The 12-year-old gospel singer who touched hearts with an emotional song in the wake of the death of George Floyd described on TODAY how he felt in that moment when he first sang the powerful words about being young and black in America.
Keedron Bryant, an African American singer who competed on NBC's reality talent competition "Little Big Shots," sings the refrain "I just want to live" in a song that has been viewed nearly 3 million times on his Instagram.
"I felt sad that I have to sing that because it's unfair that we can't go out and, like the song says, live,'' Bryant told Hoda Kotb on TODAY Monday. "I just want to live. We can't go out and enjoy life and not be afraid, fear that something is going to happen to us, so it was really sad to have that feeling."
The lyrics were written by his mother, Johnetta Bryant, who spoke about what inspired her to compose it.
"In light of everything that is going on, especially our recent situation, when I heard Mr. Floyd call out for his mom, as a black mother that really hit me in a deep way, and I began to pray, and so I said, 'God, this world needs help like never before,''' she told Hoda. "So I went into meditation because I needed understanding, I needed strength, because I also looked at I need to be able to give my son some wisdom that's gonna help him to be able to live and to be confident in this world, and I knew that it could only come from God."
Keedron recorded the song at the family's home in Jacksonville, Florida, during a daily devotional period.
"So I sent him up during his devotion time and I said, 'Keedron, I want you to pray on these words, I want you to meditate on them, allow God to speak to you so that you may be able to speak to the people and also get some encouragement for yourself," Johnetta said. "He came back after his devotion and he's like, 'Mom, I'm ready.'"
His song caught the attention of luminaries like Oscar-winning actress Lupita Nyong'o, basketball superstar LeBron James, actress Eva Longoria and pop legend Janet Jackson, who all shared it on their own Instagram accounts.
"I LOVE YOU KID!" James wrote on Instagram. "I LOVE US!"
"Please God protect him. And please, lead us out of these troubled waters," Longoria wrote.
Hoda and Jenna Bush Hager were also moved by Keedron's song on TODAY with Hoda & Jenna last week.
"That video is extraordinary," Hoda said.
Bryant's song came as protests erupted in multiple cities over the death of Floyd, a 46-year-old black man who died at the hospital after a white police officer was seen on camera kneeling on his neck for nearly 9 minutes as he pleaded that he couldn't breathe.
"I’m a young black man/ doing all that I can/ to stand," Keedron sings in the video. "Oh, but when I look around/ and I see what’s being done to my kind/ every day, I’m being hunted as prey/ 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."