Brian Burley
Brian Burley

Pittsburgh native Brian Burley is the bestselling author of YNGBLKPGH, which features inspiring personal stories of success from more than 140 Pittsburghers. Published in April 2017, the book has already become the inspiration for a K-12 curriculum, is required reading for local college courses and has sparked a youth movement. CEO of Burley + Company Enterprises, Brian — who lives in Stanton Heights — was named a 2015 BMe Community Leader for his work promoting positive imagery to the next generations of Black Pittsburgh. A speaker, mentor and entrepreneur, Brian is currently developing a foundation with his wife, Brittini.

Brian Burley
Photo by Ray Carrington Photography.

Best part of your job?

By far, the kids … their reactions to the book and how it truly helps them see their own world larger is incredible. Secondly, I love the change that we are creating within the millennial space for the region. I’m sure that it sounds extremely scripted, but I truly believe in inclusivity, so creating spaces and events that are safe for these generations in the region is by far my favorite part of my days.

What’s one thing you’d place in a Pittsburgh time capsule?

I’m an alumnus so I have to say this — and there is no other option for me — you have to put a Schenley High basketball jersey in the capsule. There simply is no other school, active or inactive, that has ever had the sports or cultural impact that Schenley had in the state, so it would certainly be that.

What upcoming events are you excited attend?

Having my son Jackson (he’s two) truly puts things in perspective for me. We have a couple outings planned over the next month that will be a lot of fun for us both. On January 10, we are headed to the Pete for his first college basketball game when Pitt takes on Duke. In February, we are going to the movies to check out “Black Panther,” as he loves everything that is Marvel Comics.

Write three words to describe Pittsburgh:

Is it okay if I describe the people? More than anything in the world I love US. But if I had to give you three words that would describe Pittsburgh people, there’s no way I couldn’t start with LOYAL. One thing that has always made me laugh about the city is that we can complain about it, or our sports teams, all day long, but if you aren’t from here, that is not your place — only Pittsburghers can critique OUR city. The second word would be DISTINCTIVE; there truly is no other place I have ever been that’s like Pittsburgh. The traditions, the sports, even the lingo, all make our hometown so unmistakably … Pittsburgh. It’s why wherever we might go, we always take a bit of home with us. The third word has to be EMERGING, whether it’s the cultural scene here or the tech boom, there is a LOT that could be on the horizon for the city; we just have to make sure that we are growing the city in the right way for everyone who represents the future.

Your not-so-secret Pittsburgh spot?

I’m a simple person and I love food. The best bar food in the city — and I feel old because I remember when it used to be a secret — is at the William Penn Tavern in Shadyside.

Your wish for Pittsburgh?

This city is emerging, like I said earlier. I just want our city to be the best city possible for everybody. The stories that come out of this city don’t truly tell the story of what it means to be from Pittsburgh all the time. I just want us all to do our part to make this city as great as we can for every kid so that it’s better for them than it might’ve been for us.

What book is on your nightstand or in your e-reader right now?

I have two. The first is “Greatness Is Upon You: Laying The Foundation,” by my favorite motivational speaker, Eric Thomas, and [the second is] “YNGBLKPGH,” solely because we found a way to get so many influential people together to believe in the next generation. Those handwritten, open letters are so inspirational. They keep me motivated to move forward in my own journey.

Brian Burley
Brian Burley with students from the Pittsburgh Project when the Pittsburgh Pirates gifted them copies of his bestselling book, YNGBLKPGH, as a part of a mural project with the Josh Gibson Foundation.

Where do you always take out-of-town visitors?

If it’s football season and a Sunday, there is no way we can’t go check out a Steelers game. For food, we must go to Savoy after, or any other day.

Fill in the blank: In Pittsburgh, I can’t live without my ______.

Heinz Ketchup … can I expand this to outside of the city limits as well?

The best Pittsburgh event you attended this week?

An event for a friend who I’m so proud of — the Community Inauguration Reception/Party for the new Mayor of Wilkinsburg, Marita Garrett. I love celebrating my friends and giving them the opportunity to smell their flowers while they’re still here; that is an absolute priority to me.

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Jennifer BaronArts & Entertainment / Jobs Editor

Jennifer has worked at the Mattress Factory, Brooklyn Museum of Art and Dahesh Museum of Art and is co-author of Pittsburgh Signs Project: 250 Signs of Western Pennsylvania. She also is co-coordinator of Handmade Arcade. Musically, she is in a band called The Garment District and is a founding member of Brooklyn's The Ladybug Transistor.