When a lot of people think of Long Island, “Black” isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. But, from the North Shore to the South Shore and from the west to out east, Long Island has seen and birthed a plethora of iconic Black celebrities and influencers.
So we took the liberty of shouting out these change makers in the African-American community who have been born on, went to school or lived on Long Island. Some celebs on the list may surprise you!
Yes, M-E-T-H-O-D Man is from Long Island. The Hempstead-born rapper grew up living between his mother’s home in Staten Island and his father’s house in Hempstead on Terrace Ave. Fun fact, Method, who’s real name is Clifford Smith Jr., developed a real passion for lacrosse and started playing it on Long Island at age 11. He was even good enough to be inducted into the inductee to the Long Island Lacrosse Hall of Fame.
Tyler Sharpe known as Lil Tecca, rose to fame back in May 2019 thanks to his well-known song “Ransom”. What may not be as well known is that this rapper represents Strong Island too. Lil Tecca was born in Queens but relocated to Cedarhurst and graduated from Lawrence High School. According to a former classmate, the 20-year-old rapper was actually more low-key in school.
Our boy Micah from “Queen Sugar” isn’t from the glamorous streets of LA or the lush farms of Louisiana but right here on Long Island. Hailing from Freeport, the 27-year-old actor actually created a scholarship for students right in his hometown. The Steam Train Scholarship was created in 2015 to help students in the arts. The event was held right on the Nautical Mile. “I started the initiative- but I knew I didn’t have the bucks to give away a scholarship every year,” said Ashe to HuffPost. “So I created a performance of people who attended the high school I went to including musicians, poets, rappers, and dancers, and every single penny that we raise goes into a scholarship for someone who is pursuing the arts.”
Not only is Micah from the island, but our adorable little guy Blue is too! Ethan Hutchinson born on Long Island in Sep. 7, 2010 to a New Orleans born father and mother from the Caribbean island of Dominica. The young actor has not only starred in “Queen Sugar” but the Hulu original “The Path” and HBO’s “High Maintenance.”
The “Epiphany” singer was born Central Islip and raised in Patchogue. She stayed close to home for college attending Five Towns College in Dix Hills graduating with a vocal performance degree. In an interview with No Place Like Long Island, Michele recalled her first show on Long Island and spoke on her connection to where shew grew up. “Culturally I’m a Long Islander, too. There’s the mixture of hip-hop and alternative-rock and then jazz-band geek. That is my music, I really am the culture of Long Island,” said Michele. ”The first real gig to me was at the Patchogue Theatre. I was still in college at the time and we had this choir called The Mixed Nuts. We did straight acapella. It was a really big deal, we felt like, “’This is our show.’”
Ashanti herself comes from Glen Cove. Before this successful Queen was dominating the radio and crushing it on Broadway stages as Dorothy, she was performing in local festivals on the island. She graduated from Glen Cove High School and went straight to Atlanta to pursue her dreams. The ”Happy” singer recently paid a visit to her alma mater to the shock of many surprised students.
Speaking of Queens, we don’t have to look any further than the Mariah Carey herself. This legend was born right here in Huntington and went to school in Harborfields in Greenlawn. She eventually made her way to NYC to pursue her music career. The Songbird Supreme did open up in an interview with Vulture recalling the racism she faced as a ”poor mixed race” person in an “all-white neighborhood.” In another interview with Yahoo Movies, Carey recalled an incident on the school bus in which a student spat on her because of her skin color.
You may not have known this one. The budding tennis star and four-time grand slam singles champion was born in Osaka, Japan, to a Japanese mother and Haitian father. When Osaka was three, her and the family relocated to Valley Stream, living with her father’s parents. This is when the 24-year-old and her older sister Mari began their tennis careers. Osaka would often practice on tennis courts in Jamaica, Queens right across the Long Island border. She went to Valley Stream’s Alden Terrace Elementary school and left Long Island only after a few years when Osaka was around eight or nine.
One of the most influential rappers of all time has always represented his hometown Wyandanch. In songs like “Guess Who’s Back” he gives a subtle nod to where he grew up. In his 1999 track “Strong Island”, Rakim delves deeper into his Long Island roots, furthering the “Strong Island” Black pride movement that came about in the 1980s on the island. During the 50th Annual Wyandanch Day celebration in 2018, Rakim came back home and was honored for his achievements in hip-hop with a Legacy award and sign right near Wyandanch train station.
Actor and Entertainer Daryl “Chill” Mitchell, most known for his roles in “House Party” and “NCIS: New Orleans,” was born in the Bronx but grew up in Wyandanch. The rapper-turned-actor was formerly part of the group Groove B. Chill, but went on to act in several movies and TV shows like “The Game,” “Fear of the Walking Dead” and more. Again like Rakim, Mitchell was rewarded for his success in October 2018 with a sign right on Wyandanch’s main road, Straight Path.
A good percentage of hip-hop’s heavy hitters come from Long Island, and this dynamic duo is no exception. Erick Sermon and Parrish Smith who make up the legendary group EPMD both hail from Brentwood. In “Brothers from Brentwood Long Island”, they make their home turf known. The duo’s first two and most successful albums “Strictly Business” and “Unfinished Business” were recorded right here on Long Island at North Shore Soundworks in West Babylon. Sermon and Smith returned to their hometown in August 2019 to perform at the Strong Island Hip-Hop Festival and they delivered their set with just as much passion as they did when they first started.
De La Soul
Continuing with our heavy hitter hip-hop theme, Long Island can claim another set of MCs that have created classic hits. De La Soul comes straight from the ‘Ville, Amityville to be specific. In 1988, Kelvin Mercer a.k.a. Posdnuos, David Jude Jolicoeur a.k.a. Trugoy and Vincent Mason a.k.a. Maseo came together to form the group while at Amityville High School. Long Island references can be found in a few songs from the “Me, Myself & I” trio. Off of their “Stakes is High” album, they represent the island in “Long Island Degrees”, which is a three-and-a-half minute journey through Strong Island with mentions of the LIRR, the Long Island Sound and more.
Sheryl Lee Ralph
Switching gears, we move on to the glamorous and talented Sheryl Lee Ralph, who recently scored big at the Emmys with her first win for her role in “About Elementary” as Barbra Howard. When it comes to the singer and actress’ own schooling, she got her education on Long Island. Ralph was born in Waterbury, Connecticut but was raised in between Mandeville, Jamaica and Long Island. Ralph started developing the acting chops that got her to the Emmys right on Long Island at Uniondale High School. She started in the school’s production of “Oklahoma” as Ado Annie. The Uniondale Knight graduated in 1972 and obviously went far past that Oklahoma production, starring in classic roles like Deena from “Dreamgirls” on Broadway and the (mean mom in my opinion) Florence Watson from “Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit.”
Before making history as the first Black and openly gay person to hold the title of White House press secretary, Karine Jean-Pierre was a young Kellenberg student still trying to figure things out. Jean-Pierre was born in Fort-de-France, Martinique, France, then her family packed up moved to Queens Village when she was five. She eventually crossed the Nassau County line to live in Hempstead and attend Franklin Elementary and then Kellenberg High School in Uniondale. The former high school track star stayed close to home for college initially, graduating from New York Institute of Technology (NYIT) in Old Westbury in 1997 with her bachelors. In her 2019 memoir, “Moving Forward: A Story of Hope, Hard Work, and the Promise of America” she described her Long Island upbringing, which at one point included her being a volunteer firefighter.
Busta Rhymes, born Trevor George Smith Jr., spent the first 12 years of his life in East Flatbush, Brooklyn. He then made the move to Uniondale where he attended high school and met Charlie Brown and Dinco D, eventually forming Leaders of the New School, yet another formidable Long Island hip-hop group. In the group’s premiere album, they reminisced about their days in school with tracks like “Homeroom” and “Case of the P.T.A.” Even after leaving Long Island and having a successful solo career, Busta still reps Long Island every now and then. This can be heard in “What’s Happenin,'” a song by Method Man and Busta that brought the party to Long Island.
Craig Mack is another borough-born Long Island raised rapper who held it down for the island in the 90s. The “Flava in Ya Ear” rapper was born in the Bronx and then moved to Brentwood. Here is where he met fellow Long Islanders EPMD and delved into his music career, starting out as a roadie touring with them. When the group broke up initially, Wyandanch’s own and Producer Alvin Toney connected Mack with P. Diddy. Mack was signed as one the first acts for Bad Boy Records. This is where he came out with the iconic hit single “Flava in Ya Ear.” Unfortunately, due to lack of attention from the label, he began to fade away from the music scene. He decided to turn to religion soon after becoming a minister in South Carolina until he passed in 2018 at the age of 47 due to heart failure. Mack’s son, Asah Mack, has actually picked up the mantle, starting his own rap career.
Eddie and Charlie Murphy
Two of the funniest men in showbiz have Roosevelt roots. Eddie and Charlie Murphy were born in Brooklyn and spent part of their growing up in Bushwick. Unfortunately, after divorcing their mother, Eddie and Charlie’s father was killed in 1969. At one point, due to an illness their mother experience, they had to stay in foster care for a year. Afterwards, their mother along with their stepfather were able to unite and relocate to Roosevelt in 1970. They attended Roosevelt Junior-Senior High School and it has been said that in order to keep Eddie under control, his teachers would let him perform at the end of class. He officially began his career at age 15, performing at the Roosevelt Youth Center talent show where he impersonated Al Green. He performed at local clubs on Long Island such as the White House Inn in Massapequa and Richie Minervini’s East Side Comedy Club in Huntington before making his way to the NYC circuit, and eventually nationwide in the 1980s. After school and being arrested, Charlie decided to enlist in the Navy and served for six years. Throughout the 80s and 90s, Charlie has some minor movie roles, but his comedy career flourished once he became a regular on “Chapelle’s Show.” Unfortunately, we lost Charlie due to leukemia at the age of 57 in 2017.
Long Island can fully claim legend and three-time NBA Champ Julius Irving. Dr. J was born in East Meadow at Meadowbrook Hospital. He was raised in Hempstead and Roosevelt, at one point living a mile and a half away from Nassau Coliseum. He would later go on to win the 1976 American Basketball Association (ABA) Championship for the New York Nets in that same venue. Irving attended Roosevelt High School where he played on the basketball team and was first given the nickname Dr. J by a high school friend.
The group responsible for ushering in iconic conscious classics like “Fight the Power” and “911 is a Joke” hails from Long Island. Chuck D, born Carlton Douglas Ridenhour, was born on Long Island and grew up in Roosevelt, attending W. T. Clarke High School in Salisbury. He stayed close to home for college, attending Adelphi University for graphic design. During a visit back to his old stomping grounds, Chuck D recounted his days on Long Island. At Adelphi is where The Hard Rhymer met Flavor Flav and formed Public Enemy in 1982. Flavor Flav was born in Roosevelt as William Jonathan Drayton Jr. and grew up in Freeport. He went to Freeport High School but dropped out in 11th grade. However, he did make his way back to school, attending Adelphi and starting the group, first collaborating with his future group mate on Chuck D’s hip-hop college radio show.
LL Cool J
LL Cool J reps Queens hard, but the “Rock the Bells” rapper does have a connection to Strong Island. LL came into this world as James Todd Smith in Bayshore, spent time in North Babylon and still has a home in Manhasset. The actor-turned rapper recalled growing up on Long Island in an interview with Long Island Weekly. “The sports, fresh air and just having a lot of fun,” he said. “I still have a lot of friends in the North Babylon area. Gotta love Strong Island.”
Bel-air’s princess with the ’round-the-way-girl attitude, comes straight from Long Island. Tatyana Ali was born in North Bellmore and attended elementary and junior high school here. She eventually moved to Los Angeles at age 11 to further her acting career and hasn’t really visited the island as much since, but still reps her home turf. “Being from the 5-1-6, you know, sometimes when I tell people [from California] I’ll say ‘I’m from New York,” said Ali to Newsday. “And they’re like ‘well, where?’ and I’m like ‘not the city, from Long Island,’ and they’re like ‘oh, that’s not really New York’ and I’m all like, ‘No, no, no.’”
Before covering international ground as an award-winning journalist, Soledad O’Brien was exploring the woods and local marshes right here at home on Long Island. She was born in north shore’s St. James to her father, a professor at Stony Brook University, and her mother, a French and English teacher at Smithtown High School West. The correspondent and executive producer graduated from her mother’s rival school, Smithtown High School East in 1984. In an interview with the Long Island Press, she recalled fond memories from her time on Long Island. “Living on Long Island, I had the opportunity to meet amazing people who were well traveled,” said O’Brien. “I learned from them. I have fond memories of swimming in Long Beach.”
Former and longtime Jets Offensive Tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson is a New Yorker through and through, being born in NYC, living in Freeport and dedicating his entire 10-season career to the New York Jets, never missing one game day in his entire career. The former All-American started his football career at Freeport Middle School and he attended Freeport High School in the village graduating in 2001. During his time there, he helped lead his school to the Nassau County and Long Island Championships in his junior year. In 2009, Freeport dedicated the street he grew up on, South Ocean Ave., to him, renaming it D’Brickashaw Ferguson Way.
Known for her roles in shows like “The Practice” and movies like “Beloved”, LisaGay Hamilton has had a long career in Hollywood and was even born on the west coast, but this actress calls Long Island home. She was born in Los Angeles, but relocated and spent most of her childhood in Stony Brook. She went away for school at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburg, but only stayed for one year before returning back to her home state and enrolling in NYU’s Tisch Drama School.
Grammy-Nominated Singer, Rapper and Writer Lil’ Mo’s roots have touched down all over the U.S., being born into a military family. But, she spent most of her time on Long Island. The “Superwoman Pt. II” singer was born in and spent a good amount of time in Bayshore.
Keith Murray is most famously known for being in the rap group Def Squad, which also included fellow Long Islander Erick Sermon of EPMD. Murray was born in Yonkers and grew up in Central Islip on Carlton Ave. Murray shows his love for his hometown on the short one-and-half minute track “Representin’ Central Islip”.
Mobb Deep Rapper Prodigy, born Albert Johnson, was born in Hempstead. He spent time there and in Freeport before moving to LeFrak City in Queens. Unfortunately, we lost Prodigy in 2017 in Las Vegas due to sickle cell anemia at the age of 42.
Acclaimed Football Player, Sports Analyst and Actor Jim Brown was born in St. Simons, Georgia but was raised and began playing football on Long Island. In Brown’s first year of high school at Manhasset Secondary School, the school’s football coach Ed Walsh noticed him in the hallway and brought the game of football to Brown’s attention. He took him under his wing and his sports career took off from there. He earned 13 letters in high school playing football, basketball, lacrosse, baseball and track. While still in school, the Yankees were considering signing him as a pitcher. During a visit to his alma mater in 2013, the pro football hall of famer talked about how going to school in Manhasset affected him. “This school formed my life,” said Brown to Long Island Pulse. ” [It] gave me my foundation and taught me to never give up.”
Like De La Soul, Prince Paul represents the ‘Ville! This is actually where the group and the legendary producer met. Paul was born on Long Island and grew up in Amityville. The Grammy-award-winning producer was actually introduced to De La Soul Member Maseo through his middle school teacher, who was a drummer for the Isley Brothers (talk about a small world). He would eventually become the group’s longtime producer. He recalled the moment he met Maseo in an interview with Complex. “There was a music teacher where I went to junior high school in Amityville, who was putting out a record with this artist,” said Paul to Complex. “So the music teacher asked me to come in to lay down a beat. When I went to lay the beat down, Maseo was there as the artist’s DJ. By the way, the artist’s name was Gangsta B. [Laughs.]” While at Amityville High School, he joined the hip-hop band Stetsasonic and made his first demo tape. After graduating from high school, he stayed on Long Island and furthered his musical education at Five Towns College in Dix Hills.
“Love & Hip-Hop” Star and Media Personality Alexis Skyy was actually born in Long Island City, but her real Long Island roots are in Suffolk County. Skyy was raised in Amityville and Wyandanch by her mother and grandmother. Every now and then, the reality star touches down on her home turf, visiting places like Jamaican Fanta food truck in Wyandanch.
Three-time NBA Champ Danny Green grew up in North Babylon, attending North Babylon High School for one year. While there, he also juggled two sports, basketball and football, playing as a quarterback. He eventually left to further hone in on his basketball skills at St. Mary’s High School in Manhasset from him sophomore year to graduation. In an interview with Shades of Long Island, Green recalled what it was like coming from Long Island and trying to break into the game while gaining respect.
Before leading the 76ers along with fellow Long Islander Danny Green and becoming Boban Marjanovic’s right hand man in goldfish commercials, he was living and playing right here on Long Island. Tobias Harris was born in Islip and raised in Dix Hills, attending Half Hollow Hills High School West his freshman and senior year. He spent his sophomore and junior year at Long Island Lutheran Middle and High School in Brookville. In his last year at Half Hollow Hills, he flourished, earning the 2010 Mr. New York Basketball award in addition to becoming a 2010 McDonald’s All-American. The NBA pro retuned close to home to throw one of the best weddings of the year. Harris married his longtime love, Jasmine Winton right next door to Dix Hills at Oheka Castle in Huntington.