In Honor and Memory of Steven B. Smith
I first met Steven Bryon Smith—known to friends and family simply as “B”—while working on a five-part series for OC87 Recovery Diaries titled Beyond the Bullet: Gunshot Violence Survivors Speak at the beginning of 2020. The series presents the mental health recovery journeys of five men who have been paralyzed as a result of gun violence in the city of Philadelphia. Each was a member of a support group for gun violence survivors known as A Wheel Family.
B was 16 years old when he was shot. By his best friend. With his own gun. His friend was joking around when the gun went off and a bullet went through B’s neck. It clipped his spinal cord. It was an accident that changed the trajectory of B’s life.
B made quite an impression on me. He was smart, thoughtful and funny. I was moved by the fact that he forgave the friend who shot him accidentally. I remember being touched by the fact that, despite his daily hardships, B was more concerned about others than about himself. “I think about people that have it worse than me. I’m fine. I tell people, don’t let the wheelchair and the ventilator fool you. I’m fine.”)
Watch this playlist of 6 additional scenes from B’s interview with Glenn Holsten.
Over the years, B was in touch with updates about his podcast “Ya Connect” and he was an active participant on social media.
On January 12 of this year, B shared an Instagram post titled STILL HERE.
20 years ago, I was told I wouldn’t make it past 20 at the age of 16, as a gunshot victim. Now here we are 20 years later, still standing while sitting, I am blessed with all praises to the most high. And yes, I forgive you my brother, what happened was the accident, shit happens when you’re young gullible, and dumb. I can’t wait until the day when I see another 20 years. For all those still rocking with me since day one I appreciate you, I love you, but I first have to love myself in any situation that I am in, and that’s where it starts. Much love!!! B
On September 30 of this year, Steven Bryon Smith died unexpectedly. He was 37 years old.
Alayshia Brown is one of B’s surviving fourteen nieces and nephews. For her, B, or Uncle Bryon, was a guiding force in her life. “He was the most inspirational person ever. When you look at somebody in a wheelchair it’s like, “Oh they can’t really do that much,” but, Alayshia says, her uncle showed his family otherwise on a daily basis. “The strength that he had was incredible, He’s still motivating everybody.”
“He’s my inspiration and he’s my motivation. That’s where I learned to love. That’s where I learned how to be loved, how I should be loved. When I’m going through my tough times, I’ve got his voice in my head.”
B’s older brother, Majovie Bland, notes that B’s accomplishments tell a story of greatness. “I’m really proud of my brother and the more that I learn about his contributions to folks – helping folks the way that he did, helping to motivate them and encourage them – being a peer mentor, it’s really inspirational. And all from his wheelchair . . . and sometimes his bed.
“He was able to touch people in ways that folks who can fully function and move their legs and arms can’t. His legacy is built around greatness. He was able to motivate, inspire and help folks become a greater version of themselves. I believe that’s what he did with his life.”
B accurately predicted his legacy in our interview.
“What do you want your legacy to be when you leave this earth? How do you want to be looked at? Uncle Bryon never gave up. Brian B never gave up. He continued to fight. Fight that good fight. Get up every day. Do what you need to do. Get up. I don’t care if you don’t feel like it. Get your ass up and make sure you feel like it. Make something happen. It could be something small, but as long as you got it done.
“The biggest thing is what do I want my legacy to be? I want my legacy to be that I was a fighter.”
I’m happy to present our film featuring B, along with clips from our raw interview, in honor and memory of Steven Bryon Smith.
Fight on in peace, B.