Flint, MI—Hundreds of mourners filled Berston Field House for the late Bryant “BB” Nolden’s public viewing on Friday, Dec. 16, 2022, illustrating the sheer number of lives the 1st District Genesee County Commissioner touched throughout his 57 years.
Nolden served both as Berston’s executive director and a county commissioner from 2014 until his death on Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2022. He had also been a Flint Community Schools teacher and Flint City Councilman, as well as served on numerous local boards.
Outside of his public roles, Nolden’s longtime friends and relatives say he was always there for them despite how busy he kept himself. Flint Beat met with a few of Nolden’s loved ones during his public viewing in an effort to show how much he meant to the people.
The following interviews have been edited for clarity.
Darrell Campbell – Nolden’s cousin and “big brother”
“I raised him. He’d been running behind me since he was about, I want to say, 15 or 16-years-old. The community knows him as Bryant Nolden. We know him as ‘BB.’ And before he became all what he is now, he’s BB. I’ll be speaking at the funeral tomorrow, and I got a whole bunch of stories I can tell about him, right? A lot of them good, a lot of them funny, but all in all, can’t nobody say nothing bad about it. Nothing. Nothing. I mean, he helped so many people.
“I mean, all he does in downtown, Berston, and on the side, he’s cutting grass, he’s shoveling snow, he’s doing everything. And I just want to say, whoever’s in charge or whoever gets this position down here [at Berston], to fulfill his dream. And they need to put his name on something down here. If they can name a street after Claressa Shields, I know they can name a street after Bryant Nolden. All what he’s done to the city of Flint. They were about to tear this building down, and he came and got the keys and opened it back up. He cut the grass down here. He shoveled the snow, cleaned it up, mopped these floors, did everything and brought it back.
“He gonna be missed. The man gone too soon. Job well done, gone too soon. I raised him from a puppy. Back in the day, it was gangs in Flint, little posses. We called ourselves ‘The Gamblers.’ We gambled every day of the week, and on Friday night, we just go out and get into stuff. Just for the hell of it. I was leader of the pack, and he had a van he would load up about eight or nine of them up in a van. Just going out having fun.
“He never forgot where he came from. He never changed up. Never changed up. Same to me all the time.”
Orestes Reed — longtime friend and “brother”
“We pretty much all grew up together. You know, we’re all right around the same age. A lot of us went to school together, and we continue that friendship and that brotherhood throughout.
“He always had time for, you know, the people that they would consider little people, the people that most of society would consider little people. He always had time for us. If you asked him to do something, if he told you he could do it, you consider it done.
“It’s what the community meant to him. He always wanted to do right by the community, you know? He made sure that he did right by the community. So many people prior to him would give lip service, but they wouldn’t do right by the community like he would. He would go out on a limb, and if it was some kind of way he could scrounge up some money to get things better for us, and he would do it.”
Eric Richard — longtime friend and “brother from another mother”
“He was an inspiration to me. When he saw me, he encouraged me. when I talked to him, it was always positive. Whenever I would see him, he had a word even though he’s very busy. He always made time. He was like a brother to me. Down-to-earth guy, lovable person. Never saw him in any chaos. Everything was always about business or trying to bring something positive together.
“Look how many people in the community are coming down here to see him. Yeah, I don’t need to stay here no more, I had to drive to make sure I came here to pay my respects and see some of the people that I grew up with. He meant so much to so many people, and everybody can’t make it. Some people are flying in. Here go some more people he grew up with. He meant a world to us, and we’re gonna love on each other while he’s not here as if he was here.”
Jamar McKenzie — adopted son
“Ever since I could remember, ever since I been around, he would come get me. He would tell everybody, you know, ‘That’s my son. That’s my son.’ After so long, that was my dad. He was a very, very very positive mentor, everything. I’m really gonna miss him. It’s hard. He was loved. That’s for sure. He was loved by a lot of people. I’m very thankful and very grateful to have had him in my life.
“When I was younger, there have been times when we were supposed to have done stuff, and we couldn’t because he was up at the school, working the program, you know, doing doing different things. As I got older, I understood because I myself started to become a part of the community. I work for the housing commission, so I help our residents get resources for different things that they need and help them with their barriers so that they can become self sufficient. I got all of that from him.
“He will always be held close to my heart.”
Wayne Crain — longtime friend
“He was a hell of a person. I mean, politics-wise, community-wise, if you call him at any time, either he’ll find out what’s wrong or he’ll tell you where to go find out. If you need anything, he’ll try to get you information. These days every councilman ain’t like that. When you call so many councilmen, they’re, ‘Ah alright, I’ll let you know.’ BB got back with you. He’ll call you, he’ll tell you what he couldn’t do what he can do. He’d you the truth, bottom line.
“I’m gonna miss him. I’ve been knowing him since he was 7, 8-years-old. BB been riding with us since he was 7, 8-years-old in my car. I just remember, every Sunday, me and Mike [BB’s uncle] saying, ‘BB, go back to school.’ He wanted to hang out with his friends. ‘Go back to school BB, it’s Sunday. Go on back to Ohio. Get that degree.’
“Look what it did. He’s come a long way. I’m so proud of BB. I’m gonna miss him.”
Rocky Clark — Physical Education Director at Berston Field House
“He was like a big brother, a mentor, a leader. You know, as we were growing up, he was telling us when we were kids, like, he wanted to do some stuff downtown, you know what I’m saying, some leadership roles. And when he did, we were so proud.
“He had a vision for the city. He wasn’t like, just caring about his position. He cared about everybody else’s. Sometimes, we’d see somebody at the bus stop or just sitting out, we’d get out, you know, help them, give them something. BB, he didn’t just care about Berston, the staff, and the family, BB cared about the city of Flint, period. He was the one he didn’t want nobody left out, whether he knew you or not. That’s always been him.
“He always wanted to keep [Berston’s] doors open for the kids. That’s who he was, man. We always was looking for, you know, ‘Hey, maybe we can do this. Maybe we could do that. Or maybe we stay for a little bit longer and give him 30 more minutes or an hour more than they’re posted to play. That’s who he was, man. A leader. If you wanted one word to sum it up: leader.”
Wendell Robinson — Fraternity brother and good friend
“What he did for the community, it ain’t gonna be able to be replaced, man. Hopefully they build everything like he wanted it set up because that was his project. He kept Berston alive.
“He became the president of our fraternity [Omega Psi Phi]. We call it ‘Basileus.’ He was the Basileus of Omicron Rho [Flint’s chapter of Omega Psi Phi].
“He had kids up under him. It’s a lot of kids that’s hurting. He looked out for different organizations, too. He was looking out for everybody, really. Then he became the county commissioner. He was just getting started.”
Nolden’s funeral service will be held at New Jerusalem Full Gospel Baptist Church on Saturday, Dec. 17, 2022, before he is laid to rest at Sunset Hills Cemetery.