From humble beginnings as a schoolgirl and young violinist in Maywood, Illinois, Sheila Johnson rose to become one of the most accomplished businesswomen in America. A cofounder of Black Entertainment Television, she became an entrepreneur and philanthropist at the highest levels.
But that success came at a painful personal cost.
Sheila grew up in a middle-class family that encouraged her love of the arts and music. But her idyllic childhood ended at age sixteen when her beloved father announced he was leaving for another woman, an act that shattered her mother and destroyed Sheila's trust. She vowed she'd never be in her mother's position--dependent on a man for her sense of self-worth and for financial security. Yet when she was barely out of her teens, Sheila married a man who would take her right down that same unfortunate path.
Filled with sharply drawn, emotionally powerful scenes, Walk Through Fire traces the hardships Sheila faced in her marriage and her professional life. Despite her skills as a violinist and music teacher, as well as her obvious entrepreneurial talent, she had to fight to overcome self-doubt and fears of failure. Sheila vividly details her struggles, including battling institutional racism, losing a child, suffering emotional abuse in her thirty-three-year marriage, and plunging into a deep depression with her divorce. And yet, out of that pain came renewed purpose and meaning. In the third act of her life, Sheila Johnson has not only made her mark as the founder of Salamander Hotels & Resorts and the only Black female co-owner of three professional sports teams, she has also, finally, found true love.
Walk Through Fire is a uniquely American success story. And it is the deeply personal portrait of one woman who, despite heartache and obstacles, finally found herself and her place in the world.
Sheila Johnson is an American entrepreneur and philanthropist, co-founder of BET, founder and CEO of Salamander Hotels & Resorts, and the only African American woman to have a principal shareholder stake in three professional sports teams.
Johnson will be in conversation with Susan Koch. EMMY and Peabody award-winning filmmaker Susan Koch directs, writes, and produces documentaries and non-fiction programming for worldwide distribution. Koch’s feature documentary, Kicking It, about homeless soccer players who competes in an international tournament, premiered at the Sundance and Tribeca Film Festivals, was released theatrically and on DVD, and broadcast on ESPN. Koch co-directed and produced Mario's Story,about a young Latino, Mario Rocha, who was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison on the basis of one eyewitness and no physical evidence. Koch’s films and videos have appeared on ABC, NBC, PBS, HBO, Showtime, MTV, ESPN, The Discovery Channel, National Geographic, Turner Broadcasting, American Movie Classics, The Learning Channel, and the Travel Channel. Koch is also the Executive Director of the Middleburg Film Festival, located in Middleburg, Virginia, outside of Washington, D.C.