An Interview with Jecorey Arthur

Jecorey Arthur | Photo by Brizzy Rose and Emma

We recently asked local activist, musician, award-winning teacher, father and Democratic candidate for Louisville Metro Council District 4, Jecorey Arthur, to comment on the recent protests against police brutality and in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. Arthur also shared ways our community can support the movement. 

On who he is and who he wants to be.
My parents and 13 siblings call me Corey. I was born, raised and am still living in the West End of Louisville. I’m originally from the Parkland neighborhood where Muhammad Ali was born and raised, but now I live in Russell. My 2-and-a-half-year-old son calls me “Dada.” I’m also known as 1200 when I’m recording, composing and performing music. I’ve performed with the Louisville Orchestra and dozens of orchestras around the country as a hip-hop artist and a classical musician. I’m known to my little students as Mr. Arthur and my big students as Professor Arthur at Simmons College of Kentucky, our state’s only private historically black college as well as the first college to have higher education for black Kentuckians. And hopefully, I’ll be known as Councilman Arthur as I am campaigning for Metro Council District 4 of Louisville.   

On the protests.
A man that I share a birthday with by the name of Malcolm X made a comment after John F. Kennedy was assassinated that eventually led to his own death. Malcolm X said that chickens always come home to roost. What he meant is that violence begets violence. This city, our country, has been violent towards black people, specifically black American descendants of slavery, for 401+ years, so we see the backlash taking place because we’ve been victimized by it for so long. I don’t believe we need to go to war with the police, the government, or white people, that would be a bloodbath. That would be suicide because we are only 13% of this country’s population. We only have 2.6% of this country’s wealth. Black men and women account for 37% of incarcerations. That 13% of the population is almost wiped out because we’re incarcerated at higher rates than any other race, so we would never win in that position. What’s important is that we use our minds, our allies and our accomplices of people who are willing to make justice happen to get us out of this situation. Mayor Fischer asked me on Sunday, “Our city is on fire, and who’s going to put it out?” What so many people don’t realize about these fires, figuratively, is that we didn’t start them. It’s important that whoever starts them puts them out. In this case, it would be Mayor Fischer, Governor Beshear and our law enforcement. 

On what needs to change.
In front of me, I have the demands for Breonna Taylor’s case from her family and the legal team. These demands have changed quite a bit, because some of our demands have been met, such as releasing the 911 call and getting Kenneth Walker’s, the boyfriend who defended her, charges dropped. These demands include 1. Demand the Mayor and City Council address the use of force by the Louisville Metro Police Department. 2. Fire and revoke the pensions of the officers who murdered Breonna Taylor. Arrest, charge and convict them for this crime. 3. Provide all necessary information to a local, independent civilian community police accountability council. 4. Create policy for transparent investigation process due to law enforcement misconduct. 5. Eliminate no-knock warrants. 

Some of these are specific to Breonna, but some of them are systematically going to change the future. The police are public servants. They are paid for by public dollars, but when we have a situation that they’re called into question on, they want to have private investigations. That’s not how that works. Another systematic change would be this police accountability council. When we have that in place, shootings that happen or when we need to review the law, these councils can ensure we’re putting laws in place that are going to protect and serve citizens that the police themselves are supposed to protect and serve. 

On how we can better educate ourselves.
Here in Louisville, Kentucky, everyone needs to read Two Centuries of Black Louisville. It was co-authored by three essential black people, and that book is by far the most extensive history of how Louisville came to be. Even though it was published in 2011, the book draws so many parallels to what we’re going through right now, not only with COVID-19, but with police genocide and our income and equality,  and our racial wealth gap. 

On how the Louisville community can support the BLM movement.
One, white people have to listen. Listening is key. We have two ears and one mouth for a reason. Two, after you listen, you have to organize, mobilize and strategize, because the education piece is only a portion of what needs to take place. You can know plenty, but if you don’t do anything, it’s wasted energy and potential. 

The black Kroger, by that I mean the only full-service grocery store in the black community, was shut down June 1. Our food supply was cut off. When that happened, we had that listening and organizing going on, and a coalition of mostly black nonprofits raised over $30,000 to get food to people. That’s a prime example of what it takes to listen and to lead. V