More than 20,000 signatures have been gathered on an Internet petition denouncing the decision of syndicated music show "Soul Train" to give its Lady of Soul entertainer of the year award to 21-year-o

More than 20,000 signatures have been gathered on an Internet petition denouncing the decision of syndicated music show "Soul Train" to give its Lady of Soul entertainer of the year award to 21-year-old R&B newcomer Ashanti. The document posted at PetitionOnline.com has collected 10 times the supporters that a petition opposing a military invasion of Iraq had collected as of yesterday (Aug. 20).

Ashanti has become a sensation in the months since the April release of her self-titled Murder Inc./Def Jam debut album. The set has sold 2.38 million copies in the U.S., according to Nielsen SoundScan, and debuted at No. 1 on Billboard's Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart and The Billboard 200. Lead single "Foolish" topped Billboard's Hot 100 for 10 consecutive weeks.

The petition complains that she's not talented enough to deserve the entertainer of the year award, especially since it is named after the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin. Previous honorees include Toni Braxton, Mariah Carey, TLC, and Jill Scott. "It is an insult to other entertainers who are more deserving of this award and Aretha Franklin," the petition states. "Ashanti simply lacks singing ability and stage presence."

"Soul Train" officials posted an unsigned reaction on the show's Web site that expressed outrage "over the fact that a people, whose ancestry suffered 400 years of slavery, can be herded so easily into a virtually bottomless mud hole and be taught to sling such mud therein." A spokesperson for Ashanti said that the singer would not comment on the criticism prior to the awards show.

Now in its eighth year, the Soul Train Lady of Soul Awards ceremony will be held Saturday (Aug. 24) at the at the Pasadena (Calif.) Civic Auditorium. The event will be co-hosted by Arsenio Hall, Jill Scott, and "Soul Train" host Shemar Moore, and will be broadcast live on KTLA Los Angeles and nationally through the Tribune Broadcasting show's affiliates.

As previously reported Ashanti leads the field with five nominations, as well as the entertainer of the year designation. Other multiple nominees are the late Aaliyah, Alicia Keys, Mary J. Blige, Destiny's Child, Exhale, and Isyss featuring Jadakiss. Winners are determined by an unspecified group of radio programmers, recording artists, and music retail personnel.


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