If the last few months have shown us anything, it’s that we are capable of so much more than we ever thought possible. They have tested our resolve, pushed us to find strength and inspired us to do better, to be better even in the worst of times.
These past few months have been a whirlwind for Keedron Bryant. The 13-year-old Jacksonville native recently inked a deal with Warner Records after sharing an emotional acappella performance on social media. The song “I Just Wanna Live” is a plea for social justice, spoken from the heart of a young man inspired to make us all better.
“I’m a young Black man/Doing all that I can/To stand.” The song’s lyrics were written by Keedron’s mother Johnnetta Bryant. Sharing the video, Bryant wrote, “Just singing what’s on my heart… hope this blesses someone” prompting Oprah Winfrey to answer, “YOU dear one are the Blessing.”
The powerful video catapulted the soft-spoken teenager from Jacksonville into the national spotlight and the forefront of a movement that is speaking to young people just like him. The lyrics speak to the inequity of being treated unjustly and living with risk of violence because of the color of their skin.
Bryant’s family watched the horror unfold as the needless death was replayed like game highlights, sparking fury and fear across the nation. Johnnetta Bryant sought solace in prayer and asked for the wisdom to find the words to share with her son.
“Me and my family sat down and watched the George Floyd killing video by the police officers and that was really heartbreaking. Right after that, my mom went into prayer and asked God for something to give me. I went upstairs and I prayed over the lyrics and I meditated over them. I asked God to give me the strength to deliver the message in the right way, in a hopeful way. I went back downstairs and said I was ready to record,” he recalls.
Filmed with a smartphone, the black and white clip was posted May 26, just a day after Floyd’s death. With clear vision, Bryant delivered the strong, purposeful vocals in an emotional acapella performance. To date, the clip has more than three million views on Instagram.
“When I recorded “I Just Wanna Live,” I did not know it was going to go viral and just reach everybody like it did” says Bryant. “I knew it was time to post it because of what happened to Mr. Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, I knew it was ready to get it out there.”
The video propelled Bryant into the stratosphere. He’s captured the attention of former President Barack Obama, Lebron James and Lupita N’Yongo. His story has been aired on CNN and in the pages of Rolling Stone. He was invited to the Ellen show and Will Smith shared the clip on his “No Justice, No Peace” montage on social media.
“I feel really grateful for these opportunities that I’ve had to keep on spreading the message of hope out in the world that was shared by president Barrack Obama. That a former president is actually standing with me was one of the biggest things I’m really thankful and grateful for,” says Bryant.
Growing up in Jacksonville, Bryant discovered his voice as a young boy singing in his family’s church. Bryant appeared on season 4 of “Little Big Shots” where he sang “Oh Happy Day.”
“I started singing at the age of 5 or 6 years old. By the age of 7, I knew that this was what I wanted to do,” he says. “I’ve always had a passion for music and singing so that’s when I knew that was going to be my career,” he says. “I started in the children’s choir and just did worship so I always sang in public.”
Bryant continues to spread positivity and encouragement with his new single “U Got This.” The song, available now on all digital platforms, is a pat-on-the-back, kick-in-the-pants, hug-around-the neck we all need when times get tough.
“Ain’t no situation
Big enough you can’t deal with it (What?)
No matter your circumstances
You just gotta be real with it (What?)
It’s on you
Ask yourself what you gon’ do?”
“The whole point is if you wake up and may feel really bad or depressed, I’ll just hope that “U Got This” will motivate and inspire you to keep going,” says Bryant. “Just keep believing in yourself and have faith in yourself.”
The young singer has a gospel remix release on Friday and an EP that is scheduled to drop Sept. 11, another day when people may find themselves in need of some extra strength. At a time when we all need to find a glimmer of hope, Bryant is a ray of light.
“I’ve always wanted to have a record but I never knew that ‘I just want to Live” was going to be that song that was going to get me signed,” he said. “It was really surprising. Now he’s my producer but a man named Dem Jointz put a beat to ‘I Just Wanna Live” and he posted it. He reached out and told us that Warner wanted to sign me and bring me into the family. My mom was like, sure yes and got on a Zoom call. It happened just like that.”
Warner Records is donating 100% of the net profits of “I Just Wanna Live” to the NAACP and Amazon Music pledged a matching donation up to $50,000. “Me and my family really wanted to touch people and help people out especially with the NAACP. I just wanted to do a good deed to lend a helping hand and support the Black community in America,” he says. “I keep trusting in God that he’ll protect me.”
For Bryant, using his voice for equality is more than a cause. It’s a calling.