One of the most rewarding and life changing experiences for an aspiring journalist and news reporter is to interview a writer. Between a seven to ten-year span, writer, author, self-publisher entrepreneur, John Bryant Jr. says, “I love the life of writing.” He considers himself an urban fiction writer but when he started writing states, “I was called a black experience writer.” He later states, “Urban fiction writers write about what goes on in their community and a lot of people want to shield themselves from that reality.” His writings are from some personal life experiences merged with fictional storytelling. Black novelist like himself that are urban fiction writers today, collectively invite society into the world of black community life in ghettos across the world that have declined due to disparities. Bryant said, “This type of life that I write about surrounds us in the black community.” A written quote from him is on the back of each book cover says, “We are the forgotten people in the streets.” This reflects his commitment to inspire and open the eyes of mainstream American by writing and storytelling about black people living the black life experience.
Within the writer’s circle, a stand-alone term called, “Street Lit,” short for “street literature,” is used by black experience writers who reflect on the realities and lifestyles of actually growing up and living in Black American communities presently or in the past. The “street lit” genre’s written content usually incorporates stories that plagued the black communities with violence, guns, drugs and prostitution. It has its own language, a glossary of terms, and with minimum to no editing. Bryant said, “As a writer, writing isn’t the problem, being punctually correct as a writer can be a challenge and editing issues.” Blacks have a way of communicating with street codes and talk, to slang and made-up terms that they directly understand and relate to each other generally speaking. Bryant explained, “Writers need to be aware of plagiarism, paraphrasing and copyright protection, due to us distributing and exposing our works and ideas that can be easily stolen and infringed upon.”
Being a well-known self-published novelist and Miami writer, John Bryant Jr. states, “I’m the king of “street lit,” proudly from his home in the mist of Miami’s Historical Overtown, an all-black community. Currently, one of his career highlights is hosting a public group page on Facebook called, “We Love Urban Fiction.” The community of “street lit,” writers base their stories on one’s own life and shares it. Bryant validates this point by saying, “It’s actually a black experience novel.” He’s considered the authority on “street lit” to young black writers who follow his group and post their writings for him to review and offer feedback on. His environment of growing up in Rochester, New York’s Corn Hill Art District, influenced him to turn his attention towards art programs and focus on his academics, after being inspired by his older sister who always carried books and looked smart in his opinion. His turning point as a teenager was when he was exposed and then experimented with the street life. Bryant said, “At the age of 17, I was influenced by urban fiction writer Donald Goines and taught the school of hustling by real street hustlers.” Rerouted by lessons of the street life from street hustlers exposing him to women strippers and street workers, to pimping and later drug dealing, Bryant eventually overcame street life and embraced being blessed with a second chance because someone believed in him.
Bryant’s previous street image and fictional characters are a reflection of hip-hop music’s other genre, rap music. Rap music is lyrical fiction storytelling mixed with real life fantasies of the black experience dealing with drug dealing, prostitution, sex, pimping and murder. Bryant said, “But it isn’t reality, it’s more of a fictional account of what goes on.” For example, rap artist 50 Cent purchased Bryant’s first book titled, “Legends Story: The Tale of a Pimp,” and followed him on Twitter at one point. This shows how hip-hop music help shape the black experience expressions through lyrics and branding images.
Today Bryant has self-published six books, which are displayed in Miami’s main library, sold on Kindle, has 6 videos on YouTube, while working on his seventh book titled, “The Internet Girls.” Bryant says, “After I met a real Internet pimp, I decided to write a fictional story on that lifestyle.” Bryant wants to continue to write as many books as he can and so far has titles and the stories to his upcoming books already in mind. Bryant explains, “My goal is to get stories I lived in print and help change the mind set of our people through my writings.” And explained that his novels have moral beginnings and endings, while the middle of his story deals with what really goes on, as Bryant puts it, “In the hood.”
Interview by: Jacqueline Oliphant, Entertainment Business, MS