So if you read this blog 🙃🙃, you’ll notice that I did a quick little re-cap/follow up on the book YNGBLKPGH. Although Brian and I have discussed the book a lot over the last few months, I wanted to take the time to ask Brian a few questions for my readers who may of not had a chance to visit the site, come to the event, or those who have simply not heard of the book. Another quick little recap if you will. I am rolling out the Q&A now because Brian took the time to link ambassadors from the book to work on a project for PublicSource. This project is live NOW! Several ambassadors of YNGBLKPGH have written letters to the black girls of Pittsburgh who shared their personal stories with the city through PublicSource. I’ll have soooo much more to say about this project in the next few days, but for now check out the current letters and responses here and check out the Q&A below!
VKV: What made you really write the book?
BB: These kids who I once was more than anything, I know the stories get kind of tiring but they’re the truth. Talking to a young generation who has less hope about what they can be because if what they see from people who look like them in this city is a hard conversation, man. Also I know that certain words and certain things that can be said are triggers for me, I never realized it before but hope is one of those words. I think you can lose so much when you lose hope like simple questions like “what do you want to be when you grow up?” are now difficult for you to answer because hope allows you to think about the future further than today. I more than anything just wanted the lasting images and stories they read about people who looked like them to be ones of triumph and positivity, not the negativity they see about us on the new and social media all day long. That gets draining.
VKV: How hard was it to wrangle and manage over 100 people and their stories?
BB: It was a task for sure but I always tried to keep my focus on the big picture of the final work more than anything else. I think that staying focused on the positives of it and not the negatives made it easier to keep going as well. I could’ve just focused on the people who weren’t responsive to the project but to me it was so much more productive to focus on the good things that were happening for it and with every response it got closer to the goals I had set out for it. Honestly, I really only thought that I would be able to get 50 people to buy into this idea and do the work to get it done the way I saw it getting done in my mind so when we got over 50 and then over 100 and then over 150, it just always felt like God was talking to me like “keep going because this is what I want you to do.” I also was incredibly cognizant of the fact that these were REALLY amazing people in this project who have done really AMAZING things and I had a quality level that I had to live up to in order to make it something that they would feel good about as well.
VKV: It has been 3 months since the book was released, talk about the overall response?
BB: My favorite part is the kids, right? Like they get their hands on this and its really like you can see their worlds getting bigger as they flip through and see all these people who look just like them, then they read their stories and they find out that they are from the same places that they are from and then you can see them really processing how they can be anything. That was the goal above anything that we did was to show our kids that they have the ability to be anything in this world. It’s hard for me to put my finger on specific thoughts as to what “I thought” the response would be because I tried to honestly just let it live but its really been amazing. Like our trailers we released are over 100,000 views and still being watched which is amazing to me. The book has sold over 1,500 copies but the impact is what matters the most to me with both the kids and the people involved. Like I don’t really believe that people realize what we were able to do just through this book, there are so many conversations in this city where people will without second thought will say that they can’t have young black people on their board or in their executive positions because there aren’t any…which is a lie. Period, and we proved. We came filled up an almost 300 page book with these amazing people and vibrant souls that shows how powerful and connected we can be when we all stick and work together.
VKV: What are some of the events or partnerships that have now taken place due to the book?(Reading at some of the schools, WPXI, PublicSource)
BB: It’s literally been the absolute most, haha. We’ve been in schools and in front of the kids which was and is most important to me but because of the purpose of the project. We’ve been involved in so many different spaces, we were featured on NBC and CBS and in local newspapers. So I would say we’ve done the gambit from podcasts, newspaper articles, blog features, keynote speaking events, panel discussions, webisodes, meet the author events, local interviews, its all been such a blessing, honestly. This project isn’t about me or growing my brand so every interview I go in, I go in with the same perspective, this is about growing this for these kids more than anything every time.
VKV: What was your overall goal have you reached it?
BB: My goal in this more than anything else was to affect one…just one of our kids and have them say because of this and seeing this book this way showed them that they can be anything that their heart points them in the direction of. For me, if we had one kid who said because I saw this book with all of these people and read (insert name here)’s story, I now know that my dreams are possible, BOOM, job well done, money well spent, time well done…luckily for me I got a text that next morning after the release from my mentee who had never seen the book and said “B…its all possible for me now, I see it…” Now everything else is gravy, but I do want this book to touch young people because I know the benefit of this can really be impactful for them to see so I want to get this book in the hands of every young person who would benefit and this is also a calling card for our generation too, like look at all we’re doing and we’ve done, we’re not just “coming”, we’re here whether you want to give it to us or we have to take it, its all in good hands with us.
VKV: Think of the best quote a young child has said to you in reference of the book?
BB: That’s been my favorite part, sincerely. It’s really hard to pick just one because I feel like every one just builds more but I have a story that almost got me to drop one single Denzel in Glory thug tear….I’m a guy so one of my favorites came from a dad who I met through the book who told me that as a part of helping his son read more and get more comfortable with it, they literally read the paths and open letters from the book almost every night, like as a father and son activity. He also told me when they started his son would ask him questions about if he could really do these things like these people that he has him read about and he tells him you can be that and so much more, and he thanked me because he’s seen his son’s confidence about his future go through the roof this summer, like its helping kids, which was really the goal, it doesn’t get better than that to me…like at all
VKV: What’s next for YNGBLKPGH? Will there be a second edition?
BB: The work never stops to me and for me, so we’re going to keep building on this, we have a major conference that we are in the process of putting together for US in the Winter/Spring that you guys are going to LOVE…amongst other events that we are rolling out almost monthly to keep engagement up because we have a lot of people who love what happened and who want to be involved. As for a second edition…we have to now, haha, Like I know more as this was my first book than I did when I was putting this together but I can’t wait to make it even better than the first but the first will always be my baby. It was my first time walking in my purpose and making things bigger than myself and the results have been crazy. But more importantly than that I know the impact this can have. We’re also aware that this is a model that can go throughout the country because its more than just Pittsburgh too (even though we WILL take care of home first), we need this in other cities thorughout the country and I know if this can be more, I’m going to do everything in my power to make it more.