African American Studies


Interviewee: Phil Black aka Felix Sarpong

Interviewer: Renee White

Date: May 3, 2012

Summarized by Daniel Matthews

Felix Sarpong, known as Phil Black, is a Ghanaian American native of the Bronx who works as an educator and music producer in the Bronx community. Phil Black was born in the Bronx on October 14th, 1974, and he spent most of his life in the borough. His mother worked as a housekeeping supervisor and was involved in Ghanaian politics, while his father was a teacher. His parents emigrated from Ghana in the late sixties. They moved the family there during his early childhood years so that Black and his older brother could learn the language and the culture. He was surrounded by a large Ghanaian family that greatly influenced him. He returned to the Bronx when he was five and a half and was enrolled in first grade at PS 33. He did not know how to speak English for the first two years of school, but was able to learn and reintegrate with the help of a teacher who mentored him. His father also helped a great deal, practicing reading and writing with him and his brother. .

Black became interested in music in the early eighties during his preteen and teen years, when hip hop was gaining popularity. He remembers the local jams near where he lived at 184th and Creston, in which artists would connect their stereo to the lampposts and host large block parties. He was also influenced by the Hispanic neighborhood he grew up in, where he heard many different types of music. He remembers only three black families in the neighborhood, but says all the young people were connected with hip hop culture. He also has many family members who produce music, through which he received hands on training in production. He began producing music through community work with Ghanaian youth and gang intervention.

Today, Black holds a Masters in Education and works as a head disciplinary dean at a local school. He also produces music, and heads his own production company, Victory Entertainment International. He produces musicians who make Hip Life, a fusion of hip hop and high life, a Ghanaian genre of popular music. Through Hip Life music, he maintains the strong connection between the Bronx and Ghana.