Jordon Ryan

Jordon Ryan
ET Ourn

“There’s those interviews with R&B artists where they’re like, ‘Are you the king of R&B?’ and the artist’s like, ‘Yeah,’” said Jordon Ryan `24. “Then, everyone starts debating –– ‘Is this person actually the King of R&B?’”

For Ryan, however, “comparison is the thief of joy.” The self-made artist, who has released seven singles and performed at several Grinnell events, simply wishes to be known as the King of Love.

Ryan, an English and music major, has worn many hats throughout his time at Grinnell. Aside from his music career, he is often known as a member of the men’s basketball team. However, he has also held leadership roles within the College’s Black community, and in the summers, he hosts his own shows with TV stations back home in St. Louis, Mo..

In the beginning, Ryan said, he knew he had many passions –– but he did not know what to do with them. He valued a college education, but mainly came to Grinnell for basketball –– the sport he played since he was five, and his “home away from home.”

At Grinnell, Ryan said he was able to find “brothers” in his team members, who he was able to relate to in many ways, and with whom he could have many conversations with, despite, he noted, the difference in skin color. Some of Ryan’s best memories of Grinnell have to do with basketball, such as when the team made it to the Midwest Conference Championships this year, or the 3-on-3 tournaments that took place during last year’s Working Differently Days. On his bad days, one might find him in the Darby Gymnasium practicing his shots and dribbles.

Outside basketball, however, Ryan mentioned a memory he would hold on to “forever.” In spring 2022, he had to perform a particularly challenging song at a recital –– “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill.” However, with consistent training, Ryan said he “was able to sing the best I’ve ever sung.”

If there’s one thing both basketball and music have taught Ryan, it’s consistency. “I had to consistently work on my game to become a better player,” he said. “I had to consistently be writing songs and working on my voice to get better at music.”

To Ryan, education should not just be about academics. “I gained passions through interacting with people around me,” he said. “Even if I weren’t here, I would have come to discover that within myself … It’s always good to have education, but sometimes you can thrive through just natural gifts.”

Ryan credited his mother, whose main line of work helps communities, with influencing his passions. Now, Ryan wants to help people through forming connections and create a better future by “helping them understand who they are,” so as to do his “gift” with connecting with people, and the world, justice.

To that end, he worked at the Black Cultural Center (BCC) for two years as staff and Communications Coordinator, joined the Young, Gifted and Black Gospel Choir and is currently co-leader of Men of Color Empowered and Engaged. He warmly reminisced about the cookouts he had helped organize at the BCC, which reminded him of the soul food he ate at home, as well as the times he sang to the church and partook in fellowship with fellow religious Black Grinnellians.

“I’m African-American. I understand the struggles endured … I’ve had things happen to me,” he said. “Sometimes, we don’t feel like we can talk to people that don’t look like us about those things. I want to be part of building a safe space where people can talk about how they’ve experienced oppression, but also about good things about Black culture.”

Ryan added that Grinnell’s liberal arts education, such as the English courses that gave him the opportunity to read about societal and worldly issues within and beyond America, exposed him to multiple perspectives. One particular course, a seminar on postcolonial literature that he had gotten into as a first year, taught him he could “find joy” even in tougher courses, “because you’re learning and writing about something interesting.”

Currently, Ryan is applying for jobs. But he said he hopes he will be able to focus more on building his TV show and music career after college.

“A lot of people don’t know this about me, but I’m a news guy –– I had three internships in news,” he said. Two years ago, he also started his own podcast with another St. Louis network to talk about sports and daily news.

“It’s not really fully in motion because I wanted to make sure I had all my ideas ready for after college. But I’m gonna get that rolling this summer.” 

In the end, however, Ryan’s biggest passion is still his music. “The future’s also going to be me being on the Billboard one day,” he said. 

For him, everything starts with love, which he tries to convey through song. “I want people to be singing good things,” he said. “When you hear my song I want you to be singing something that will positively impact your life.”

“I had the luxury of being loved by my mom, my dad, my grandmother, my close friends,” said Ryan. “But a lot of people don’t have that, and sometimes you have to introduce them to it.”

“I think that is my real purpose in life,” he said. “To show people what love is.”

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