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    “Forty-eight hours before the I Am Ali event, I got a call from the mayor’s special-events team saying they wanted me to help organize performers to appear. Ali was Ali. A lot of people wanted to be a part of it in any way, shape or form. I just helped move the chess pieces in the right place.

    “I thought of some of the music that Ali not only liked but also made — he was a musician, a poet; a lot of people didn’t know that. I thought of those things — spoken word, blues, jazz, gospel — and I just reached out to artists who embodied those genres, that characteristic, that style. And also people who were geographically relevant, from west Louisville. Those kinds of artists who would never otherwise get to participate at an event at the Kentucky Center or with the Ali Center or with the mayor’s office. And I said, here they are — these are the people that grew up where Ali grew up. These are the people who created music that he enjoyed listening to. We put them on a stage and they played their hearts out.

    “My grandfather used to eat lunch with him. They would eat fish in some random park. For me, Ali was the first superhero that I saw, looked up to. Before that it was like Power Rangers, Barney, Ninja Turtles, but this was an actual human being and he was from where I was from — west Louisville. To live in a place where there’s obvious segregation, there’s obvious prejudice, it was a really nice nod to see that those things can be broken down. Even though it was only temporary, it’s nice to see that that’s what we could have and what we will have if people live life the way that Ali lived life — if people persevere, love each other, respect each other. It’s possible and I’m glad that his death showed that. I just hope that we work harder to have it more than just temporarily.

    “I also performed at the Muhammad Ali Humanitarian Awards (in September) with (Louisville Orchestra music director) Teddy Abrams. Just being in that room with people who are working so hard to make this world a better place — who live in that temporary realm of peace and love and happiness and all the principals that Ali had — it made me feel like I need to do that 24/7 and never let down, never slack or feel weak, never feel like I can’t always be that superhero for someone else.”

    Arthur is the musician who organized the talent for the I Am Ali celebration at the Kentucky Center the Wednesday after Ali died.

     

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    About Mary Chellis Nelson

    Mary Chellis Nelson is the managing editor of Louisville Magazine.

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