Gifted 12-year-old sings emotional song about life for young black men in America

The lyrics of a song in a video posted on Instagram echoes the voices of generations of young Black men. Find out who the kid is, who wrote the song and the meaning it holds for millions of people.

Five days ago, 12-year-old Keedron Bryant posted a video of himself singing a song called “I Just Want to Live” on Instagram. Today the video has received over 2.6 million views with comments from the likes of Oprah (actress, producer, talk show host and founder of the OWN television network @ophrah), R&B singer Melba Moore (Tony award winning, four-time Grammy nominee @melba1moore) to rapper Ty Dolla $ign (@tydollasign), and Grammy award winning singer-songwriter Kandi Burruss (The Real Housewives of Atlanta @kandi) and has been the topic of media all over the world.

In the post, Bryant commented: “just singing what’s on my heart…hope this blesses someone.”

The song allows us to identify with the way Black people of all ages, particularly young Black men, have felt for hundreds of years. 

Bryant’s powerful and emotional accapela on his Instagram account @keedronbryant drew lots of attention because it expresses what many are feeling after the death of George Floyd. Thousands of people have taken to the streets to express through demonstrations what Bryant expresses through music.

Lyrics to I Just Want to Live:

“I’m a young black man doing all that I can to stand.
Oh, but when I look around and I see what’s being done to my kind.
Everyday I’m being hunted as prey.
My people don’t want no trouble.
We’ve had enough struggle.
I just wanna live.
God, protect me!
I just wanna live.
I just wanna live.”

It seems to have become a protest song, expressing what the nation is feeling at this moment in time about social inequality. At the brunt of it are young Black men.

I Just Want to Live was written by Keedron’s mother Johnnetta. The two appeared on the entertainment TV show Access Hollywood when interviewer Scott Evans surprised the mother and son by connecting to a live video feed with musician Kirk Franklin a couple of days ago. Both were happily surprised. 

Franklin was impressed by the young man and his mother but he had a message for young Keedron. “You have the ability to make a difference. All it takes is one light. It could be a huge room of darkness, one little match could change the temperature and the spirit of that room. Keedron, you are that little match,” said the gospel singer.

According to streaming network Fox Soul, numerous celebrities have already shared Bryant’s video on social media, including Janet Jackson, LeBron James, Diddy and Nas.

Generations of Black men ask the same questions about why they are treated so poorly by society compared to other groups of people. Why is it that Black people can be killed without reason and rarely is anyone held accountable? Why do police officers in America act so brutally toward African American men? And why is it that society allows it to continue to happen again and again?

Host Cain McCoy said, “I look at that little boy and I see me. And I see me asking that same thing years ago when I was 12 years old. The cycle continues. When I see that, I see Sam Cooke, A Change Is Gonna Come. That song is 50 years old … ”

McCoy and the hosts of The Black Report discussed the fact that parents of Black children have the difficult decision of figuring out what age is appropriate to have that conversation with their kids about how to behave with police to make sure they live past the age of 25.

ABC’s Bruce Baptiste showed videos Bryant posted to social media months ago in a profile he did on him last year. Bryant said people kept liking his videos more and more until they added up to over a million views on social media so he just kept posting them. 

In the video Bryant said his dream, since he was six, is to become a successful gospel singer. He is well on his way. He appeared on the fourth season of NBC’s Little Big Shots and recently, he visited Atlanta to accept the Youth Male Vocalist of the Year award at the 25th annual Gospel Choice Music Awards.

The song expresses how people are feeling after the death of George Floyd and about many other dramatic, high-profile killings. But the line “I just wanna live” reminds us that simply living is a luxury afforded to some and not others.

It means, as a Black man the history of your forefathers follows you wherever you go, psychologically and socially, through the interactions you have with other people or even if you have no interaction at all. It affects how others see you, how they treat you and how you treat yourself. Time goes by and you’re still told where you can go, what you can do and when, as in the Soul singer and composer Sam Cooke’s song mentioned above, published in 1964, where he says “I go to the movie and I go downtown, somebody keep tellin’ me don’t hang around.” It’s the day-to-day struggle which goes unseen that eats away at you. The bigger stuff just shines a light on it all and leaves you anxiously waiting for change to come.

Multiple versions of I Just Want to Live appear on YouTube and on various accounts but you can find the original version on Keedron’s YouTube channel.

The Access Hollywood interview with Keedron and his mom will air on Monday, June 1. 

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