Friday, 27 May 2011

African Americans:Low Vitamin D Levels Seen as Multiple Sclerosis Risk

Major study exploring the connection between vitamin D and multiple sclerosis in African Americans, a team of scientists at the University of California, San Francisco has discovered that vitamin D levels in the blood are lower in African Americans who have the disease, compared to African Americans who do not.

UCSF Multiple Sclerosis Center, director of the UCSF Neurodiagnostics Center and the senior author on the study. “Low vitamin D levels are a risk factor for developing multiple sclerosis.”

Published this week in the journal Neurology, the results of the study are consistent with observations in Caucasian populations that link low vitamin D levels to having multiple sclerosis. However, the research could not explain why multiple sclerosis tends to be more severe in African Americans even though the disease is less common than in Caucasian populations.

Earlier work by the same UCSF team established that African Americans tend to become disabled faster with multiple sclerosis, more frequently having to rely on canes and wheel chairs.

“If we can understand why, we may be able to improve treatment for those patients,” said neurologist Bruce Cree, MD, PhD, another author of the paper and one of the primary investigators.

Vitamin D levels alone could not account for this apparent difference in severity, the study found.

Previous studies have shown a dramatic link between vitamin D levels and multiple sclerosis – but only in Caucasian populations. Caucasians who live in tropical or subtropical climates are less likely to be diagnosed with multiple sclerosis than those who live in temperate climates. The prevalence of the disease in North Dakota, for instance, is approximately twice that in Florida.

These same questions have been harder to assess in African American populations, however, because the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency is extremely high among all African Americans.

For the last 10 years, Cree and colleagues at UCSF have created a nationwide network of U.S. clinics that treat large numbers of African Americans with the disease. It includes roughly 6 percent of all African Americans who have multiple sclerosis and live in the United States.

This large cohort of African Americans with multiple sclerosis allowed them to compare 339 African Americans with multiple sclerosis to those of a group of 342 African Americans who did not have the disease. Though vitamin D deficiency was very high among both groups, those who had multiple sclerosis were more likely to be vitamin D deficient – 77 percent as opposed to 71 percent.

The article “Vitamin D in African Americans with multiple sclerosis” is authored by Jeffrey M. Gelfand,Bruce A. C. Cree, Joseph McElroy, Jorge Oksenberg, Ralph Green, Ellen M. Mowry, Joshua W. Miller, Stephen L. Hauser and Ari J. Green.

The study was supported by the American Academy of Neurology Foundation/National Multiple Sclerosis Society Clinician-Scientist Development Award, the National Institutes of Health, the National Multiple Sclerosis Society and a University of California-San Francisco Resident Research grant. The work was completed in collaboration with Drs. Ralph Green and Josh Miller of the University of California, Davis Department of Pathology.

UCSF is a leading university dedicated to promoting health worldwide through advanced biomedical research, graduate-level education in the life sciences and health professions, and excellence in patient care.

Ethnic Gap, in Stroke Care

African Americans and Hispanic/Latinos are at a higher risk for strokes, because their lifestyles are a contributing factor, which makes them accessible to strokes. One out of every two African American has high blood pressure, and a large percentage is overweight, because they do not exercise. These problems coupled with the use of tobacco, drugs, alcohol, diabetes, not keeping up with physicals and doctor visits puts them in a dangerous position.

African American men are the first to get sick and the first to die. Eigthy percent of strokes are preventable if more Americans understood the risk factors and the warning signs when someone was having a stroke. If Americans could remember the word F.A.S.T., more individuals having strokes could be saved.

Stroke is more likely if you have risk factors including high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, smoking, obesity, and a history of peripheral artery disease (PAD), carotid artery disease, or certain types of heart disease.

Several of those risk factors are more common in minority groups than among whites.

For instance, the AHA notes that high blood pressure and diabetes are more common among African-Americans than among whites, and that diabetes is even more common among Hispanics.

American Indian and Alaskan Natives are more likely than whites to have at least two risk factors for stroke.

Stroke Gap

The authors of the AHA statement analyzed racial and ethnic disparities in a large body of current scientific literature. And they found differences at every turn.

“We see disparities in every aspect of stroke care, from lack of awareness of stroke risk factors, and symptoms to delayed arrival to the emergency room and increased waiting time,” Salvador Cruz-Flores, MD, MPH, of St. Louis University, says in a news release. “These disparities continue throughout the spectrum of the delivery of care, from acute treatment to rehabilitation.”

Besides stroke risk factors, the statement notes that economic and social issues, including access to medical care and health insurance, also matter.

So do cultural and language barriers, and beliefs and attitudes. For example, the AHA notes that perception of or the actual presence of racial bias in the health care system may make a patient less likely to follow their doctor's advice or stick with their medication and treatment.

“It is important for members of ethnic and racial minority groups to understand they are particularly predisposed to have risk factors for heart disease,” Cruz-Flores says. “They need to understand these diseases are preventable and treatable.

The report pointed out that risk factors vary among racial and ethnic groups. African Americans have a higher risk for high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity, which are all risk factors for stroke, for example, whereas Hispanic Americans are at higher risk for diabetes and a condition called metabolic syndrome, which boosts the risk for heart conditions.

“It is important for members of ethnic and racial minority groups to understand they are particularly predisposed to have risk factors for heart disease and stroke,” Cruz-Flores said. “They need to understand these diseases are preventable and treatable.”

The report, published online May 26 in Stroke, recommends new policies to close the gap in stroke care, more education and research in the area — especially in regard to American Indians, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders — and better access to health insurance.

“It is striking that we are in the 21st century, with many advances in stroke care, yet we are still struggling to fix the differences that are present not only in the distribution of the disease but also in the level of care we provide to the different racial and ethnic groups,” Cruz-Flores said.

Suicide kit available for job less

Sharlotte Hydorn, the San Diego County woman who sells so-called suicide kits out of her home, describes a federal raid on her home earlier this week and explains that she just wants to give terminally ill patients the chance to die at home peacefully.
“You can embarrass me and say that I’m murderous and I’m making suicide kits and I’m killing people,” Hydron said Thursday from the yard of her home in unincorporated El Cajon. “Good luck to you in your last days, honey.”
On Wednesday, federal agents served this search warrant at Hydorn's home and seized materials used to make so-called suicide kits that she began marketing in 2002.
The 91-year old widow said agents with guns served a warrant Wednesday and searched the home for evidence in the investigation of mail fraud, wire fraud, tax evasion, the sale of adulterated material and mis-branded medical devices.
Agents took several computers, letters and other paperwork and a special sewing machine Hydorn said.

Activists have long argued about a person's right to take his or her life, and what exactly it means to assist. In the late 1990s, Michigan doctor Jack Kevorkian brought the debate into American homes by airing his assist of a suicide on "60 Minutes." Now that debate, and its ethical implications, is being rekindled by the increasing use of helium hood kits.

"Until recently nobody would have thought, 'Gosh, we have to define the word assisting,' because it was just kind of, like, duh," said Rita Marker, executive director of Patients Rights Council. "But now someone says, what does assisting really mean?"

In 1994, Oregon became the first state to enact a law that lets terminally ill people end their lives with a physician's assistance, with voters approving the policy twice. Physician-assisted suicide is also legal in Washington and Montana. Oregon law mandates multiple doctor consultations and looks at possible psychological evaluation before such a suicide can happen. The state says 65 Oregonians took their lives under the law in 2010.

Neighbors and friends, however, said she is not motivated by money. They noted she was driven to start the business following her husband’s protracted battle with cancer, before his death in the 1970s.

Jim Christensen, who lives next door to Hydorn, said he believes she sells the kits out of compassion.

He saw the FBI raid as overstepping. “To me, it’s not the government’s business to poke its nose into this issue … It should be up to the individual how they die and the way they go out.”

He and others in the neighborhood, set in a hilly, unincorporated area of El Cajon, near Fuerte Elementary School, said they only learned the full scope of Hydorn’s business in recent weeks.

“She just seemed like a nice lady who was enjoying retirement,” said resident Frank Obregón.

The kit is promoted online and sold under the name of Hydorn’s company, The Gladd Group. Orders are handled through a Rancho San Diego business address.

Derek Humphry, who wrote the book “Final Exit,” a how-to guide for the terminally ill, recently said he believes Hydorn is the only person in nation who sells such a kit.

Medical ethicists and others say Hydorn has no way of knowing if her customers are terminally ill. Many may suffer from depression and need a therapist.

Two weeks ago, Hydorn told the San Diego Union-Tribune in an interview that she is not 'a death merchant,' claiming that the bags are solely meant to be used by terminally ill people.

“I’m not killing people. This is my chance to try to help them,” she said.

Earlier this month, the state Senate in Oregon voted to crack down on companies selling plastic hoods or other items that could aid in suicide.

State Sen. Floyd Prozanski (D-Eugene) sponsored the legislation after reading about the suicide of Nick Klonoski, whose mother and father are both U.S. district court judges. Klonoski killed himself more than four months ago using one of Hydorn’s kits, which he bought online. Klonoski’s family said at a Senate hearing last month that he was not terminally ill.


Inauguration of Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States took place on Tuesday, January 20, 2009. The inauguration, which set a record attendance for any event held in Washington, D.C., marked the commencement of the four-year term of Barack Obama as President and Joseph R. Biden as Vice President. Based on the combined attendance numbers, television viewership and Internet traffic, it was among the most observed events ever by the global audience.
"A New Birth of Freedom", a phrase from the Gettysburg Address, served as the inaugural theme to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the birth year of Abraham Lincoln. In his speeches to the crowds, Obama referred to ideals expressed by Lincoln about renewal, continuity and national unity. Obama mentioned these ideals in his speech to stress the need for shared sacrifice and a new sense of responsibility to answer America's challenges at home and abroad.
Obama and others paid homage to Lincoln in the form of tributes and references during several of the events, starting with a commemorative train tour from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to Washington, D.C. on January 17, 2009. The inaugural events held in Washington, D.C. from January 18 to January 21, 2009 included concerts, a national day of community service on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, the swearing-in ceremony, luncheon and parade, inaugural balls, and the interfaith inaugural prayer service. The presidential oath as administered to Obama during his swearing-in ceremony on January 20 strayed slightly from the oath of office prescribed in the United States Constitution, which led to its re‑administration the next evening.
In addition to a larger than usual celebrity attendance, the Presidential Inaugural Committee increased its outreach to ordinary citizens to encourage greater participation in inaugural events compared with participation in recent past inaugurations. For the first time, the committee opened the entire length of the National Mall as the public viewing area for the swearing-in ceremony, breaking with the tradition of past inaugurations. Selected American citizens participated in the train tour and other inaugural events, and a philanthropist organized a People's Inaugural Ball for disadvantaged people who otherwise would be unable to afford to attend the inaugural festivities. Among the celebrations for the inauguration, the committee hosted a first-ever Neighborhood Inaugural Ball with free or affordable tickets for ordinary citizens.

The 2009 Presidential Inaugural Committee attempted to raise more individual contributions in smaller dollar amounts compared with the second inauguration of George W. Bush in 2005. The 2009 contribution limit was set at $50,000 for donations by individuals, whereas individuals and companies were able to give a maximum of $250,000 apiece for the 2005 event. As of January 30, 2009, the presidential committee raised more than $53 million, with at least 458 people giving the committee-imposed maximum of $50,000, including celebrity donors such as George Soros, Halle Berry, Jamie Foxx and George Lucas. Emphasizing a change from business as usual, the committee set stringent guidelines for campaign contributions, barring donations from corporations, political action committees, registered federal lobbyists, labor and trade unions, registered foreign agents and non-U.S. citizens.The committee did accept donations from people with active lobbying interests before the federal government, but not registered as federal lobbyists, such as Google executive Eric Schmidt and Microsoft executive Steve Ballmer.
Based on its fundraising efforts and crowd estimates for the Obama inauguration, the presidential committee set its budget at $160–$170 million for the inauguration, including about $45 million for the gala events. The federal government contributed about $49 million, including $1.2 million to cover the actual swearing-in ceremony. The District of Columbia and the neighboring states of Maryland and Virginia projected costs to provide support for inaugural events at more than $75 million alone for police, fire and medical services. To help fund the efforts, President George W. Bush declared a federal state of emergency as a precaution so that funds could be sought from Federal Emergency Management Agency.

King Day of Service
The eve of the Inauguration Day, January 19, 2009, fell on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, a U.S. federal holiday in recognition of Dr. King's birthday. Obama called upon communities everywhere to observe the King Day of Service, a day of citizen volunteer service honoring the human rights leader. More than 13,000 community service events took place across the nation on the day, the largest participation in the 14 years since Congress passed the King Holiday and Service Act and more than double the previous year's events.
Obama spent an hour at Walter Reed Army Medical Center meeting privately with the families of troops who were recovering from wounds sustained in the Iraq War and the War in Afghanistan. After visiting the medical center, he, along with Martin Luther King, III, headed to the Sasha Bruce House homeless shelter for teens to participate with others in service activities.
Joe Biden hung drywall at a Habitat for Humanity home in N.E. Washington, D.C. Biden's wife, Jill, their daughter, Ashley Biden, Michelle Obama and the Obamas' daughters, Malia and Sasha, spent the morning at Robert F. Kennedy Stadium where they helped thousands of volunteers prepare more than 85,000 care packages destined for U.S. troops overseas. Later that evening, the president-elect hosted three separate bipartisan dinners to honor the service of John McCain, Colin Powell and Joe Biden.

Oath of office
Chief Justice John Roberts administered the Oath of office of the President of the United States to Obama. Michelle Obama held the Bible, which was used by Abraham Lincoln at his 1861 inauguration, as Barack Obama placed his hand on the Bible and recited the presidential oath.
During the swearing-in ceremony, Obama did not recite, and Roberts as the administering official did not execute, the 35‑word oath of office exactly as prescribed by the United States Constitution. The first misstep occurred during the first part of the oath. Roberts had not yet completed the first phrase when Obama began reciting the oath. After the correct recitation of the first phrase of the presidential oath, Roberts recited incorrectly the next part of the oath by saying "that I will execute the Office of President to the United States faithfully", rather than "that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States". Obama recited the words "I will execute", and then paused. Roberts then tried to correct his mistake in administering the oath by reciting "faithfully the Office of President of the United States", followed by Obama repeating Roberts' first incorrect phrase.

Post-ceremony traditions
After the inaugural ceremony, President Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden escorted former President George W. Bush and former First Lady Laura Bush to a departure ceremony on the east side of the U.S. Capitol. Before the luncheon and in keeping with tradition, President Obama signed his first presidential orders in the President's Room at the Capitol, and then signed the guest book for the luncheon. The first order signed by Obama was a proclamation declaring his Inauguration Day a "National Day of Renewal and Reconciliation", in which he called "upon all of our citizens to serve one another and the common purpose of remaking this Nation for our new century. Obama signed orders to officially present the nominations for his Cabinet and several sub‑Cabinet officials to the U.S. Congress for its approval. The Obamas and Bidens then attended an inaugural luncheon at the U.S. Capitol before traveling from there to the presidential reviewing stand at the White House to watch the parade.

Obama's selections of Warren and Lowery to deliver prayers for the inaugural ceremony were controversial. Warren had a history of vocal opposition to same-sex marriage, and Lowery had a background as a civil rights activist. Neither Obama nor Warren made references during the inaugural program to issues of direct concern to the gay community. In the invocation, Warren asked for "forgiveness for Americans 'when we fight each other' and 'civility in our attitudes even when we differ. Warren mentioned Dr. Martin Luther King and Jesus in the invocation, and he concluded the invocation with the Lord's Prayer. Lowery used both humor and sincerity as he delivered the benediction. One of his sincere messages was the statement that "as we leave this mountaintop, help us to hold on to the spirit of fellowship and the oneness of our family." Lowery concluded the benediction with a humorous message of anticipation for the day "when brown can stick around, when yellow will be mellow, when the red man can get ahead man and when white would embrace what is right. Conservatives, including Rush Limbaugh decried Lowery's benediction, which quoted from "Lift Every Voice and Sing" (the "Black National Anthem"), as racist, while Democrats disagreed. Another of Lowery's rhymes, "When black will not be asked to get in back" particularly offended the likes of Limbaugh who felt that Obama's ascension on that day symbolized the fact that America had come to that point already.

Black billionaires

As Forbes Billionaire List of 2011,Nigeria's Aliko Dangote with a net worth of $13.8 billion is the richest Black person in the world. The other Black billionaires on the 2011 list are South African gold magnate Patrice Motsepe with $3.3 billion, American Oprah Winfrey at $2.7 billion and Nigeria's Mike Adenuga with $2 billion.
From 2001 to 2003, Forbes listed Black Entertainment Television founder Bob Johnson, an American, as a billionaire, but dropped him after his fortune was split in his divorce from his wife. He returned to Forbes Billionaire list in 2007 with a net worth of $1.1 billion. In 2008 Johnson's wealth dropped further to approximately $1.0 billion even and in 2009 he dropped off the list again.
Nigerian petroleum executive Femi Otedola briefly emerged as a billionaire in 2009, but was not listed as one in 2010 or 2011.
Multiracial billionaires with partial Black ancestry have also been identified over the years. Michael Lee-Chin of Canada, who is of Chinese and Jamaican ancestry was on the list from 2001 to 2010, but dropped off in 2011. Saudi-Arabian billionaire Mohammed Al Amoudi, of Hadhrami Yemeni and Ethiopian descent, has been on the Forbes billionaire list since 2002 and in 2011 had a net worth of $12.3 billion. Also included is Mo Ibrahim, a British billionaire of Sudanese Arab and Nubian ancestry, who has been on the Forbes Billionaire list since 2008 and in 2011 had a net worth of $1.8 billion. However as there are competing claims as to what degree multiracial individuals should be considered Black, these individuals have not been universally regarded as being Black billionaires.
Of all the Black or Afro-multiracial billionaires identified by Forbes, only Oprah Winfrey qualified for Forbes 2009's list of the world's 20 most powerful billionaires, a list which considered not only wealth, but also market sway and political clout. Winfrey was considered especially powerful because of her influence on American consumer choices and because of the pivotal role she played in electing Barack Obama president.

Billionaires in countries with high rates of Black ancestry

As of 2011, Aliko Dangote is the richest Black billionaire according to the Forbes Billionaire list. He is considered the first verifiable billionaire in Nigeria. However, an editor for Forbes claims that dictator Sani Abacha (who died in office in 1998) probably was a billionaire after all.

Abacha Controversy
According to Forbes, Sani Abacha, the Nigerian military leader, was probably a billionaire when he was alive but the magazine could never confirm this. Abacha's position as an allegedly corrupt dictator made his wealth unusually difficult to track and so his exact net-worth was a subject of much dispute. Abacha has been accused of siphoning off $2.2 billion in foreign assets to his family and their representatives (some have put the figure as high as $3 billion), however this fortune may have been divided among the foreign bank accounts of too many people for Abacha, or any individual in his inner circle to have ever qualified as a billionaire. In April 2002, Switzerland, which began blocking Abacha's assets in late 1999, decided that Nigeria would get back $1 billion of the money allegedly embezzled by Abacha and his family with $535 million of that sum being transferred to the Bank for International Settlements in Basel to be used "in favor of the federal government of Nigeria," the justice office said.
According to the terms of a deal reached with the Abacha family, the Nigerian government agreed to drop all criminal charges against Abacha's son Mohammed Sani Abacha and businessman Bagudu Abubakar and would also allow the Abacha family to keep $100 million which were "acquired prior to Abacha's term of office and which . . . demonstrably do not derive from criminal acts," the Office of Justice said.
"The Nigerians talk about $2.2 billion being plundered from the Treasury. They already received around $1 billion between 1998 and 2001, and now they are getting another $1 billion, which corresponds more or less to the $2.2 billion," said Folco Galli, a justice office spokesman. Nigerian officials however, continue to insist that only some of the funds that Abacha allegedly embezzled are in Switzerland and have requested assistance from the United States, Britain, Luxembourg, Liechtenstein and Germany to find the rest.

Current trends
Peoples of predominantly Black African ancestry constitute 8 percent of the world’s population however as the above chart shows, they were 0% of the world’s billionaires in 1999 and 2000, 0.19% in 2001, 0.20% in 2002, 0.42% in 2003, 0.17% in 2004, 0.14% in 2005, 0.13% in 2006, and 0.21% in 2007. The dearth of Black billionaires may be a reflection of poverty in Africa and the fact that in the African diaspora there are often severe disparities in wealth between those of African descent and others. For example, within the United States the median income of African Americans as a group is roughly 65 percent of that of European Americans according to the 2000 United States census.

Unverified claims
On February 6, 2003, Martin Bashir asked Michael Jackson how much he was worth. Bashir asked, "How much do you think you're worth?" Jackson replied "It's way up there." Bashir later asked, "A billion dollars?" to which Jackson replied "It's over there." Bashir asked for confirmation: "Over a billion dollars!" to which he replied "Yes." When the interview was aired in the United States, broadcaster Barbara Walters replied, saying, “As for his claim to be worth over a billion dollars,” Walters explained, “his actual worth is in the two or three hundred million range. That’s hardly bad, but it’s nowhere near a billion”. During Jackson's trial, defense attorney Thomas Mesereau Jr. said the Beatles catalogue (of which Jackson owns 50%) was worth $1 billion in 2003. There have been estimates it's now worth between $4 billion and $5 billion, but forensic accountant John Duross O'Bryan testified that the total value of Jackson's assets was $130 million. In November 2006 The Guinness Book of Records presented Jackson with eight certificates for musical achievements. Among them "The Most Successful Entertainer of All Time" and "Highest paid Entertainer of all time" (he received $125 million in album and tour sales in 1989 alone).
Jackson never appeared on Forbes Billionaire list nor was he ever ranked among Forbes 400 richest Americans, a list which has often required less than even half a billion for membership. When Forbes editor Peter Newcomb was asked in 2003 to explain Jackson’s absence from their lists he replied “MJ owes $250 to $300 million to a consortium of banks; you will see him selling his publishing company any month now, my prediction.

South Africa
According to Forbes magazine, South Africa has the most billionaires in sub-Saharan Africa. However, Patrice Motsepe is South Africa's only Black billionaire.

There is evidence that during the 20th century, Zaire/Congo, may have had a billionaire; a Forbes editor has gone on record claiming that Zaire president Mobutu Sese Seko was probably a billionaire but the magazine could never confirm it. reported that Mobutu may have been worth as much as $5 billion, an amount almost equivalent to his country's foreign debt during the 1980s (the time the wealth was allegedly acquired). By 1989, the government was forced to default on international loans from Belgium. He owned a fleet of Mercedes-Benz vehicles that he used to travel between his numerous palaces, while many of his people starved. Meanwhile the infrastructure of Zaire virtually collapsed, and many public service workers went months without being paid. Most money was siphoned off to Mobutu, his family, and top political and military leaders. Only the Special Presidential Division — on whom his physical safety depended — was paid adequately or regularly. A popular saying that the civil servants pretended to work while the state pretended to pay them expressed this grim reality. However when one of Mobutu's Swiss bank accounts was investigated, only $3.4 million was found leading to speculation that the money was spent, or that the claims that he looted his country's fortune were politically motivated. In an effort to evade detection, the fortune may have been split among so many friends, family members, and government officials, meaning that no single individual in Zaire ever qualified as a billionaire.

Patrice Motsepe

Patrice Tlhopane Motsepe, born 28 January 1962 in Johannesburg  is a South African mining magnate. His company, African Rainbow Minerals, has interests in gold, ferrous metals, base metals, and platinum.
He is married to Dr. Precious Makgosi Moloi and they have three sons.
Patrice Motsepe won South Africa's Best Entrepreneur Award in 2002. In 2004 he was voted 39th in the Top 100 Great South Africans. This accolade was, however granted by the government funded state broadcaster. In 2008 he was 503-rd richest person in the world, by the Forbes World Billionaires List. In that same issue of Forbes magazine, it was noted that the source of his wealth was not through any entrepreneurial zeal but through his association with the ruling political party the African National Congress (ANC).
But for all the adulation, in South Africa such success comes with a price: being labeled an oligarch. Even many blacks have complained that the country's 1994 transformation from apartheid to democracy has benefited only the elite few. The criticism stems from laws that require substantial black ownership in certain industries, including mining. A handful of politically connected individuals have grown enormously wealthy as a result. One of Motsepe's sisters, Bridgette Radebe, who's married to transport minister Jeffrey Radebe, heads a mining company and is said to be among the wealthiest black women in the country. "It's called crony capitalism," says Moeletsi Mbeki, 62, brother of South Africa's former president and an outspoken critic of the race-preference laws. "It's an anticompetitive system.
Since 2004, he is also a Non-Executive Director of Absa Group and Sanlam and was previously a partner of Bowman Gilfillan and Witman Chingwaramusee.
Motsepes' African Rainbow Minerals company's name changed to ARMgold, while joining with Harmony Gold Mining Ltd, in 2002 when is it was listed on the JSE Security Exchange. Motsepe is also the founder of African Rainbow Minerals Platinum (Proprietary) Limited and ARM Consortium Limited which later equally split ownership with Anglo American Platinum Corp Ltd. From 2005, Motsepe ran as the Chairman of Teal Exploration and Mining Incorporated. Motsepe runs as the chairmen of Ubuntu-Botho Investments, Non-Executive chairman of Harmony Gold Mining Co Ltd and deputy Chairman of Sanlam Ltd. Motsepe is currently South Africa's president of Chamber of Commerce and Industry and owns football club Mamelodi Sundowns.

Aliko Dangote

Alhaji Aliko Dangote, born April 10, 1957 is a businessman based in Nigeria. He is the owner of the Dangote Group, which has operations in Nigeria and several other countries in Africa, including Benin, Cameroon, Ghana, South Africa and Zambia. A wealthy supporter of erstwhile President Olusegun Obasanjo and the ruling People's Democratic Party (PDP), Dangote controls much of Nigeria's commodities trade through his corporate and political connections. With an estimated current net worth of around US$ 13.8 billion, he was ranked by Forbes as one of the richest African citizens and richest person of African descent in the world toppling Mohammed Al Amoudi ($12.3 billion) and Oprah Winfrey ($2.7 billion.)

Business career
The Dangote Group, originally a small trading firm founded in 1977, is now a multi-trillion naira conglomerate with operations in Benin, Ghana, Nigeria, and Togo. Dangote's businesses include food processing, cement manufacturing, and freight. The Dangote Group dominates the sugar market in Nigeria: it is the major sugar supplier to the country's soft drink companies, breweries, and confectioners. Dangote Group has moved from being a trading company to Nigeria's largest industrial group, including Dangote Sugar Refinery (the most capitalized company on the Nigeria Stock Exchange, valued at over US$3 billion with Aliko Dangote's equity topping US$2 billion), Africa's largest Cement Production Plant: Obajana Cement, Dangote Flour amongst others.
Dangote played a prominent role in the funding of Obasanjo’s re-election campaign in 2003, to which he contributed over N200 million (US$2M). He gave N50 million (US$0.5M) to the National Mosque under the aegis of "Friends of Obasanjo and Atiku", and contributed N200 million to the Presidential Library. These controversial gifts to members of the ruling People's Democratic Party have contributed to concerns over continued graft despite highly-publicized anti-corruption drives during Obasanjo's second term.
On 23 May 2010, England's Daily Mirror newspaper reported that Dangote was interested in buying a 16 percent stake in Premiership side Arsenal belonging to Lady Nina Bracewell-Smith. Dangote later denied these rumours.

Robert L. Johnson

Robert L. Johnson, born April 8, 1946 is a businessman, best known for being the founder of television network Black Entertainment Television (BET) , and is also its former chairman and chief executive officer. Johnson is currently chairman and founder of RLJ Development and former majority owner of the Charlotte Bobcats, a National Basketball Association franchise along with rapper Nelly and NBA legend and current majority owner Michael Jordan. In 2001 Johnson became the first African American billionaire, and the first black person to be listed on any of Forbes world's rich list  (excluding Afro-multiracial billionaire Michael Lee-Chin who first appeared on the list the same year, but is not of predominantly sub-Saharan ancestry).

Second Act/RLJ Companies
Upon selling BET Johnson started The RLJ Companies which he calls his "Second Act". Johnson's goal is to create a premier holding company and asset management firm run by a minority businessperson. The RLJ companies is a diverse portfolio of companies in the financial services, lhoe estate, hospitality, professional sports, film production, automotive and gaming industries. An innovative business network, The RLJ Companies seeks to target undiscovered or underserved markets; then exercise solid management to achieve results. The RLJ Companies is headquartered in Bethesda, Maryland, with operations in Charlotte, North Carolina; Los Angeles, California; Orlando, Florida; Little Rock, Arkansas, Mexico and San Juan, Puerto Rico. The RLJ Companies’ core businesses include: RLJ Development, a privately held hotel real estate investment company; RLJ Lodging Fund II and RLJ Real Estate Fund III, both of which are private equity real estate funds; the three together have over $2 billion in combined assets and additional purchasing power of nearly $4 billion; RolloverSystems, a financial services company providing retirement planning services based in Charlotte, North Carolina; RLJ Equity Partners, a private equity fund that seeks expansion capital and buy out investment opportunities in six core industries; RLJ Select Investments, a multi-strategy hedge fund of funds platform; Urban Trust Holdings, a company that holds Urban Trust Bank, a federal thrift institution with operations in Florida, Washington, D.C., and Maryland, and a nationwide credit card operation; the NBA Charlotte Bobcats and Charlotte Arena Operations; Our Stories Films, a film production company based in Los Angeles; Caribbean Gaming & Entertainment (CAGE), a video lottery gaming company based in Puerto Rico with operations in St. Kitts and Barbados; and RLJ-McLarty-Landers Automotive Group.

Johnson was born in Hickory, Mississippi on April 8, 1946, but spent almost all of his childhood in Freeport, Illinois. He was the ninth of 10 children born to Edna Johnson and Archie Johnson. Johnson graduated from Freeport High School in 1964. He studied history at the University of Illinois and graduated in 1968 with a bachelor's degree. While at the University of Illinois, Johnson was a member of the Beta chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity. He earned a master's degree in International Affairs from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University.
For 33 years from 1969-2002 he was married to Sheila Johnson. Together they founded the entertainment network BET which sold the company to Viacom in 2001. They have two children: daughter Paige Johnson (1986), and a son Brett Johnson (1990).

Black Entertainment Television
In 1979, he left NCTA to create Black Entertainment Television, the first cable television network aimed at African Americans. It was launched in January 1980, initially broadcasting for two hours a week.
In 1991 BET became the first black-controlled company listed on the New York Stock Exchange. As of 2007, BET reaches more than 65 million U.S. homes and expanded into other BET-related television channels that make up the BET Networks: BETJ, and digital cable channels BET Hip-Hop and BET Gospel.
In 2002, Johnson took the company private, buying back all of its publicly traded stock. In 2003, BET was no longer a black owned business when Viacom bought BET for $3 billion. Johnson's 63% stake made him worth over a billion dollars after taxes, making him the richest black person in the United States until surrendering the title to Oprah Winfrey, when then-wife Sheila Johnson claimed much of his billion in divorce. Johnson continued to be the company's chairman and CEO for six years. In 2005, Johnson turned over the titles of President and Chief Operating Officer of BET to Debra L. Lee, a former BET vice president.

Involvement in 2008 Democratic Presidential Primary
In January, 2008, Johnson became the target of criticism for remarks he made to supporters of Hillary Clinton about Barack Obama. Johnson said, "As an African-American, I'm frankly insulted that the Obama campaign would imply that we are so stupid that we would think Bill and Hillary Clinton, who have been deeply and emotionally involved in black issues when Barack Obama was doing something in the neighborhood that I won't say what he was doing, [but] he said it in his book. This statement was widely interpreted as a criticism of Obama's acknowledged use of marijuana and cocaine in his youth. The Clinton campaign denied this, submitting that the comments were referring to Obama's work as a community organizer . In subsequent days, Johnson was roundly criticized for his comments as hypocritical given the prodigious glorification of drug use and sale by artists prominently featured on BET .
On January 17, 2008, Johnson sent Obama the following apology: "I'm writing to apologize to you and your family personally for the un-called-for comments I made at a recent Clinton event. In my zeal to support Senator Clinton, I made some very inappropriate remarks for which I am truly sorry. I hope that you will accept this apology. Good luck on the campaign trail.
On April 14, 2008, Johnson made comments to the effect that Obama would not be the Democratic Party's leading candidate if he were not black, in support of the prior statement made by Geraldine Ferraro. He also went on to say "I make a joke about Obama doing drugs (and it's) 'Oh my God, a black man tearing down another black man.

Other ventures
Johnson also serves on the boards of General Mills. He is the first Black American to be the principal owner of a North American major-league sports franchise: He and Michael Jordan led the group that acquired the Charlotte Bobcats NBA expansion franchise, which began play in the fall of 2004. Until December 2006, he also owned the Charlotte Sting of the WNBA. However, he gave up his ownership of the Sting; when the WNBA was unable to find a buyer, the team folded on January 3, 2007. Johnson is also the founder and chairman of RLJ Companies Inc. On February 26, 2010, Johnson entered into a definite agreement to sell the Bobcats to Jordan, who served as head of basketball operations under Johnson's ownership. Terms of the agreement were not immediately available, in the brief statement Johnson gave to the media. Johnson, had been seeking a buyer for months and there was another group bidding to buy the team. The NBA Board of Governors unanimously approved the sale to Jordan on March 17, 2010.Johnson won't completely end his relationship with the team. A spokeswoman for Johnson said he'll be a minority investor in Jordan's ownership group.
In late 2006, Johnson founded Our Stories Films, a Los Angeles-based film company. His partner is Harvey Weinstein, whose own new enterprise, the Weinstein Company, will serve as his distributor. JPMorgan Chase invested $175 million into Our Stories. His private equity fund is financed partly by the Washington-based Carlyle Group, while his hedge fund has backing from Deutsche Bank. Further Johnson has recently petitioned for a license to place a new cable network known as UTV on ION Group's network which will hold an 49% percent stake while RLJ companies will hold an 51% stake in the company. The network, Johnson said, will not only focus on the black community but would be a multi-faceted network.

Tyra Banks

Tyra Lynne Banks (born December 4, 1973) is an American model, media personality, comedienne, actress, occasional singer, and businesswoman. She first became famous as a model in Paris, Milan, London, Tokyo, and New York, but television appearances were her commercial breakthrough. Banks is the creator and host of the UPN/The CW reality television show America's Next Top Model, co-creator of True Beauty, and host of her own talk show, The Tyra Banks Show.
In 2009, she was honored by Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) with the Excellence in Media Award.

In 1999, Tyra Banks established the TZONE program, which aimed at leadership and life skills development. The program was created for the primarily disadvantaged teen girls in the greater Los Angeles area, and involves sending teens to a week-long overnight camp outside of LA, where Tyra personally lived among and bonded with the campers.
In 2005, TZONE transformed from a camp into a public charity, the Tyra Banks TZONE Foundation, with a mission which honors TZONE's camp origins, and seeks to create a larger “sisterhood” among girls and young women. It makes grants to grassroot organizations, and supports organizations that serve women and girls ages 13–35.
The Tyra Banks TZONE Foundation has offered several useful resources to a number of community nonprofits. The members of the foundation are empowered to take control of their lives by engaging in several productive activities such as filmmaking, community activism, dance, sports, leadership, writing, and even entrepreneurship at an early age. It encouraged girls to resist social pressures through a self-esteem building adventure.
In November 2006, The TZONE foundation announced that it would award $10,000 each to both the Young Chicago Authors and also Women and Youth Supporting Each Other(WYSE).Young Chicago Authors provides creative writing workshops and public performance and publication opportunities for youth from a wide range of Chicago neighborhoods. The grant will support the GirlSpeak program, which builds the communication skills, leadership abilities and confidence of girls ages 13–19. WYSE is a national mentoring program that pairs female college students at 13 universities with at-risk middle school girls from under-served communities. The program helps girls make wise decisions about relationships, sexuality, health and their futures, and encourages the girls to apply this experience to effect change in their neighborhoods.

Banks began modeling in the 11th grade. She later went to Paris, France to do some runway modeling. Within Banks' first week in Paris, designers were so entranced by her presence on the runway that she was booked for an unprecedented twenty-five shows – a record in the business for a newcomer. She has done extensive print and/or runway work for fashion/advertising giants, such as Anna Sui, Coors Light, CoverGirl, Badgley Mischka, Bill Blass, Cynthia Rowley, Chanel, Christian Dior, Victoria's Secret, and Yves Saint Laurent. She has appeared on the covers of high-fashion magazines such as Vogue, Harper's Bazaar, Cosmopolitan, and Elle.
Banks was the first African American woman on the covers of GQ and the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. In 1997, she received the VH1 award for Supermodel of the Year. That same year, she became the first-ever African American chosen for the cover of the Victoria's Secret catalog.
Banks retired from modeling in May 2005 to concentrate on her television career. She walked the runway for the final time at the 2005 Victoria's Secret Fashion Show.
In 1998, Banks authored a book entitled Tyra's Beauty, Inside and Out. The book was advertised as a resource for helping women to make the most out of their natural beauty.
In 2010, Banks re-signed with her former modeling agency IMG Models.

Early life
Tyra Banks was born in Inglewood, California, the daughter of Carolyn (née London), a fashion manager and NASA photographer, and Donald Banks, a computer consultant. The couple divorced in 1980, when Banks was 6 years old. However, the relationship between her parents, and between her and her brother Devin Banks (born 1968), stayed friendly. Later, Carolyn married Clifford Johnson; she now goes by Carolyn London-Johnson. Banks attended John Burroughs Middle School and graduated in 1991 from Immaculate Heart High School in Los Angeles. She was accepted by USC and UCLA but declined to attend, instead pursuing a career in modeling.

Banks has appeared in several music videos, including Michael Jackson's "Black or White", Tina Turner's "Love Thing", Mobb Deep's "Trife Life", George Michael's "Too Funky" (with fellow supermodel Linda Evangelista) and Lionel Richie's "Don't Wanna Lose You". In 2004, she recorded her first single, "Shake Ya Body," which had a music video featuring the final six contestants on America's Next Top Model, Cycle 2. The video was world-premiered on UPN, but the single turned out to be a failure. On America's Next Top Model, Cycle 2 Banks said, "Singing has been a passion of mine for a long, long time...six years on the down low - been ducking in and out of studios cutting tracks." Later, on her talk show, she said, "I can't believe I wasted six years of doing something that I didn't finish...I was almost able to release my album T.Y.R.A., but since my music career hit rock bottom, I quit.
Though "Shake Ya Body" was a failure, record producer Rodney Jerkins told Jet magazine in 2004 that Banks "has what it takes to pull it off...she had a hungriness to want to be in the studio all the time. Some people want to be divas in the studio and work for three or four hours. You had to tell Tyra to stop, or she will keep you going. As for her voice, Jerkins said, "People will be shocked. She can really sing. She's like between soprano and high-alto. I challenged her vocally. I pushed her, but not too far. I pushed her where vocally it fit the track.
Banks released a single with NBA player Kobe Bryant, entitled "K.O.B.E.," which was performed on NBA TV. She also has a single on the soundtrack to Disney Channel's Original Movie Life-Size called "Be A Star.

Move into television and film
Banks's television career began on the fourth season of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, in which she played lead character Will Smith's old friend Jackie Ames. She made seven appearances in the series. Other TV credits include Felicity, MADtv, Nick Cannon's Wild 'n Out (in which she was featured as a special guest host and team captain) and The Price Is Right (guest-starring as a "Barker's Beauty"). She also appeared as a guest in the animated talk show Space Ghost Coast to Coast in an episode entitled "Chinatown."
Tyra Banks has also started her own production company Bankable Productions, which produced The Tyra Banks Show, America's Next Top Model, and the 2008 movie The Clique.
Currently, Banks can be seen on television as the hostess, judge and executive producer of The CW Television Network show America's Next Top Model. In addition, she hosts The Tyra Banks Show, a daytime talk show aimed at younger women, which premiered on September 12, 2005. The show features stories about everyday people mixed in with celebrity interviews. Under the slogan "Every woman has a story...and it happened to Tyra too," Banks promotes her show using emotional flashbacks to her own childhood and adolescence. Many of the episodes deal with issues facing women today. Banks and other experts give women advice on fashion, relationships and more. The first two seasons of the show were recorded in Banks' hometown of Los Angeles but, beginning with the fall 2007 season, the show moved to New York City.

Jennifer Hudson

Jennifer Kate Hudson (born September 12, 1981) is an American recording artist, actress and spokesperson. She came to prominence in 2004 as one of the finalists on the third season of American Idol coming in seventh place. She made her film debut in the 2006 film Dreamgirls, which won her an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, a Golden Globe Award, a BAFTA Award, an NAACP Image Award and a Screen Actors Guild Award.
She won a Grammy Award for her eponymous debut album, Jennifer Hudson, which was released in 2008 on Arista Records and was certified gold by the RIAA for selling over 800,000 copies in the US; sales exceeded 1 million copies worldwide. Additionally, it spawned the hit single Spotlight. Her second album I Remember Me was released in March 2011, and has reached number two on the Billboard 200, selling 165,000 copies in its first week of release.
In late 2008, after Hudson's mother, brother and nephew were killed in a shooting, Hudson stepped out of the limelight for three months. Hudson resumed her public appearances in 2009, and has since performed at the Super Bowl XLIII, the Grammy Awards, American Idol, and The Oprah Winfrey Show. Hudson has been described as a friend of President Barack Obama, who invited her to appear with him at a fundraiser in Beverly Hills in May 2009. She also performed at the White House at the "Celebration of Music from the Civil Rights Movement" event.

Personal life
Hudson began dating James Payton in 1999, when she was 18.[citation needed] They were both from Chicago. When asked if they had any plans to marry, Hudson declared that, "We are happy with the place we are right now, but perhaps we will tie the knot someday. One thing's for sure, I definitely won't be popping the question!" The couple separated in late 2007.
Hudson met David Otunga (who appeared as "Punk" from I Love New York 2), a Harvard Law graduate, and the couple became engaged on September 12, 2008, Hudson's 27th birthday. Otunga accompanied Hudson throughout Spring and Autumn 2008 on various promotional events for her films, as well as debut album. In November 2008, he started training to become a professional wrestler and went on to wrestle for WWE under his real name. On August 10, 2009, Hudson gave birth to her first child with Otunga; a boy named David Daniel Otunga Jr.
On May 25, 2011, Hudson told Australian radio show The Kyle & Jackie O Show that busy work and touring schedules meant that her and fiancé Otunga were apart up to 3-4 days a week. Hudson credited this time apart as one of the main reasons that herself and Otunga never got tired of one another's company.

Early life
Jennifer Hudson was born on September 12, 1981, in Chicago, Illinois. She is the third and youngest child of Darnell Donnerson (November 7, 1950 – October 24, 2008) and Samuel Simpson (died 1999). She was raised as a Baptist and attended Dunbar Vocational High School, from which she graduated in 1999. She cites Whitney Houston, Aretha Franklin, and Patti LaBelle as her overall biggest influences and inspiration. At the age of 7, she got her start in performing by singing with the church choir and doing community theater with the help of her late maternal grandmother, Julia.

American Idol
Hudson auditioned for the third season of American Idol, in Atlanta, commenting that she had been singing on Disney Cruise Lines for the past few months (as one of the Muses from Hercules); and contestant judge Randy Jackson said, "We're expecting more than a cruise ship performance from you."
Hudson struggled to gain popularity in the early stages of Idol's live shows, receiving the second-lowest number of votes in two of the first three shows. However, after a change in song choices, she soon became a favorite to win, receiving the highest number of votes in the "Top 9" after her performance of Elton John's "Circle of Life," on April 6, 2004. During the "Top 7" show, Hudson performed Barry Manilow's, "Weekend in New England," which garnered praise from all three judges.[citation needed] Hudson was eliminated during this week, which some blamed in part on a power outage in Hudson's hometown of Chicago due to storms and tornadoes in the area. This also led to controversy since the "Battling Divas" were all in the Bottom 3. On April 21, 2004, Hudson became the sixth of the 12 finalists to be voted off the show, finishing the competition in seventh place.
In May 2010, the Los Angeles Times claimed Hudson to be the third greatest Idol contestant in the history of the show. She placed behind Season 1 winner Kelly Clarkson and Season 4 winner Carrie Underwood.

I Remember Me
Early in the album's development, Ne-Yo told E! Online that Hudson was ready to get personal on her second studio album. When probed for details he said that he might be producing the album. He also said "I'm pretty good at writing personal records…It starts with her idea and her thoughts." She's gone through a lot over the last year, so she has a lot to talk about," he continues. "She's definitely gotten stronger. The things that she's gone through and for her to still be upbeat and happy, it's amazing."
Hudson released her second studio album I Remember Me on March 22, 2011. I Remember Me debuted at #2 on the Billboard 200 selling 165,000 copies in its first week of release. The lead single "Where You At" was released on January 24, 2011. On February 3, 2011, due to radio play, the single made its debut on the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart at #53, so far reaching a peak of #10.

Ashanti Shequoiya Douglas

Ashanti Shequoiya Douglas born October 13, 1980 is an American recording artist, record producer and actress who rose to fame in the early 2000s. Ashanti is most famous for her eponymous debut album, which featured the hit song "Foolish", and sold over 503,000 copies in its first week of release throughout the U.S. in April 2002. The album set a Soundscan record as the biggest opening week sales for a new female artist, outselling debuts by Alicia Keys and Lauryn Hill. In the same week, she became the first female performer to simultaneously hold the top two places on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart with "Foolish", and "What's Luv?" (with Fat Joe). Ashanti broke records again by having three top ten songs, "Foolish," "What's Luv?" and "Always on Time", on the Billboard Hot 100 charts in the same week, being the first woman to accomplish this feat and being second only to the Beatles. In 2003, the self-titled debut album won Ashanti her first Grammy Award for Best Contemporary R&B album. As of 2008, she has sold more than 27 million albums worldwide. Ashanti ended the decade (2000–09) as the third top new R&B artist behind Alicia Keys and Beyonce Knowles. She also ended the decade at number 38 on the Top Artist of the Decade list. As of 2010, Ashanti is listed in the 20 Best Selling Music Singles Since 1990 in History. She ranked #17, with Foolish selling more than 7.4 million copies in the U.S.[citation needed]
Ashanti sang background vocals for Jennifer Lopez on "I'm Real (Murder Remix)" and wrote and sang background on the song "Ain't It Funny (Murder Remix)" sung by Jennifer Lopez, both reaching number one on Billboard Hot 100 , which was also in the top 10 charts at the same time as "Foolish", "Always on Time" (with Ja Rule), and "What's Luv" (with Fat Joe). Later that year, she was acclaimed as the "Princess Of Hip-Hop & R&B" by her label and capped off her successful debut by winning eight Billboard awards and two American Music Awards. Within seven years of Ashanti's career, she has scored 16 top 40 hits on the Hot 100. Ashanti has endorsed numerous products including Gap, Herbal Essences and Mudd Jeans.
Ashanti cites Janet Jackson, Prince, Madonna, Tupac Shakur, Aaliyah, Tamia, Mary J. Blige, Ella Fitzgerald, Peggy Lee, Yolanda Adams, Toni Braxton, Luther Vandross, The Beatles, The Clark Sisters, Smokey Robinson, Donna Summer, and Blue Magic as her musical influences. Praised as a gifted songwriter by her peers and critics alike, Ashanti has written/co-written the bulk of all her music. She is currently working on her own publishing company entitled Written Entertainment. She released her fourth studio album entitled The Declaration on June 3, 2008 and is currently in the studio working on her fifth. She also performed the charity tune "Just Stand Up" alongside 14 other female singers for the "Stand Up to Cancer" live television special which helped raise $100 million dollars for cancer research.

In 2003, Ashanti partnered LidRock and the San Francisco-based Family Violence Prevention Fund (FVPF) to raise awareness about the issue of domestic violence during National Domestic Violence Awareness Month and to distribute the "Rain On Me" mini-movie using LidRock’s unique platform. Proceeds from the $5 mini-disc went towards helping to stop domestic violence. Ashanti also recorded a public service announcement that appeared in more than 4,000 film screens and reached millions of people. Ashanti also gives back by raising money for sickle cell research and she is active in helping the Make-A-Wish Foundation stating, "I’ll go and do just about anything for them. In 2005, Ashanti helped by recording public service announcement and raising money for the Southeast Asia tsunami disaster. Later that year she helped raise money for the Hurricane Katrina victims and storm evacuees. In 2008, Ashanti, along with others celebrities, taped a PSA to help stop violence and discrimination towards the LGBT community in response to the death of Lawrence King, an eighth-grader at E.O. Green Junior High School who was shot because of his sexual orientation and gender expression. That same year, she launched a special on-line campaign called "I Declare Me..." with Wal-Mart. The campaign's core is a very personal focus on the self-definition and empowerment of women across the United States, with its home base at Ashanti's official website. The campaign creates a safe and inclusive on-line space to for women to share testimonies on the site. Participants are able to openly declare their own breakthroughs, revelations, struggles and victories in every life area they choose: career, birth, death, relationships, and personal situations. "I Declare Me..." also invites women to a virtual discussion with Ashanti on such issues as voter registration, teen obesity, and other concerns facing women today.

Ashanti's Christmas
In November 2003, Ashanti's Christmas album, Ashanti's Christmas was released. The album containing 10 Christmas songs, six classic covers and four she wrote herself. To coincide with the release Ashanti premiered a "Christmas Medley" video for the album. While on BET's 106 & Park, Ashanti said the concept of the Christmas Album came from a guest spot she did on Steve Harvey's radio show. While playing a game with Stevie Wonder, he began playing Christmas medleys on the piano and Ashanti began singing them, giving her label head the idea to push for a Christmas Album. Ashanti went into the studio to record the album during the summer of 2003. According to soundscan, the album sold just around 100,000 units in the U.S.

Murder Inc.
Ashanti was first noticed by Irv Gotti because of her vocal skills. Ashanti initially asked him to produce a few demo songs for her to record so she could say she had some strong tracks by the big time producer but Gotti had a different idea. He asked her to pen hooks for his rap artists and to perform with them in duets. Ashanti provided the melodic response to their call. Ashanti was first featured as a background vocalist on rapper Big Pun's song "How We Roll". In the same year, Ashanti was featured on fellow labelmate Cadillac Tah's singles "Pov City Anthem" and "Just Like a Thug". She also appeared on the 2001 The Fast and the Furious soundtrack as a featured artist on Vita's 2001 hip hop remake of Madonna's "Justify My Love" and on the solo track "When a Man Does Wrong". She appeared as a background vocalist on "I'm Real (Murder Remix)", a collaboration by labelmate Ja Rule and Jennifer Lopez (she also appeared in the music video for "Aint It Funny (Murder Remix)", the second duet between Lopez and Rule, for which she wrote and also sang background vocals on), and was featured on Fat Joe's "What's Luv?" and Ja Rule's "Always on Time". "What's Luv?" and "Always on Time" were released simultaneously and became two of the biggest hit songs of 2002. Ashanti became the first female to occupy the top two positions on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart simultaneously when "Always on Time" and "What's Luv?" were at numbers one and two, respectively.

Early life
Ashanti Shequoiya Douglas was born on October 13, 1980, in Glen Cove, New York. Born of African American and Native American ancestry. Her nickname is "Bon Bon" given to her by her family. Her mother, Tina Douglas, is a former dance teacher, and her father, Ken-Kaide Thomas Douglas, is a former singer. She has a younger sister named Kenashia. Her mother named her after the Ashanti Empire in Ghana; in this nation, women had power and influence, and Ashanti's mother wanted her daughter to follow that model. Her grandfather, James, was a civil rights activist who associated with Martin Luther King, Jr. in the 1960s. Growing up, Ashanti took dance lessons and joined the church choir. Ashanti went to Bernice Johnson Cultural Arts Center, where she studied different dance styles, including tap, jazz, ballet, African, modern, and hip hop. She danced with the Senior Pro Ensemble at Carnegie Hall, the Apollo Theater, Brooklyn Academy of Music, Avery Fisher Hall, and the Black Spectrum Theater. She also performed at the 1994 Caribbean Awards and dancing with Judith Jamison of the Alvin Ailey Dance Company. With actress and choreographer Debbie Allen at the helm, Ashanti also performed in the Disney television film Polly alongside stars Keshia Knight Pulliam, Jomecia Moore and Phylicia Rashad.
When she was six, Ashanti sang in a gospel choir, but her mother discovered her full singing potential when she overheard Ashanti singing Mary J. Blige's "Reminisce" at age 12. By the time Ashanti hit puberty, her mother was sending out demo tapes of her singing and dancing. The family could not afford to go to a studio and record a formal demo, so when labels called, Ashanti would have to sing and dance in front of the record company executives. While attending high school, she began to write songs. As a teenager, she performed in a local talent show and at the Soul Cafe, China Club, Madison Square Garden, Caroline's Comedy Club and Greek Fest 2000. In her first major singing performance, Ashanti performed Yolanda Adams's "More Than a Melody". She also appeared in a number of big-name music videos, in addition to other dance work.