts are on  loan from Belgium’s RMCA, Kongo culture travels across the water that brought  African-Americans like cargo to the United States in 1619 during the slave trade  in a section II segue.

Recent excavations reveal startling archaeology discoveries exposing  cultural treasures, ranging from a jeweled rosary with two medals and a  conjurer’s cache of stone, pins and quart found in the Charles Carroll house  excavation in Annapolis, Maryland. The latter is believed to be the personal  hidings of an enslaved woman. Colonoware pottery from the Dean Hall plantation  in South Carolina and Ft. Mose in Florida are also on view.

Culture and custom merge in sections III and IV, as the  exhibit visually crosses the water and returns to the Kongo kingdom, where rites  and rituals are explored in the examples of iron and vegetal fiber double bell, ngongi, and wood carved whistles. A Voudou (voodoo) Medicine  Packet from the History Miami Museum resonates the role of early Haitian  spiritual beliefs.

Huge Nkisi

Hanging displays of massive raffia mats and stunning textiles used to lay  upon graves and numerous “anthropomorphic power figures” known as nkisi reinforce that Africans believed in the preservation of life through  healing, embraced high regard for the existence of spirits, and gave eternal  honor to the dead.

Remarkable is the selection of contemporary art submitted by  a culturally diverse quintet of artists, which brings the five-century Kongo  journey millennium-forward. Among the standouts is a mixed-media collage by  Radcliffe Bailey. The framed “medicine cabinet” traces his own identity and  roots, including his DNA sequence to slave ships, Marcus Garvey and more.RB08%20001%20Returnal%20HR_CP

An interactive music platform includes sound sticks and earphones that allow  patrons to experience five separate tracks of traditional Kongo music, while a  commissioned video produced by a Louisiana trio (Royce Osborn, Freddie Evans  Williams and Luther Gray) combines the folkways and emerged customs from gospel  to hambone to juba and jazz.

From coiled baskets and bowls, pots topped by human figures,  face vessels from the Smithsonian National Museum of American History and an  extraordinaire 20th century memory jar, Kongo Across the Waters gives honor to a  delicately restored and preserved cultural heritage African-Americans perhaps  unknowingly retain to this day.Kongo 5

Kongo Across the Waters will remain in Gainesville, Florida until  March 23, 2014.


Read more at EBONY http://www.ebony.com/photos/life/african-connection-kongo-across-the-waters-999#ixzz2l0x5AAYq Follow us: @EbonyMag on Twitter | EbonyMag on Facebook












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Orlando Signature Magazine: Thornton Park

20160605_183608-1 (1)Quaint downtown Orlando neighborhood Thornton Park offers walking, shopping, dining pleasures

Thorton Park: The Soul of Downtown

By Penny Dickerson

Thornton Park is one of downtown Orlando’s quintessential historic neighborhoods and currently reigns as the epicenter for all things hip. The upscale district, tucked east of Lake Eola Heights and centered on Lake Lawsona along Thornton Avenue, defies suburban clichés. This is one community where you can surprisingly walk just about everywhere, including to your office and local supermarket — unlike the burbs where driving is almost impossible to avoid.

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