"I never realized West Louisville was considered the dangerous part of town, until I left West Louisville and I started connecting, befriending, and collaborating with people who lived outside of our nine neighborhoods. Yeah, so at one point in time, my mother moved way out to Valley Station, in South Louisville. I was telling people where I was from and where I grew up and they kind of feared the environment and looked at me differently. I had no clue, as a young innocent kid growing up, that it was dangerous or it was the dark side of town, until someone else told me. To me, it was always home.
My great grandmother had ten children and on my father's side, his mother had ten children. I have a huge family and most of them were based in West Louisville. The commute between holidays, family gatherings and feasts were always short. We knew where everyone stayed, so we had someone in every hood. The fact that all my family was down here is what definitely made it home.
I was never really interested in what a lot my peers were. So everyone thought that because I was somewhat tall and heavy set, that I was supposed to be athletic and play football or basketball. I was also never really interested in Hip-Hop, as to perform it. I saw the movie Drumline and I joined the band. Then when I met my father's side of the family, I saw that they had a recording studio in their basement. Around that time, I was totally inspired, as a musician, to learn percussion but also to learn the art of recording. Then over the next decade or so, I devoted all my time to it. High school came around, I was about to graduate, I didn't know what to do with the rest of my life. I had a choice between studying and pursuing classical music education or be a recording engineer. I went the classical route but over time, I still try to practice that craft and fuse the two together.
At one point I traveled to Switzerland with the University of Louisville Wind Symphony. That was the first time I left the country. That was also the first time I flew on a plane. Being from Parkland, most of my life, not really traveling anywhere, it was a culture shock, in a positive way. I was around people that spoke several languages, being around an environment that was crisp clean, there was a lick of trash in the streets. The water looked like Frost Ice Gatorade. It was a totally different environment for me to experience and be in. It took me out of my realm for a minute. When we came back, I knew that I wanted to travel the world, in some way, shape or form. I wanted to see other parts of it and it was important for other people to do the same. I have family members who never left West Louisville. I have friends that never left West Louisville. That opens up your mind in a totally different way and since then, I've traveled. I haven't been back to Switzerland but I plan to eventually.
Anything that challenges tradition inspires me. I don't even celebrate holidays. I'm interested in challenging tradition because so many people complain or so many people feel that we have this issue or that issue in the world. Well, let's do something about it. I remember when I was younger, I used to hear people say, 'There's nothing to do in Louisville,' As I got older, as a musician, I performed, composed, and taught a lot. So I have this fourth hat that I wear, where I organize events around town. Part of it was just to show people that there's plenty to do. We have these festivals in Central Park, where the kids can come and experience music and art activities. We have festivals all over the city. We have events that are for you. Anyone and everyone can come and experience. Not only to be entertained but to let go and experience something that you wouldn't experience on your block.
There are a number of missing resources in West Louisville. The fact that me, as a musician, I know people who are in the music scene who have no about certain venues and artists that exists across 9th Street. That doesn't make any sense to me and also breaks my heart because I exist in both worlds. I know the people over that make a certain kind of music, as well as the people on the other side that make a certain kind of music. Until we recognize one another, acknowledge one another and learn how to collaborate with one another, we'll never grow to our full potential, as a city, in terms of having an arts culture.
Russell, forever ago, used to be considered 'Little Harlem of Louisville'. So, where are the music venues, now? Where are the black owned stores? What happened to our culture that shifted that mindset, to the point where many of these black artists or many of these people who practice black art form don't exist in West Louisville? And if they do, it's almost like a desert, which people often call it a food desert. I like it's a culture desert as well. People are struggling to get their art heard and get their vision out. So, until we have those resources and those conversations with people on the other side, neither one of us will grow.
We need an across the board system for communication. There's nine neighborhoods and none the neighborhoods have similar associations. Example, I've been in Russell a few months. I bought this house in August, I've been getting the Russell Vision newsletter in the mail and I love it. I'm seeing what's happening in this neighborhood, that I never lived in. When I lived in Parkland, we didn't have an active neighborhood association, let alone a newsletter that let us know what was happening in the neighborhood. So, when someone got shot across the street, where I grew up at, we had to find to find out from people next to us or on the news. We didn't get a full story or idea of the context of what was happening within our very block. So I think we need an across the board system of the communication. We have the oldest of the old that lived here their whole lives and they don't know how to connect with the younger generation. The younger generation doesn't know how to connect with the older generation and that's important if we're going to grow in any way. We also need understanding; not only of our past, but also our present and then what we want our future to look like. Within the art scene, there are people that have this notion that unless you blow up and you make it and you're this world wide figure that you don't succeed as an artist. But if I'm a chef and I'm making some of the best burgers in Louisville and my burger spot is poppin' every weekend, I'm a successful chef, even if you never heard of me. Artists don't have the same mentality, they want to be rich and famous. They look beyond what they could be doing. We just need to have some conversations outside of our four walls, across 9th St, with some people that can inform us and let us know. Not in the sense of they're coming to save and be the great white hope, but a conversation where they're teaching men to fish. There are often times, when I find myself working with non-profits and even artists and business owners who want to get this money from somebody who already has it, these rich figures. They want that dollar but they don't want to learn how to get that dollar on their own. So, they're not teaching us how to fish, but throwing the fish. So that conversation needs to be fruitful and productive in a sense of us helping ourselves.
Creativity, in my opinion, is when you do something that is rooted in your own thought process. It can sometimes be inspired outside of your own brain but essentially it's when it's always rooted within your own thought process. I've seen anybody rap and play a marimba, xylophone, or a vibraphone. So, when I decided to do it, and I'm not trying to do it for the sake of doing it, but from 6th through 12th grade I played these instruments. I also grew up listening to hip-hop and nobody can tell me that you can't do both at the same time, so I do it. It's considered creative because it's never been done before but it's rooted in my mind and in my identity.
I'm most creative in the middle of the night. I have a bar that says, 'I don't write lyrics, I just dream of these songs' and it feels real. I feel like we're vessels, as artists. We don't get these ideas, they come to us from a higher being. Whether you believe in God, Buddha, Zeus, whatever god, they come from somewhere else and we act on these missions. That came from somewhere and you're the vessel that carrying out this mission in these streets, telling these stories. You're needed, you're necessary.
I grew up in a Baptist Christian church my whole life. My family has always owned the church that we went to. As I got older, I stopped going because most of my religious faith was based off my grandmother, who wanted me to go to church. Since I stopped going, between then and now, I have been around so many different religious groups and the most that I connected with the most was the Muslim community. I went on an artist retreat in Chicago and I never felt liberated, spiritually, with those people. I never knew it. Also, studying this Ali Opera and digging into his life and what he went through and his religious background. It was kind of scary to think that how is it that I'm mostly connected with this religion that we have so many layers on. You see it on the news that Muslim people are scary and they're terrorists and I connected the most with this religion. I felt at peace, at ease and so much love. I wouldn't say that I practice a specific religion. I believe in conditioning, in terms of what's best for you and your family. If that works and those are your practices, then go for it.
I don't believe that West Louisville will continue to be West Louisville within the next 5-10 years because these neighborhoods are eventually going to shift, in terms of demographics and economy. It's going to change drastically. I don't know what it looks like but I know that there will be more of a division between the nine neighborhoods. There will be a huge cultural shift, that I think is driven from money. Metro started a program where you can buy the property next to you, if it's next to you or on the same block as your house for $500. That's a steal. There's a lot of empty houses that you can get over here that's dirt cheap. Well, when I inquired about my lot, I was told that there was other people trying to get it and I don't think that it was anybody that lives behind me but people and outside developers who want to come to Louisville and do something in Russell. It's because Russell got this huge grant and Beecher Terrace will be torn down. A lot is happening in Russell that points to gentrification. The fact that I can't purchase this house or this lot that's next to me, even though I qualify for this program, is a part of that fear. They would rather give it to a developer who is going to come in and probably make it into a franchise restaurant or a business. Why start a business in this neighborhood when there's someone here who's trying to start their business, in this neighborhood that they live in, who is promising and has a track record of doing something that will positively impact the city. So, a lot of the future is totally unforeseen and beyond our control but I think that there are people who are trying to dictate that.
Read books. That's my advice. Read scholarly books. We spend so much time on social media and there's 9 times out of 10, there's never any way to trustfully say that this is actually happening in the world. Reading books, putting your eyes on some paper, and understanding what's around you to spread your mind. We lose brain cells whenever we look at screens. We don't look at that because we're attached to our phones. I think that's the first robot killing device. I know that because I got my face in my laptop all the time. I try my best to keep technology at bay but I think that it's only a matter of time before we have a generation of youth that are more used to saying Google and Alexa than mom and dad. I think that's coming. I'm trying to go to a hidden island and get away from all that."- Jecorey a.k.a. 1200, Russell