Thousands protest Ashanti's ''Soul Train'' award. Online petitioners who think the young singer is unworthy of the top ''Lady of Soul'' award provoke an angry response from TV's R&B showcase
Credit: Ashanti: Tom Lau/Loud & Clear Media/STAR MAX Inc. /Newscom

Ashanti’s had a remarkably successful year, but is the newcomer worthy of ”Soul Train”’s top honor, the ”Aretha Franklin Entertainer of the Year Award,” which she is to receive at the show’s eighth annual Lady of Soul Awards on Aug. 24? More than 20,000 people think not, according to an online petition started by a teen who says ”Soul Train” has flamed him venomously as a result.

Rommel Zamora, a 15-year-old high school sophomore from California, started the signature drive at Petition Online on July 31 because ”I was bored and I had nothing to do,” he tells E! He wrote on the petition that he thought the 21-year-old Ashanti lacked ”singing ability and stage presence,” and that to give her the award was an insult to Franklin and to worthier candidates, including Faith Evans, Alicia Keys, India.Arie, or Aaliyah.

Zamora’s own website contains what he says is a screen shot of a rebuttal that ”Soul Train” posted on its own website, singling out ”white-owned” for condemnation for linking to the petition, which the posting said might be more accurately named, ”I’m a f—ing loser, I’m not talented or successful, I don’t know s— about the music industry and I need to get a motherf—ing life!!”

If ”Soul Train” did post such a rant, it’s not there any longer, though the show’s website does contain a statement that expresses 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” at an undeserving target.

While she’s guaranteed to take home the Entertainer of the Year award, Ashanti is also up for five other prizes, more than any other nominee. The ceremony will be broadcast live in syndication from the Pasadena Civic Auditorium on Saturday.