By Brian Edsall
Gun violence has impacted many lives in and around the city of Chicago. This violence has directly affected Bryanna Adams, who over the course of her life has lost family and friends to gun violence. Despite these tragedies, Bryanna has never faltered. Christopher Latimer, Bryanna’s uncle, was killed in 1994. Another uncle of hers, Anthony Richardson, was killed in 2008.
In 2015, one of her best friends, Kaylyn Pryor, was killed while waiting at a bus stop. She was 20 years old. For Bryanna, the recent death of her friend Kaylyn was traumatizing. Living in Evanston, Ill. and experiencing such traumatic events has been difficult for Bryanna. She frequently struggled with her emotions throughout her life, stating how “In that environment, opening up and showing vulnerability is seen as a weakness, not a strength.”
However, she found great comfort in writing and poetry. “Poetry was how I expressed myself,” Bryanna said. “It was how I got over my closeted emotions and brought them to the forefront. It became a form of therapy for me.” Bryanna eventually discovered that the power of her words could be strengthened by the sound of her voice. She competed in local and national slam poetry competitions throughout high school, emphasizing not only the words she wrote but the manner in which they were delivered.
Bryanna was able to attend Marist College despite financial difficulties. Although she loves writing, she ultimately declared her major in criminal justice, with the hope that her talents in writing and speaking could someday help generate positive change in the criminal justice system. “Writing is always going to be something I can do,” Bryanna said. “But with those experiences, I wondered how I could best use the gifts that God gave me to rectify the situation, what can I do to bring positive change to the criminal justice system.”
Bryanna wants to use the power of her words and her voice to become a lawyer near Chicago. “I’m definitely going to go back,” she said. Although life was not easy in Evanston, she is determined to return and make a positive impact on her community. “There are a lot of values that my community instilled in me that make me the person that I am today. I don’t think that it’s right to just take everything from it and leave.”
Bryanna has used her words and her voice to ascend into the forefront of social justice. At Marist College, Bryanna has delivered speeches introducing prominent social activists Dr. Cornel West and Tim Wise, and has delivered multiple speeches at Mon Afrique, the Unity Walk, and “The Words They Call Me.” “Social justice isn’t something that can just be mentioned. It comes with action. There are things that have to be done,” Bryanna said.
Bryanna has strived to be a role model while working with inner city youth near Chicago as well as Poughkeepsie. “Those kids are exposed to so many pressures. It’s hard for anyone, particularly young people, to prosper in an environment that forces them into these terrible situations,” Bryanna said.
Bryanna continued to emphasize how many of these young individuals unfortunately suffer through the same cycles as the negative role models surrounding them. “The kids just need some guidance,” Bryanna said. “They need to see someone who looks like them that could get out. They need to see older black figures that aren’t in jail, aren’t running the streets, and aren’t getting pregnant at a young age.”
“I always try to embody kindness,” Bryanna said. “You’re dealing with a lot of trauma, so you can’t break because they need you.” Bryanna has always aspired to achieve immense levels of success. “You don’t have any choice except to be successful,” she said. “I always strive to be the best I can be.”
She has persevered through tremendous hardships and has pursued her goals selflessly and relentlessly. “A lot of times I put on a façade. I’m usually in a position where I’m taking care of other people, so I can’t be down,” Bryanna said. She strives to construct positive change throughout her journey in life and provide constant guidance to those in need.