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Mekhi Phifer is an African-American actor whose first role was in the Spike Lee film Clockers, and who was featured on ER for six seasons.
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Mekhi Phifer was born on December 29th, 1974 in Harlem, NY. During college, he landed a role in Spike Lee's film, Clockers. He then played in the Emmy-winning TV movie, The Tuskegee Airmen, starring Laurence Fishburne, and opposite Eminem in 8 Mile. In 2002, Phifer received the Rising Star from the American Black Film Festival,
and began a six season run on ER. Phifer lives in Los Angeles.
Actor. Born Mekhi Thira Phifer on December 29th, 1974, in Harlem, New York. Phifer was raised in a single-parent family; his father left his mother, Rhoda, when she was a 24-year-old college student. He often attributes his success to his mother's no-nonsense parenting style. "I never met my father," he says. "But my mother taught me everything. She laid a foundation of reading, writing, arithmetic, self-love, self-pride...she taught me to get out there and be the best I can be."
Phifer started acting at the age of seven when he played the Ghost of Christmas Present in a Harlem community center production of A Christmas Carol. Thanks to his mother's work as a schoolteacher, Phifer learned to appreciate his education. He excelled in school, and worked several after-school jobs in addition to his studies. He graduated from Lincoln Square Auxiliary Services High School in 1994, and was accepted into the State University of New York's electrical engineering program in New Paltz, New York.
Phifer's college career was put on hold, however, when the teenager auditioned on a whim for Spike Lee's upcoming film, Clockers (1995). Phifer walked 40 blocks to get a headshot at a Woolworth's photo booth for the open-call audition. The novice was surprised when he discovered he'd beat out more than 1,000 other aspiring actors to get the lead role. His debut performance in the film as "Strike" Dunham, a narcotics dealer embroiled in a murder cover-up, received positive reviews.
His success led to a supporting role in the Emmy-winning made-for-cable TV movie, The Tuskegee Airmen (1995), starring film icon Laurence Fishburne. That same year, Phifer released his first music album New York Related: The HF Project through Warner Brothers Records. While the album sold few copies, Phifer remained an avid music fan, making appearances in music videos such as Brandy's "The Boy is Mine," 50 Cent's "Many Men (Wish Death)," and "Don't Let Go (Love)" by En Vogue.
Phifer continued work on the small screen in a variety of capacities. In 1996, he played a recurring role in the television crime-drama Homicide: Life on the Street, and appeared on the sitcom, The Wayans Bros. He then played across Don Cheadle in a made-for-TV version of the classic novel, A Lesson Before Dying (1999), which earned Phifer an NAACP Image Award nomination.
Phifer also began making a name for himself on the big screen. After his success with Clockers, Phifer appeared in the comedy High School High (1996) starring Jon Lovitz; the romantic drama, Soul Food (1997) featuring Vivica Fox and Vanessa Williams; and the horror film, I Still Know What You Did Last Summer (1998) with co-stars Jennifer Love Hewitt and Freddie Prinze, Jr.
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After the Civil War, many of the country's best and brightest black advocates, artists, entrepreneurs and intellectuals moved to the New York City neighborhood of Harlem. Thanks largely to the efforts of these residents, Harlem became both the cradle of a cultural revolution and the heart of the civil rights movement. Meet some of the many people who gave—and continue to give—this neighborhood a voice, simply by calling it home.
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