BY ASHLEY D. THOMAS
Cartoonist Ron Bryant has been featured in newspapers and magazines the world over, reaching fans from Daytona to Atlanta, Nigeria to Germany discussing issues mainstream media refuse to acknowledge.
Most recently, Bryant created quite the buzz after an illustration he drew depicting hip-hop superstar Nikki Minaj was shared thousands of times on social media reaching viral status. The image shows a Black elementary aged girl drawing a picture of the Grammy Award-winning Black actress Lupita Nyong’o.
Nyong’o is plastered on a poster behind her while the stripped-down poster of Nicki Minaj lies in the trashcan. The image was editorialized nationally on leading Black information websites, including Naturally Moi, Hello Beautiful, Lipstick Alley, Oh No They Didn’t and Black America Web.
“I cover topics that no one else wants to cover,” the 20 year-veteran of cartoon and illustration explained.
Bryant’s Facebook page now has more than 107,000 followers and has reached over a million people through those followers.
Tackling societal issues
In the early 2000s, Bryant developed a character known as “Little ‘O,’ a young child with aspirations imitating that of a young President Barack Obama, which resulted in a hefty following from left-of-center groups.
“It was during President Obama’s second term where I came up with an older woman and her character just took off,” Bryant recollected in an interview with the Daytona Times.
The strip named after its star character features the no-nonsense, grey haired, spectacle wearing, heavyset GG.
GG tackles societal issues important to the African-American community and has a substantial influence on the importance of supporting the Black family.
“One of the biggest distractions we face as a people is the desire to be entertained. If something doesn’t make us laugh, we become quick to dismiss it as too serious. My GG series has been compared to a soap opera,” Bryant told his Facebook fans. “It is far from that. The stories depict the struggles and events we face today as a people.”
“Might I add that we hardly see Black men and women loving on one another in the media. My characters represent honor, grace, integrity, love and beauty. Maybe we should focus on the things that can help esteem us instead of just getting another laugh,” he added.
Not just entertainment
“The topic about GG is so important because of the social aspects that she discusses,” wife Orjanette Bryant explained. “Human trafficking, bullying, rape, abuse. Different things that we don’t talk about but need to talk about.
He finds a way to sneak it in.
“To put this stuff together, they speak volumes,” she continued. “He’s not just an artist, it’s more than that. There was a guy in Germany that interviewed him and I just thought, wow Ron, the people you have inspired, it is just amazing.
He has done work with the American Heart Association. He has also has worked with an autism fund. He’s done book publications.”
“It takes a woman to come out and tell all these things,” he laughed.
Bryant’s work has been featured in the Daytona Times, Orlando Times, The Atlanta Voice, Emerge magazine and Upscale magazine among others. He was highlighted at an Emerging Artist event held at the Yvonne-Scarlett Golden Cultural Center in October.
“I started off as cutting edge cartoons promoting Black-owned businesses, group economics, the importance of voting, the importance of loving and supporting one another as a people,” Bryant explained.
“There were maybe a handful of African-American newspapers that supported my work,” Bryant added.
“Unfortunately, we (Black cartoonists) do not get a lot of support from the Black media. We just don’t.”
Of the 300 or so Black newspapers, Bryant said he maxed out at maybe 60 papers.
“Many of them couldn’t afford to pay me. Paper media saw a decline. I kind of went on hiatus for a while,” he continued.
But the desire to illustrate did not leave Bryant. Having worked primarily in print, he is moving to the next hierarchy in his career. Animation.
“My GG followers suggested I try animation,” he continued.
The animation requires frames, character building, and hand drawing.
His first storyboard included the infamous GG, who teaches a hard lesson to a misbehaving youth whacking him with a stick for too much backtalk.
“Animation is expensive. It is time-consuming. Just ask the misses,” he said with a laugh. “It was intense, I went at it, and that is where we are now.”
Bryant has no intention of stopping anytime in the near future. If anything, his brand is constantly expanding and evolving.
His online fan base gives input on illustrations but is also a Facebook meeting place for Black information. He shares relevant material on his site, including breaking news on racial and civil injustices.
Follow Ron Bryant on Facebook at facebook.com/toonkook or check out GG at www.ggsplace.biz.