Left Picture: Khary Bruyning with his three daughters, left to right, Imani Greene, Alicia Bruyning Leggett and Karyn Rose Bruyning. Top Right: Khary with wife, Alison Austin. Bottom right: Khary doing one of the things he did best, photography.
MIAMI – The impact Khary Scott Bruyning had on those blessed with the honor of knowing him is unmistakable. On Nov. 27, at Liberty City’s Church of the Open Door, tributes about the 63-year-old who lived and loved well poured in during his memorial service.
Khary, who was a gifted photographer and videographer by trade, died Friday, Nov. 17 of heart failure.
People from all walks of life – of varying races, ages, cultures, religions, etc. – came to commemorate and celebrate the life of a man they remembered as a devoted husband, father, family member, friend and community icon.
Prayers, musical tributes, poetic expressions and remarks from those who knew Khary best painted the picture of a man who was full of love, compassion, encouragement and loyalty.
Bruyning’s daughters – Karyn Bruyning, Alicia Bruyning Leggett and Imani Greene – reflected on the type of man their father was.
“The thing I remember most about my father is that he taught me how to swim. He threw me in the water and he told me I would be okay and if I wasn’t he would be there to help me … someone would always be there to help me,” Karyn said. “I learned this was true in life overall. That’s what my father taught me. He taught me how to survive.”
“As I was processing God told me I got what I prayed for,” said Alicia, sharing when her father was in the hospital with a lifethreatening aneurysm when she was just 18, she’d asked God to please allow him to live.
“My father was able to give me away at my wedding and he was so proud. I’m thankful that I had the chance to make all these memories with him.”
“For some, this may have been overwhelming. Who is this bossy little girl? How am I supposed to deal with this. For Khary, this was potential. He saw in me what he knew I could become. Imani, my charismatic leader. It’s what he called me from the beginning. I’d brush it off. Not knowing what that meant. But that’s Khary. Finding the good in every person, no matter how much they might get on his nerves,” Imani said, recounting how Khary immediately embraced her as his daughter when he married her mother, Alison AustinBruyning, when she was just eight-years-old and imposing her various demands.
A LIFE WELL LIVED
Khary was born and raised in New York City on September 8, 1954 by his loving parents, Eustace and Rose Bruyning. He attended primary school in his hometown of Harlem, New York before he and his parents moved to Jamaica where Khary attended both Munro College and Wolmor’s Boys School.
He often referred to himself as a “bac-ayard boy” and loved sharing stories of his early years in Jamaica. He returned stateside to attend Hampton Institute on a swimming scholarship and went on to graduate from Florida International University in Miami, Fla.
Over the next 20 years, Khary built his career in the media and broadcast industry in Tampa, Fla. – including starting his own company, Rainforest Media, where he secured the Florida Classic college football event as one of his biggest clients.
He worked for radio stations such as WRXB and 98Rock and later with Warner Bros in Tampa, Fla. During this time, he married his first wife, Soraya Rouse, and from the union came two beautiful daughters, Karyn and Alicia.
Khary always had a passion for music. He owned thousands of original LP records and spent the 80’s as a DJ, including his stint as “Khary Brue with the #1 hit music review on WRXB.”
He spent many years as a roadie on tour with funk artists WAR, Rick James, Mandrill and The Brothers Johnson. Blending his. training in sales and passion for music, Khary also became the director of merchandising for the Kings of Comedy Tour – a highlight of his career.
These early experiences gave Khary a plethora of knowledge that would earn him the nickname, “The Librarian.” He could talk for hours about the African Caribbean Diaspora, gentrification in Harlem and the rise of hip hop music, just to name a few.
To pursue his entrepreneurial dream of photography and filmmaking, Khary transitioned back to Miami and rebranded his company Rainforest Media and Tourism Consulting, Inc., with partner and second wife Alison Austin.
Khary was a gifted photographer and documentarian who took thousands of photos of his travels around the world, his community, family and friends.
As a photojournalist, he captured historical moments such as President Barack Obama’s first inauguration and close-ups of artists such as Jill Scott at the Jazz in the Gardens music festival. He also did photography for the South Florida Times.
One of Khary’s passion projects was supporting the American Black Film Festival (ABFF), where he was an inaugural part of the team. He took pride in providing patrons with the information they needed to navigate ABFF.
Completely rooted in Miami culture, Khary served as a Deacon at the Church of the Open Door, President of the Mighty Marching Bulls Band Parents for his third daughter, Imani, and supported organizations such as 100 Black Men of South Florida and his Homeowners Association. He was also a mentor and father figure to many young people in and around his neigh borhood.
A KIND, LOVING AND GENTLE SPIRIT
During his memorial service, everyone talked about how much Khary encouraged and considered others.
“Khary was like a second father. He would always call me and say we need to go and help this person or that person and I would go,” said Surge Jean, a member of Khary’s ABFF Family.
“Even after the Film Life center closed, Khary was one that would always call me and check on me to see how I was doing,” said Michelle McKoy, who also worked with Khary on film projects.
Kervin Clenance, Khary’s close friend and fellow Deacon at the Church of the Open Door, eulogized him. He shared funny stories including how Khary came to basketball games dressed like Spike Lee and jumped up every time his team scored.
“That’s my dog,” Clenance said repeatedly, highlighting Khary’s tremendous faith in God and desire to help people.
“We used to go out and serve people … but then because of his schedule at work, Khary couldn’t really join us anymore. When I spoke to him recently do you know what he was concerned about,” Clenance asked. “He said I’m getting a new schedule so I’ll be able to start going out with you all again.”
A running theme from all who spoke was how much could be learned from Khary’s example in life and how to contribute to the legacy he’s left.
Though he will be missed, Khary is remembered as an optimist with a loving, kind and giving spirit who created lasting memories and captured priceless moments.
He is survived by his loving family, Karyn Bruyning, Alicia Bruyning Leggett, Imani Greene, Alison Austin-Bruyning and a host of friends and loved ones.