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Itís been a seven-year battle for me, because I very naively built south of the Mason-Dixon Line. I

didnít realize that there was still this much racial tension in the country. I was very naÔve about it.

Racism smacked me right in the face while doing this project, but I did not want to lose this war.



Sheila Johnson: Americaís First Black Woman Billionaire

Interviewed by Kam Williams 


Entrepreneur and philanthropist Sheila Crump Johnson is the only African-American female to enjoy ownership in three professional sports teams: the WNBAís Washington Mystics, the NBAís Washington Wizards and the NHLís Washington Capitals. Furthermore, as CEO of Salamander Hospitality, a company she founded in 2005, Ms. Johnson oversees a growing portfolio of luxury properties, including Woodlands Inn, in Summerville, SC, which is one of only a handful of properties to receive both a prestigious Forbes Five Star rating and a AAA Five Diamond rating for lodging and dining. 

In 2007, she acquired Innisbrook, a Salamander Golf & Spa Resort. Set on 900 acres, this 72-hole Florida getaway hosts the PGA Tourís annual Transitions Championship and the LPGA Legends Tour Open Championship. The company is also building the eagerly-anticipated Salamander Resort & Spa, nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in charming Middleburg, VA.

In addition, Johnson is a partner in ProJet Aviation, a company specializing in aviation consulting, aircraft acquisitions, management, and charter services based in Winchester, VA. And she is a partner in Mistral, a maker of fine bath, body and home products.

Ms. Johnson has long been a powerful influence in the entertainment industry as a founding partner of Black Entertainment Television (BET) and, most recently, as a film producer. In partnership with other investors, her first film, Kicking It, premiered at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival. She executive produced her second film, A Powerful Noise, which premiered at the 2008 TriBeCa Film Festival in New York, as well as her third film, She Is The Matador

In 2006 she was named global ambassador for CARE, a leading humanitarian organization fighting poverty worldwide by empowering women since they are in a pivotal position to help their communities escape poverty. ďSheilaís I Am Powerful ChallengeĒ was instrumental in raising funds for this important work. 

A fervent supporter of the arts and education, she was recently appointed by Barack Obama to the Presidentís Committee on the Arts and the Humanities and serves as Chair of the Board of Governors of Parsons The New School for Design in New York. She sits on the boards of Americans for the Arts, the Jackie Robinson Foundation, the Tiger Woods Foundation, the University of Virginia Curry School of Education, Howard University, the University of Illinois Foundation, and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

An accomplished violinist, Ms. Johnson received a Bachelor of Arts in music from the University of Illinois, as well as honorary degrees from numerous other institutions. Ms. Johnson, who lives in Middleburg, VA, is a mother of two, and remarried to the Honorable William T. Newman, Jr.

Here, she talks about her new film, The Other City, an exposeí about the HIV/AIDS crisis in Washington, DC which recently premiered at the 2010 TriBeCa Film Festival.

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Kam Williams: Hi, Ms. Johnson, itís an honor to speak with you.  

Sheila Johnson: Thanks, Kam, how are you?

KW: Fine thanks. I saw The Other City and loved it, and I told my readers Iíd be interviewing you, so I have plenty of questions to get to.

SJ: Oh, great!

KW: Reverend Florine Thompson asks, what is it about HIV/AIDS that prompted you to produce the film?

SJ: I really wanted to do this film in order to ignite the discussion, and to reeducate. What has been happening, that is so wrong right now is that AIDS has disappeared from the radar screen. Itís no longer a celebrity-driven cause anymore, so I wanted to bring it back to the people. I also wanted to give dignity to the victims now suffering with AIDS, so that people can see not only that the disease hasnít gone away, but is spreading at an alarming rate and disproportionately affecting African-American women. So, I think we need to get out and start educating young people, and especially the black churches need to be talking about it from the pulpit. And we, as a society, need to stop hiding behind the stigma in order to be able to give the disease the platform we need to start the reeducation process and halt the increase in the transmission rate. 

KW: 2010 Florida State University grad Laz Lyles would like to know what was the most surprising thing youíve discovered about the epidemic? 

SJ: How it has increasingly become a heterosexual disease. The thing I wished the movie had emphasized more was how many married women we now have coming down with it. Their husbands are bringing it home to them. I had three women come up to me and say that the only sin they committed in life was getting married. Thatís very sad. The other surprising thing weíre finding is that AIDS is hitting at a younger age, as young as 13 among gay males.

KW: Lester Chisholm says that Urban Prep, an African-American male charter high school in Chicago has a 100% college acceptance rate, and itís aiming for a 100% college graduation rate. He wonders whether we might accomplish a 100% success rate in the fight against AIDS, if we adopted this same attitude for a given population.

SJ: I think that we really could stop this disease, if we seriously educate our young people, starting in junior high, and continue delivering the message in high schools and across college campuses. I really do. Meanwhile, scientists and doctors are still working on finding a cure, and some say theyíre getting closer and closer. Between education and research, we can stop it. 

KW: Larry Greenberg says, ďI know that in addition to your enormous accomplishments in business and philanthropy you are a virtuoso violinist.Ē He asks, ďDo you still find time to play?Ē

SJ: I donít. Iím very ashamed about that. My motherís on me all the time about that, and so, is my husband. He always says, ďYouíre such a great violinist. Why donít you keep playing?Ē I guess what has happened is that between raising a family and trying to keep businesses afloat I just do not have the time to practice, because Iím such a perfectionist. I suppose I could make the time, even if I sat down for just an hour every day, but Iíve lost the discipline of practice. 

KW: Rev Thompson asks, ďWho has been your role model along your journey? Who or what has been your source of inspiration in life?Ē

SJ: Iíd have to say there have been many, many people. Basically, educators have been my role models. There are two teachers in particular, from high school and college, who I stay in touch with and talk to on about a monthly basis. And as Iíve gotten older, there have been more and more people Iíve met in life whoíve become role models. Four years ago, I remarried, and my husband is one of the most inspiring men Iíve ever met. Heís a Chief Judge, and I just love to watch him on the bench to observe how he tries to find a silver lining in the most hardened of criminals in order to give them a second chance. Another person I admire is the President of the University of Illinois, Joe White, who I think is brilliant. Heís always giving me terrific advice on different issues. I am lucky to have a lot of extraordinary friends who really do help me including, of course, my mother, whoís living with me now. She was there from the beginning, and even at the age of 87, sheís still constantly pushing me forward, encouraging me with, ďYou can do it!Ē and ďDonít give up!Ē  

KW: Reverend Thompson asks, ďWhat would you like to accomplish that you havenít already?Ē

SJ: Iím in the third act of my life with this hospitality company, Salamander. The one thing I really want to do is to continue to build this resort that Iíve been working on in Middleburg, Virginia. My goal is to get it finished and open. Itís been a seven-year battle for me, because I very naively built south of the Mason-Dixon Line. I didnít realize that there was still this much racial tension in the country. I was very naÔve about it. Racism smacked me right in the face while doing this project, but I did not want to lose this war.

KW: So, I guess the rumors Iíve heard about what youíve encountered are true.

SJ: It was unbelievableÖ the death threatsÖ you have no idea.

KW: Did you regret endorsing Republican Bob McDonnell for Governor of Virginia, given that after he won the election he issued a proclamation declaring April Confederate History Month?

SJ: Yep, I think Iíve been thrown under the bus. It was quite an embarrassment. My husband had warned me, too. The one thing I learned from this experience is that I will never get involved in politics again on either side. Iím declaring myself an independent. I was just shocked. A group of us, including the President of Hampton University plan to meet with the Governor soon to discuss it.

KW: Yale grad Tommy Russell says, "Since you're a former media executive, what do you think about Comcast's move to buy a controlling stake in NBC/Universalógood move or bad move from NBC's perspective?"

SJ: Well, I will tell you that not only print, but all media are struggling right now. These are business decisions that only the people running the company can really answer. Those on the outside shouldnít be too judgmental about these mergers. There are reasons why theyíre happening, and itís really for the survival of the market.

KW: From Reverend Thompson again: What most informs your spirituality?

SJ: I have always been a strong Christian? Growing up, I never missed church. Iím not as good about going right now, because Iím always travelling so much. But I pray every dayÖ before I get out of bedÖand when I go to bed at night. I have a very strong spiritual core.

KW: Finally, the Rev asks, what advice would you give a young lady who seeks the level of success you've attained?

SJ: Stay humble. Donít ever, ever take anything for granted in life. Donít assume anything. Itís is very important to have love and passion for whatever you do.

KW: Is there any question no one ever asks you, that you wish someone would?

SJ: [Chuckles] I wish someone would ask me to be an ambassador someday.

KW: The Tasha Smith question: Are you ever afraid?

SJ: Yes, there are times when Iím afraid. Just building that hotel in Middleburg made me fearful on many different levels. Sometimes, I get anxious. One of my biggest problems is that I tend to get very impatient, especially during this recession. Iím a little bit afraid about the economy, because it really does affect everyone, and you just donít know whatís going to happen.  

KW: The Columbus Short question: Are you happy?

SJ: I am very happy. I have reached a point in my life where I feel safe for the first time. In my personal life, I have lots of friends, and Iíve learned to be comfortable with myself, and I donít feel the need to prove anything. Iím following my passion, and I wake up everyday wanting to do more.

KW: The bookworm Troy Johnson question: What was the last book you read?

SJ: Game Change.

KW: The music maven Heather Covington question: What are you listening to on your iPod? 

SJ: It depends on my mood. I tend to listen to a lot of jazz. If Iím going to bed at night, I might listen to classical music, but I do like jazz.

KW: What is your favorite dish to cook?

SJ: Anything that is Italian. Pasta is my favorite food in the world.

KW: The Teri Emerson question: When was the last time you had a good laugh?

SJ: [LOL] I laugh every day. Let me think of the funniest thing that happened recently... My husband is a very funny man for a judge. He just told me a joke that I canít remember, but he keeps me laughing all the time.

KW: The Ling-Ju Yen question: What is your earliest childhood memory?

SJ: It would be my first day of school in kindergarten. I was sitting in the classroom, and the little boy across the table made pee-pee on my foot, and Iíll never forget that. [Chuckles]

KW: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?

SJ: Oh, I see a woman that is aging gracefully, whoís happy, and seems to be at peace with herself.

KW: If you could have one wish instantly granted, what would that be for?

SJ: To recover from this recession and have my hotel opened.

KW: The Uduak Oduok question: Who is your favorite clothes designer?

SJ: Donna Karan.

KW: The Laz Alonso question: How can your fans help you?

SJ: By, instead of asking for a handout, offering to help me help others.

KW: How do you want to be remembered?

SJ: As a woman who was always generous, not only with her pocketbook, but with her heart.

KW: Well, thank you for being so generous with your time, thoughts and feelings here. I really appreciate it.

SJ: You are so welcome.

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Sheila Crump Johnson (born 1949) is the team president, managing partner, and governor of the WNBA's Washington Mystics, a position she gained before the 2005 season. On May 24, 2005, Washington Sports and Entertainment Chairman, Abe Pollin, sold the Mystics to Lincoln Holdings LLC, where Johnson served as president. She is the first African-American woman to be an owner or partner in three professional sports franchises: the Washington Capitals (NHL), the Washington Wizards (NBA), and the Washington Mystics (WNBA). Johnson currently serves as CEO of Salamander Hospitality, a company she founded in 2005. Salamander's portfolio includes: The Woodlands Resort & Inn, in Summerville, SC; The Innisbrook Resort and Golf Club, a 900-acre (3.6 km2), 72 hole PGA tour golf course in Palm Harbor, FL; and The Salamander Resort & Spa in the Blue Ridge Mountains in Middleburg, VA. (opening date: Spring 2012). The Woodlands Resort & Inn was recently sold to Charleston attorney Johnny Linton, but is still managed by Salamander. . . .

For 33 years from 1969Ė2002, she was married to Robert L. Johnson. Together they made their fortune by founding the entertainment network BET. They sold the company to Viacom in 1999. They have two children: daughter Paige (1986), an accomplished equestrian; and son Brett (1990).

In a recent interview, Sheila Johnson said she herself is "ashamed" of what the BET has become. ďI donít watch it. I suggest to my kids that they donít watch it," she said. ďWhen we started BET, it was going to be the Ebony magazine on television. We had public affairs programming. We had news... I had a show called Teen Summit, we had a large variety of programming, but the problem is that then the video revolution started up... And then something started happening, and I didnít like it at all. And I remember during those days we would sit up and watch these videos and decide which ones were going on and which ones were not. We got a lot of backlash from recording artists...and we had to start showing them. I didnít like the way women were being portrayed in these videos.Ē

After her divorce from Robert L. Johnson in 2002, she was estimated to be worth about $670M. In 2009, Forbes magazine estimated her net worth to be $400 million She lives in Wellington, Florida. Her mother Barbara Crump passed away on November 2, 2006 at the age of 91. On September 24, 2005, she married Arlington County Circuit Court Chief Judge William T. Newman, who presided over her divorce from Robert L. Johnson in 2003.óWikipedia

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Trailer for The Other City

Sheila Johnson, Marrying Very Well  /  Top 10 Wealthiest Black Americans

Sheila Johnson's fight against HIV in DC

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The New Color of Success

Twenty Young Black Millionaires Tell You How They're Making It

By Niki Butle Mitchell

The New Color of Success accomplishes the feat of educating what I hope will be a large multicultural readership about the talent we have always known exists in our community, while providing role models and inspiration for everyone.óEarl G. Graves, founder, editor, and publisher of Black Enterprise magazine

This book is a must read for those who understand that the challenges of the twenty-first century will be both DuBois's color line and the post-industrial dollar sign.ó
Julianne Malveaux, economist and author of Wall Street, Main Street, and the Side Street

Throughout my career, economic empowerment for African Americans has been one of my primary goals. It is rewarding to see the fruits of generations of struggle manifested in a book of this nature.óCongressman John Conyers, Jr.

"This is powerful stuff?a bible for folks of color who possess the guts, vision, and tenacity to build viable businesses and significant personal wealth.ó
Blair S. Walker, author of Why Should White Guys Have All the Fun? and Up Jumped the Devil.

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It Aint My Fault by Mos Def & Lenny Kravitz

Bill Moyers and James Cone (Interview)  / A Conversation with James Cone

John Coltrane, "Alabama"  /  Kalamu ya Salaam, "Alabama"  / A Love Supreme

A Blues for the Birmingham Four  /  Eulogy for the Young Victims   / Six Dead After Church Bombing 

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#1 - Justify My Thug by Wahida Clark
#2 - Flyy Girl by Omar Tyree
#3 - Head Bangers: An APF Sexcapade by Zane
#4 - Life Is Short But Wide by J. California Cooper
#5 - Stackin' Paper 2 Genesis' Payback by Joy King
#6 - Thug Lovin' (Thug 4) by Wahida Clark
#7 - When I Get Where I'm Going by Cheryl Robinson
#8 - Casting the First Stone by Kimberla Lawson Roby
#9 - The Sex Chronicles: Shattering the Myth by Zane

#10 - Covenant: A Thriller  by Brandon Massey

#11 - Diary Of A Street Diva  by Ashley and JaQuavis

#12 - Don't Ever Tell  by Brandon Massey

#13 - For colored girls who have considered suicide  by Ntozake Shange

#14 - For the Love of Money : A Novel by Omar Tyree

#15 - Homemade Loves  by J. California Cooper

#16 - The Future Has a Past: Stories by J. California Cooper

#17 - Player Haters by Carl Weber

#18 - Purple Panties: An Anthology by Sidney Molare

#19 - Stackin' Paper by Joy King

#20 - Children of the Street: An Inspector Darko Dawson Mystery by Kwei Quartey

#21 - The Upper Room by Mary Monroe

#22 Ė Thug Matrimony  by Wahida Clark

#23 - Thugs And The Women Who Love Them by Wahida Clark

#24 - Married Men by Carl Weber

#25 - I Dreamt I Was in Heaven - The Rampage of the Rufus Buck Gang by Leonce Gaiter


#1 - Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable
#2 - Confessions of a Video Vixen by Karrine Steffans
#3 - Dear G-Spot: Straight Talk About Sex and Love by Zane
#4 - Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny by Hill Harper
#5 - Peace from Broken Pieces: How to Get Through What You're Going Through by Iyanla Vanzant
#6 - Selected Writings and Speeches of Marcus Garvey by Marcus Garvey
#7 - The Ebony Cookbook: A Date with a Dish by Freda DeKnight
#8 - The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors by Frances Cress Welsing
#9 - The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter Godwin Woodson

#10 - John Henrik Clarke and the Power of Africana History  by Ahati N. N. Toure

#11 - Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure by Tavis Smiley

#12 -The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

#13 - The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life by Kevin Powell

#14 - The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore

#15 - Why Men Fear Marriage: The Surprising Truth Behind Why So Many Men Can't Commit  by RM Johnson

#16 - Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire by Carol Jenkins

#17 - Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell

#18 - A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose by Eckhart Tolle

#19 - John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism by Keith Gilyard

#20 - Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher by Leonard Harris

#21 - Age Ain't Nothing but a Number: Black Women Explore Midlife by Carleen Brice

#22 - 2012 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino
#23 - Chicken Soup for the Prisoner's Soul by Tom Lagana
#24 - 101 Things Every Boy/Young Man of Color Should Know by LaMarr Darnell Shields

#25 - Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class  by Lisa B. Thompson

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Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America

By Melissa V. Harris-Perry

According to the author, this society has historically exerted considerable pressure on black females to fit into one of a handful of stereotypes, primarily, the Mammy, the Matriarch or the Jezebel.  The selfless Mammyís behavior is marked by a slavish devotion to white folksí domestic concerns, often at the expense of those of her own familyís needs. By contrast, the relatively-hedonistic Jezebel is a sexually-insatiable temptress. And the Matriarch is generally thought of as an emasculating figure who denigrates black men, ala the characters Sapphire and Aunt Esther on the television shows Amos and Andy and Sanford and Son, respectively.     

Professor Perry points out how the propagation of these harmful myths have served the mainstream culture well. For instance, the Mammy suggests that it is almost second nature for black females to feel a maternal instinct towards Caucasian babies. As for the source of the Jezebel, black women had no control over their own bodies during slavery given that they were being auctioned off and bred to maximize profits. Nonetheless, it was in the interest of plantation owners to propagate the lie that sisters were sluts inclined to mate indiscriminately.

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Super Rich: A Guide to Having it All

By Russell Simmons

Russell Simmons knows firsthand that wealth is rooted in much more than the stock  market. True wealth has more to do with what's in your heart than what's in your wallet. Using this knowledge, Simmons became one of America's shrewdest entrepreneurs, achieving a level of success that most investors only dream about. No matter how much material gain he accumulated, he never stopped lending a hand to those less fortunate. In Super Rich, Simmons uses his rare blend of spiritual savvy and street-smart wisdom to offer a new definition of wealth-and share timeless principles for developing an unshakable sense of self that can weather any financial storm. As Simmons says, "Happy can make you money, but money can't make you happy."

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Boisí Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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Negro Digest / Black World

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of Haiti 

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posted 25 May 2010




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