Derrick N. Ashong, also known as "DNA", (born 1975 in Accra, Ghana), is a musician, artist, activist, and entrepreneur.

Background

Born in a house with no running water in Accra, Ghana in 1975, Derrick Ashong is the son of a pediatrician. He attended school in Brooklyn, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Voorhees, New Jersey[3] before attending Harvard University in 1997 where he studied Afro-American studies and was awarded the Hoopes Prize for his senior thesis. After being naturalized as an American citizen, he returned to Harvard through a Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowship for New Americans, and studied for a PhD in Ethnomusicology and Afro-American studies, until Dave Stewart of Eurythmics fame invited him to come work at his entertainment company, Weapons of Mass Entertainment.[3] Ashong was a founding member of the Harvard Black Alumni Society and founded the Black Men's Forum.[4]

Personal

Derrick Ashong is married and has two children.

Arts

Ashong's musical career started while at Harvard. He produced a musical entitled Songs We Can't Sing, for which he won awards,[5] before forming a band called "Black Rose". The band later became known as Soulfège. Ashong has worked with such established artists as Debbie Allen, Janet Jackson, & Bobby McFerrin, and is MC and leader of Soulfège, under the name "DNA", producing works that have aired globally via outlets including MTV Africa, MNet Africa and BBC World Service.[3]

In 1997, Ashong had a role in Steven Spielberg's Amistad, playing the character Buakei, a role he gained through attending an open audition in New York City.[6] He also appeared in a 2006 documentary about the Angola 3, entitled 3 Black Panthers and the Last Slave Plantation.[7] Ashong founded a talent agency, ASAFO Productions.[8]

Ashong is also the former host of The Derrick Ashong Experience on Oprah Radio, The Stream on Al Jazeera English, and DNAtv on Fusion (ABC/Univision). In 2012, Ashong and his team won a Royal Television Society Award and were nominated for a News & Documentary Emmy Award for their work on The Stream.

He received another Emmy nod in 2015 for , the flagship show of his digital media company, , which launched at the beginning of the same year.

Public roles

Derrick Ashong has lectured on music, technology, the free market, and individualism at over a hundred institutions in the United States, Africa, Europe, the Caribbean and Asia, including the World Music Expo WOMEX in 2003 in Spain,[4] UK Parliament, the UN, and Harvard and Stanford Business Schools. He is the author of FREE THIS CD!!! - The FAM Manifesto - a text outlining the philosophy of open source music,[5] which ultimately led him to found his company, amp.it that rewards and recognizes fans for discovering, sharing and curating original, independent content.

Ashong reached prominent media attention when a YouTube video went viral, of him speaking on Barack Obama's campaign to gain the Democratic nomination for the 2008 U.S. presidential election. Surprising the interviewer who expected a short soundbite (perhaps based on Ashong's casual appearance), Ashong gave a measured and protracted analysis of Obama's campaign.[9] The video has been viewed more than a million times.

He recently founded a Miami-based tech company, called which in 2015 completed the pilot season of its first media property, , which was a 2015 Emmy finalist in the category of Original Interactive Programming.