Everyone from Kirk Franklin to LeBron James and Katy Perry has praised the a cappella original.
Keedron Bryant has given voice to what many people are feeling these days in the wake of the police-related death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
The 12-year-old singer has drawn praise, and millions of views, for his moving a cappella performance of the original song “I Just Want to Live,” uploaded on Wednesday in the form of a simple video in which he passionately sings what it feels like to look like him in America right now.
“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/ Every day, I’m being hunted as prey,” he sings, looking directly into the camera while performing the song.
Bryant’s song has becoming a rallying cry amid the spreading protests across the country in the days since Floyd died in police custody after a Minneapolis police officer was videotaped putting his knee on Floyd’s neck as he begged him to stop.
“My people don’t want no trouble/ We’ve had enough struggle/ I just want to live/ God protect me/ I just want to live/ I just want to live,” sings Bryant, who People reported is a rising gospel singer who competed on NBC’s fourth season of Little Big Shots.
To date, the video — captioned “just singing what’s on my heart… hope this blesses someone” — has racked up more than 1.3 million views and earned praiseful comments from dozens of musicians and activists, including Melba Moore, DJ Premier, Masked Singer champ Kandi Burruss and Katy Perry, who reposted it with the message #BLACKLIVESMATTER.
Father of two Floyd, 46, an unarmed black man — and former member of Houston’s Screwed Up Click in the ’90s — died in police custody after pleading “I can’t breathe” as the police officer held him down with a knee to his neck for nearly eight minutes on Monday; the four officers involved in the incident were fired on Tuesday and the FBI is in the midst of an investigation into the incident.
On Friday morning (May 29), former Pres. Obama issued an impassioned statement about Floyd’s death, in which he used Bryant’s song as an example of uplift and shared grief. Recreating conversations he’s had with several friends over the past few days, Obama described how “another friend of mine used the powerful song that went viral from 12-year-old Keedron Bryant to describe the frustration he was feeling… The circumstances of my friend and Keedron may be different, but their anguish is the same. It’s shared by me and millions of others.” (See the full Obama statement below.)
NBA legend LeBron James reposted a screengrab of the video with the message “I LOVE YOU KID! I LOVE US!” According to Access, the song was written by Bryant’s mother, Johnnetta, and the mother-son duo got a surprise on Thursday when gospel great Kirk Franklin called into an Access Hollywood interview to share his feelings on why the song is so important right now. “Let me tell you something this song, his voice, this moment, this is incredible,” Franklin told a shocked Bryant family.
“You wrote the mess out of that song,” the gospel star told Johnnetta, praising Keedron for shining a “sound of hope” to this dark chapter in our nation’s history. In fact, Franklin added, when he does his Verzuz battle this Sunday (May 31) with Fred Hammond he plans to give Keedron a shout-out. “You have the ability to make a difference,” Franklin told the singer.