SKETCH Working Arts February 28, 2023

Black Voices in Leadership Part 2: A Conversation with Spencer Phillips

By Paulina O'Kieffe-Anthony

Across many sectors there continues to be a push to make room for diverse leaders to step into roles that give them the power to shift the status quo, make real change and truly reflect the community they serve. SKETCH is on a mission to highlight the stories of those leaders and how they step up to create the change we have been waiting for across the non profit and arts and culture sectors. 

We are closing out Black History month by continuing to highlight the voices and stories of Black leaders in the community. In Part 2 we speak with SKETCH Board Member Spencer Phillips about the importance of Black leadership in organizations and his own personal journey in leadership at SKETCH.  

Spencer is the Senior Lead, Community Partnerships & Activations at Artscape Daniels Launchpad. A dedicated champion of the arts, Spencer has worked in the arts and culture sector for the past 15 years. He is a current Board Member with SKETCH and supports the organization with his extensive experience in program and event management, communications, community outreach and content strategy. 

Tell us about yourself 

A bit about me. I’m a child of Hiphop music & culture. Once upon a time, I even produced, recorded and toured 3 continents as an experimental hip hop artist. Fast forward about 16 years, I’ve developed a vast portfolio of community programs, cultural events, festivals, and industry summits in the local arts and creative sector. I’m passionate about engaging community, especially those that are marginalized and underserved. This is usually where you will find me at work. 

What made you want to serve on the SKETCH board of Directors?

Sketch is a thought leader in our sector. From its guiding equity strategy, to the innovative programming that deeply impacts lives of youth on the margins, Sketch practices what it preaches. The staff and volunteers are the backbone of the organization and work tirelessly to create more inclusive and vibrant communities. Seeking a Board role in which I could actively contribute and grow as a leader, Sketch was an ideal organization to connect with. 

Why do you think Black leadership in organizations like SKETCH is important? 

Wow. There are so many ways to answer this question. For me, I keep coming back to the unique value of cultivating Black leaders to have the power and authority to shape the cultures and spaces they occupy. Having more Black leaders in senior roles leads to greater empathy and an authentic understanding of community needs and where to prioritize resources to support underserved populations. For me personally, so much about Black leadership is about mentorship to Black youth. It’s extremely important to model the visibility and leadership pipeline for the next generation to believe that an upward path is a viable option for them.  

Who are some Black leaders you look up to (in any sector)?  

Didn’t mention it in the short bio, but I’m a basketball nut. I grew up on the basketball court and it’s where I first learned how to be a leader. Masai Ujiri (Vice Chairman and President of Basketball Operations, Toronto Raptors/MLSE) is a huge inspiration to me. Through his organization Giants of Africa, they’ve used the game of basketball to inspire African youth to be leaders in their communities, develop life skills, and build resilience.