Famous Black Americans from Brooklyn

BY PAMELA STERN


February is Black History Month, a commemorative period that was originally established as a weeklong observance known in 1926 as national “Negro History Week,” by the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History. During the 1960s, activists from the civil rights movement urged authority figures to expand it. In 1976, President Gerald R. Ford proclaimed February to be officially recognized as Black History month.


In honor of the month-long celebration, the Spring Creek Sun compiled a list of famous Black Americans who were born and grew up right here in Brooklyn. Their influential work has inspired many throughout the United States, and we thought it might be interesting to know a little bit more
about these iconic Brooklynites.

Foxy Brown was born September 6, 1978 as Inga DeCarlo Fung Marchand in Brooklyn. When she was a teenager, she won a talent contest in Park Slope. She became known as Foxy Brown when became a rapper. She is best known for her solo work and briefly was part of a hip hop group “The Firm”. Brown was nominated for a Grammy for Broken Silence, in 2001.

Busta Rhymes was born on May 20, 1972, as Trevor George Smith Jr. in Brooklyn. He became known as Busta Rhymes after Chuck D of Public Enemy gave him the moniker Busta Rhymes after NFL and CFL wide receiver George “Buster” Rhymes. He is an American rapper, singer, musician, record producer, record executive and actor. He has received 11 Grammy Award nominations for his work. He is best known for his outlandish style and fashion sense as well as his intricate rhyming technique. He attended George Westinghouse and Technical Education High School in Downtown Brooklyn and he also attended Samuel J. Tilden High School in the East Flatbush section of Brooklyn, New York. He eventually graduated from Uniondale High School in Long Island.

Kim Coles was born on January 11, 1962 in Brooklyn. She is an American actress, comedian, and game show host. Coles is best known for her roles as a cast member on In Living Color for the first season (1990-1991) and as Synclaire James on television sitcom Living Single which both originally aired on Fox (1993-1998). She was the host of BET’s game show Pay It Off in 2009. He father was the first black dean of the Pratt Institute. She graduated from Brooklyn Technical High School (This is considered one of the most prestigious and selective high schools in the United States.) Coles is also a published author, her book is called I’m Free But It Will Cost You.

Louis Gossett Jr. was born on May 27, 1936 in the Sheepshead Bay section of Brooklyn. He is best known for his Academy Award winning role as Ginnery Sergeant Emil Foley in the 1982 film, An Officer and a Gentleman and his role as Fiddler in the 1977 ABC television miniseries Roots. Gossett Jr. is an alumnus of Mark Twain Intermediate School 239 and Abraham Lincoln High School. After Graduating high school, Gossett Jr. attended New York University. His role as drill instructor Gunnery Sergeant Emil Foley in the 1982 film An Officer and a Gentleman won him an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. He was the first African-American male to win an Oscar in a supporting role, the second black male to win for acting, and the third African-American actor to win overall.

Cheryl Renee James (Salt from Salt-N-Pepa) was born on March 28, 1966 in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn. She graduated from Grover Cleveland High School in Queens and attended Queensborough Community College to study nursing. This is where she met Sandra Denton (Pepa from Salt-N-Pepa). They both worked together as telephone solicitors at Sears. They formed the group “Super Nature” which eventually changed to Salt-N-Pepa. Salt-N-Pepa are an American Grammy award winning female rap trio. James starred in The Salt-N-Pepa Show, which was a TV series focusing on reforming the group which aired on the VH-1 network in 2008.

Deidra Muriel Roper (DJ Spinderella of Salt-N- Pepa) was born on August 3, 1970 in Brooklyn. Roper began her career as a DJ when she was fourteen years old. She dated a local DJ and she learned DJ techniques from him. Shortly thereafter, she began to market herself as a DJ in and around Brooklyn. Roper was approached when she was 16 by a classmate who asked her if she would be interested in joining an all-female rap group. This classmate knew the producer of the group and arranged for Roper to audition.

Shawn Corey Carter (Jay-Z) was born on December 4, 1969 in Brooklyn. He grew up and was raised in the Marcy Houses, a housing project in the Bedford Stuyvesant neighborhood. He attended Eli Whitney High School in Brooklyn until it was closed down. He was known as Jazzy around his neighborhood and later he adopted the showbiz/stage name as “Jay-Z” in homage to his mentor Jaz-O. Jay-Z is an American rapper, entrepreneur, songwriter, and record producer. He is the founder of the Roc Nation entertainment company as well as creating its spin-off, Roc Nation Sports. Jay-Z is a licensed sports agent. He has received 21 Grammy Awards, which ties him with Kanye West for the most music awards by a rapper. He also holds the record for the most number-one albums by a solo artist on the Billboard 200. He is the first rapper to be honored at the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2017 and to receive the “Salute to Industry Icons Award” at the 60th Grammy Awards.

Emmanuel Lewis was born on March 9, 1971, in Brooklyn. Lewis is an American actor, best known for playing the title character in the 1980s television show Webster. He graduated from Midwood High School in 1989. He then graduated from Clark Atlanta University in 1997. Lewis was also the child spokesperson for the Burger King Whopper. In Japan, he is known as a singer and has released two singles and his debut single, “City Connection” which reached number 2 on the Oricon chart.

Kimberly Denise Jones (Lil’ Kim) was born on July 11, 1974 or 1975 in the Bedford Stuyvesant neigh-borhood of Brooklyn. She attended Queen of All Saints Elementary School in Brooklyn. She also went to Sarah J. Hale Vocational High School for two- and a half years. Then she attended Brooklyn College Academy to finish her remaining year and a half of school. In 1994 she was discovered by fellow rap artist, The Notorious BIG who invited her to join his group, Junior M.A.F.I.A. Kim’s debut solo album, Hard Core (1996) was certified double platinum by the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America)and sold more than 6 million copies worldwide. Throughout her career, Lil’ Kim has sold more than 15 million albums and 30 million singles worldwide.

Eddie Regan Murphy was born on April 3, 1961 in Brooklyn. He was raised in the borough’s Bushwick neighborhood. He is an American comedian, actor, screen writer, singer and film producer. Murphy’s father died and his mother became ill when he was eight years old. This forced Murphy and his older bro-ther, Charlie, to live in foster care for one year. It has been said that in interviews, that his time in foster care was influential in developing his sense of humor. He worked as a stand-up comedian and was ranked #10 on Comedy central’s list of the 100 Greatest Stand-ups of All Time. Murphy was a regular cast member on Saturday Night Live (SNL) from 1980 to 1984. In 2007, he won the Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor and received a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal of soul singer “Thunder” Early in Dreamgirls. In 2015, Murphy was awarded the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor by the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

Chris Rock was born on February 7, 1965 in Andrews, South Carolina. Shortly after his birth, his parents moved to the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn. A few years later, they relocated and settled in the working-class are of Bedford Stuyvesant. He is an American comedian, actor, writer, producer, and director. In the early 1990s, Rock became a cast member on Saturday Night Live (SNL). He developed, wrote and narrated, the sitcom Everybody Hates Chris, which was based on his early life. Rock has won four Emmy Awards and three Grammy Awards. Rock is a vocal critic of racial profiling and often speaks of the “everyday racism” he experiences, despite being famous.