Ashanti Douglas, Topping the Charts and Helping Frontline Workers

File: Ashanti 2012.jpg” by MoniqueTatum is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

| Written by Melony F. Carter | February 14, 2021|

Grammy award winner, actress, songwriter, and student of professional dance— Ashanti Douglas was born October 13, 1980 in the small city of Glen Cove, not far from Long Island, New York.

Ascending From Dance to Music

With a strong foundation in performance arts, she studied at the school of Bernice Johnson Cultural Arts Center. Ashanti’s mother, now “momager” Tina Douglas and father, Kincaid Douglas had allowed Ashanti to express herself as a talented dancer.

Soon her dedication would yield results, allowing her to perform at Carnegie Hall and the Apollo Theater. As a youth, Ashanti would go on to earn a spot in the Disney TV movie, “Polly” for director and choreographer Debbie Allen.

Cultivated to dance, at eleven, Ashanti’s mother was convinced her daughter was born to be a star. One day upon overhearing Ashanti singing an acapella version of Mary J Blige’s, song, “Reminisce” Tina believed she was meant to sing.

The Record Label’s Lead Vocalist  

An honor student in high school, Ashanti was offered athletic and academic scholarships for Princeton University and Hampton University. But it was her passion for a career in music that drove her to continue pursuing a record deal. For her, to nestle her R & B techniques with hip-hop and rap, would allow her to standout. Ashanti searched for the right record label. After leaving Def Jam she signed with gangster label, Murder Inc. becoming the first lead vocalist. With the chance to flex, Ashanti showcased her talent on the chorus “How We Roll” with artist Big Pun.

Topping the Billboard Charts

Confident, that Ashanti was ready for the mainstream, executive record producer Irv Gotti, decided it was time for the songstress to release her own album, “Ashanti”.

In April of 2002, with hits like “Always on Time” featuring Ja Rule, and so forth, Ashanti was the first artist since the Beatles, to have two songs, “Foolish” and “What’s Luv?” in the Hot 100 Billboard top ten— alongside, the third, that she wrote for singer, Jennifer Lopez, “Ain’t It Funny” in the first week of her album release.

Acting, Awards and Philanthropy

Holding over 73 acting credits and the recipient of many awards, Ashanti has appeared in role such as, the film Coach Carter (2005), Malcolm X (1992), John Tucker Must Die (2006) and Resident Evil: Extinction (2007). She has also appeared in the TV series Proud Family, and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. 

Most recently, today, Ashanti Douglas, during the pandemic— has reached out in support of frontline workers in New York Hospitals by providing 30,000 N95 masks and 400 breakfasts from “Beyond Meat and Dunkin’ Donuts,” vegan breakfasts sandwiches. She has also released her new single, “I Want You” (2021) which is already streaming on most social media platforms.   

Cited Works:

Britannica, T. Editors of Encyclopaedia. “Ashanti.” Encyclopedia Britannica, February 14, 2021 https://www.encyclopedia.com/people/literature-and-arts/music-popular-and-jazz-biographies/ashanti-singer

Staff Writer, Los Angeles, CA, Enjoli, Audrey of Live Kindly. “Ashanti Supports Frontline Workers With Free Vegan Meat.” MAY 1ST, 2020 https://www.livekindly.co/ashanti-frontline-workers-vegan-meat/

An Original Influencer, Cicely Tyson

| Written by Melony F. Carter | February 7, 2021|

A Broadway performer, a multi-generational award-winning actress, a former Ebony magazine model, the dignified Cicely Tyson, (1924 – 2021) was a pathfinder.   

Since the early 1950’s— a prominent figure in the film community, Cicely Tyson, purposefully made it her true intention to represent a positive image of Black women in film and media. An early trendsetter and supporter of the natural hair movement, Cicely, was one of the first women to wear an afro on the TV series East Side West Side (1963). She would later go on to wear cornrows in the film Sounder (1972), which gained her a nomination for best actress for an Academy Award.  

As an actress, Cicely considered roles that displayed the progression of the Civil Rights movement to be necessary. In 1978, she went on to act in both TV mini-series King as Coretta Scott King, and as Harriet Tubman in A Woman Called Moses.

She was best known for roles like, The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman (1994) which won her two Emmy Awards, Roots (1977), Harlem (1997), and the 1968 film version of Carson McCullers’s The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter and her Emmy winning TV movie Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All (1994).  

Growing up in Harlem, Cicely’s parents were immigrants from the Caribbean island of Nevis that helped to ground her in her religious roots.  

With a strong passion in gospel music, she eventually developed her very own Cicely Tyson Community School for Performing and Fine Arts located in East Orange, NJ. In 2015— Tyler Perry, opening his 330-acre lot production facility in the heart of Atlanta, named one of his sound stages after Cicely Tyson in her honor.  

Cited:

Biography, Editors of Biography. “Cicely Tyson.” Biography, January 28, 2021. https://www.biography.com/actor/cicely-tyson

Britannica, T. Editors of Encyclopaedia. “Cicely Tyson.” Encyclopedia Britannica, January 28, 2021. https://www.britannica.com/biography/Cicely-Tyson.

The First Lady of Song, Ella Fitzgerald

 

Written by, Melony F. Carter

Picture: Creative Commons
Date: February 27, 2019
Elegant, harmonious, jazz legend; this tribute is for, “The First Lady of Song” Ella Fitzgerald!With a singing career that lasted nearly 50 years, it is no wonder her artistic talent helped her overcome hard times to become an uncompromising, renowned award-winning jazz, swing and scatting musician.

Her Courage

Born in 1918 in Newport News, Virginia Ella Fitzgerald was privy to the jazz era that began in the 1920’s. As this new genre blossomed into a new musical concept its style was established with roots in “Spirituals, blues, field hollers, African rhythms, folk songs, and marches.” As the new form of music developed popularity, Ella would soon become a part of its impact.

In 1934, at the age of 16, ready to showcase her talents; originally Ella had agreed to dance for the first-time during amateur night at Harlem’s own Apollo Theater. But once it was time to entertain the crowd due to a bad case of stage fright Ella had become so nervous that she could not perform her routine. Overwhelmed by the pressure, unrehearsed she had courageously decided to sing instead. Recalling her mother’s tunes by the Boswell Sisters, “Believe it, Beloved” and “Judy”— she sang. Her last-minute decision was brilliant enough to actually win $25 that night gaining her the reputation as a singer.

Afterwards, she continued to enter talent shows singing around town. She eventually landed herself jobs performing in 1934 with saxophonist Benny Carter, and in 1935 she would professionally sing with the Tiny Bradshaw band making $50.

Overcoming Tragedy

Orphaned at the age of 17, by the passing of her mother in 1935, bandleader Chick Webb and his wife Sallye Webb adopted Ella. Overcoming the lost, Ella would soon go on to record her first song with the Chick Webb Orchestra entitled, “Love and Kisses” which opened up doors for various songs like, 1935 and her first hit, “A-Tisket, A-Tasket, Porgy and Bess (1957), and many others. She also toured with the Philharmonic and in 1958 Fitzgerald won a Grammy for her work, The Irving Berlin Songbook.
Today in Honor Of 
Said by Bing Crosby, “Man, women or child, Ella is the greatest singer of them all” today she is still acknowledged as one of the best vocalists in history. To honor her remarkable deeds an excellence, on December 2, 1979 in Washington, D.C., Mrs. Fitzgerald was honored by President Jimmy Carters wife, Rosalynn Carter at the Kennedy Center. In 1987 she was also awarded the National Medal of Arts by Ronald Reagan.

Before she passed away in 1996, she also had the opportunity of working with other jazz musicians such-as Charlie Parker, Duke Ellington and Dizzy Gillespie who is seen here in this infamous photograph gazing at Ella as he is captivated by her singing the song, Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas.

Works Cited:
Kliment, Bud. Ella Fitzgerrald. Grolier Incorporated, 1990.

Ella