This column is dedicated to a Youngstown man who went from the basketball court for the South High School Warriors to a multifaceted career in broadcasting and to a local church re-focusing its efforts to serve our community.
Ronald N. Bryant, who as a teen was active in the Upward Bound program, a federal program that provides high-school students better opportunities for attending college, is director of news and community affairs at Bounce TV in Columbus, a position he’s had since 2011. He also handles movie reviews for the network.
Bryant, a 1970 South High School graduate, explained that Bounce TV is the first African-American broadcast network, featuring a programming mix of theatrical motion pictures, sporting events, documentaries, specials, inspirational faith-based programs, off-network series, original programming and more.
The network’s founders include Martin Luther King III and Andrew Young, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and former Atlanta mayor.
Bounce also has Ohio affiliates in Youngstown (WYTV, 33.3, and Armstrong Cable, channels 93 and 452), Cincinnati, Dayton, Cleveland/Akron, and Toledo.
Bryant has used his broadcast skills here at WBBW and WHOT radio, in Pittsburgh, Colorado, and Atlantic City, N.J.
“I’ve always had a voice,” Bryant said in his deep baritone. “Even before my voice changed, I was always called upon from kindergarten on up to read aloud.”
An artist, Bryant received the O’Neal Gold Key award for his work as a copper enameler, but following his passion for basketball, he attended Kent State-Salem Branch on an athletic scholarship.
He later transferred to Youngstown State University, where he majored in mass communication and minored in public relations. He enrolled in broadcast classes, which led him to WAMO-AM in Pittsburgh.
He eventually returned to Youngstown after becoming a father and began working as a film editor for NBC affiliates and moonlighting as a disc jockey. He once was the DJ for Stellar Disco at the Buckeye Elks Center.
He worked for various media outlets using his voice for commercial and voiceover assignments for major artists.
Bryant ventured among radio, television, and print, working for the black newspapers in Cleveland and Columbus.
He later worked for the Ohio Democratic Party as the deputy communications director and minority-media coordinator helping to solidify the election of President Barack Obama.
He said a feature he produced on civil-rights icon Rosa Parks will appear on the Bounce network Feb. 9. Bryant said he interviewed local and national civil-rights activists for the piece.
His advice to young black people seeking careers in broadcasting and communication is to get as much education about the business as you can.
“Educate yourself to the [broadcasting] business; understand the business and the technology associated with the business,” Bryant said.
Bryant said communication is key in advancing in the business of media and having ownership and control of programming is the avenue to a more diversified and reflective image in media content.
He has won a Telly Award for his program “Trailblazers: African-Americans Making a Difference.” According to the Telly website, the award honors those in film and video productions, groundbreaking online video content, and outstanding local, regional, and cable TV commercials and programs.
He thanked the Black Broadcasters Coalition of Youngstown, active in the late 1960s and early 1970s, for providing an avenue for him to get started in his profession.
As he said in his biography, “Having someone pay you for what you would gladly do for free because you love it is one of the keys of life.”
Meanwhile, Centenary United Methodist Church, 1413 Belmont Ave., on the city’s North Side, has recommitted itself to serving the community by engaging in new and old initiatives.
A pilot project called Center Stage is being viewed by church members as a different way to open the church’s doors to the greater Youngstown area.
Center Stage, a gospel cafe venue other churches have used to interact with the community, rolls out Friday.
“We’ve been talking about Center Stage for several years, but it stayed in the backs of our minds,” said Cathlene Harvey, who is the administrative-services team leader at Centenary and also the coordinator for Center Stage.
“Center Stage provides fellowship and makes contacts with the community,” she said. It also provides a revenue stream for the church’s ministries.
Joyce Hines-Jones will headline the 7 p.m. event. Backing her up will be the John Austin Trio.
Tickets are available from church members or through the church at 330-744-5509. Admission is $15 per person in advance and $17 at the door. Security will be provided, and hors d’oeuvres will be served. Tentative plans are for another event in March, Harvey said.
Centenary underwent an organizational restructuring in summer and fall 2012 and came up with its outreach programs in January 2013.
Centenary renewed its member-agency status with Second Harvest Food Bank of Youngstown and the Mahoning Valley and from August until December, served more than 1,500 people in the vicinity with food bags. The distribution is the third Thursday of each month.
The church donated Walmart gift cards to bag recipients in December. In September, more than 250 people received a meal and fellowship in Wick Park as the church hosted a community picnic.
In October, a “Trunk or Treat” event took place to provide a safer alternative to traditional trick or treating. More than 100 children participated in games, ate hot dogs, won prizes and, of course, got goodies from the trunks of various cars in the church parking lot, Harvey said.