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Walk through fire

Sheila Johnson has had an exceptionally rewarding personal and professional life, overcoming many obstacles that would have discouraged and leveled many other people. All her life, from the time she was very young, Sheila Johnson has worked steadily and relentlessly.  Among her many accomplishments are: co-founder of BET (Black Entertainment Television); the first African American woman billionaire; the only Black woman to be the co-owner of three professional sports teams; and the founder of Salamander Hotels and Resorts. The pathways to those signal achievements are part of her compelling autobiography.

Both of her parents were professionals, however when her neurosurgeon father walked out on her mother for another woman, her mother’s equilibrium was shattered. Even though the young Sheila made a promise to herself never to be in the same situation, a damaging pattern had been set that would have negative and positive repercussions for her adult life. She was an excellent student and a multi-talented artist and violinist. In fact, her talent and ability as a violinist gave balance to her life, and she continues to value and promote what the arts can bring to everyone's life. When she was selected to play a solo piece, she realized, "Playing that solo centered me inside myself. It made me realize I could make a career out of music, and so I decided to set my mind to making that happen." With the support of her beloved orchestra director at Proviso East High School, Susan Starrett, Johnson went on to the University of Illinois, where she graduated with a degree in music in 1970. 

Her personal battles were not that different from those faced by people today: racial and sexual discrimination. Therefore, she is well aware that there are many, many more miles that this country needs to travel in order to provide fair and equal treatment and dignity to all. Having money and position has not diminished preconceived notions. Fairly recently, Sheila Johnson, a well-known extremely wealthy executive and entrepreneur, faced some obstacles with bank officials. With her strong focus and sense of purpose she has prevailed, and continues to reach out to those who need financial assistance along with guidance specific to their goals and objectives. This autobiography presents her life story and reflection about past errors in judgement, which then led elsewhere, and also tragedies that were devastating. In this third phase of her life, a circuitous reconnection with someone from her past resulted in a most surprising way that is a story perfect for Valentine's Day.