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Adria’s Louisville (10/11/2022)


You know those “______’s Louisville” banners on the sides of buildings throughout the city? Ali and Jennifer Lawrence and Diane Sawyer and more “notable” names. We think the blank should be for all of us. (Who do you think Louisville Magazine should interview about our city? You can tell us here.

Here are Adria Johnson’s answers. Published Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2022. (Nominated by Micah.)

Since March 2020, what’s something you’ve lost?

“A degree of hope in humanity. The divisiveness still present and, more troubling, the overt expression by many of wanting to maintain these societal divisions, particularly racial division, are deeply troubling.” 

Since March 2020, what’s something you’ve gained?

“An even deeper determination to do all I can to fight against lingering inequities, which are now glaring.” 

Since March 2020, what’s something Louisville has lost?

“A vibrant downtown and central business district. Since the pandemic forced and accelerated the shift to working remotely, downtown is no longer thriving. If not reinvigorated, this will have lasting impacts for decades to come.”

Since March 2020, what’s something Louisville has gained?

“I hope Louisville has gained a deeper awareness and understanding of the challenges many in our community are experiencing and the roots of many of these challenges, including systemic racism. I would also hope Louisville has gained an unwavering conviction and commitment to confronting and overcoming these challenges.”

What should people visit in your neighborhood?

“Beckley Creek Park, which is part of the Parklands of Floyds Fork. As a child, the open space my brothers and I grew up in for several years remains one of our most cherished aspects of childhood. When we moved to another area of Louisville and no longer had this, we deeply grieved that loss. Louisville’s parks are one of our greatest gems, and this one is no exception.”

Earliest childhood memory?

“Cornfields were a pivotal part of my childhood landscape. I was truly a child of the corn!”

Louisville dish you’ve eaten more than any other?

“Hands down, the loaded Mama Bearno’s pizza!”

Where are you a regular? 

“Quills Coffee for the Alchemist (a blend of espresso, soy milk, cocoa powder, cinnamon, cayenne pepper and agave nectar).” 

Favorite Louisville building?

“My church, Fifth Street Baptist, on West Jefferson Street. I have been a member there for 38 years. It is near and dear to me for many reasons, from the obvious — my faith and spirituality — to the deep admiration I have for the pastor, Dr. W. J. Hodge, who led church during my teen and early-adulthood years. He is the father of my current pastor, the Rev. Phillip L. Hodge Sr., and was a leader during the Civil Rights movement here in Kentucky.”

Where in town do you always take visitors?

“Honestly, it’s been so long since I’ve played host to out-of-towners, and my immediate family is all here. But if I did have to play host, I would take them to the Big Four walking bridge, Hannah Drake’s (Un)Known Project and Mojito Tapas Restaurant in Holiday Manor.” 

What Louisville law/ordinance/rule/etc. needs to change?

“Having worked for Louisville Metro Government for seven and a half years and understanding how this city’s historic zoning laws have contributed to some of the inequities we are working to overcome, I would like to see continued efforts to change these laws where needed.”

Something unexpected you love in Louisville?

“Not necessarily unexpected for Louisville but unexpected for me: the Big Four Bridge because I’m terrified of heights — as in I can’t even handle the escalator at the Yum! Center.” 

One thing Louisville is missing?

“A light-rail system, which would aid greatly in robust economic development for this region.”

Favorite Louisville smell?

“Burgers cooking at Ollie’s Trolley!” 

Something from Louisville’s past you wish people today could experience?

“The Fourth Street I experienced growing up as a child in the ’70s, the Fourth Street of my grandmother’s era and the Haymarket (outdoor farmers’ market on Jefferson Street between Floyd and Brook streets, from the 1890s until 1962). I deeply miss that magical kind of hustle and bustle.” 

Fill in the blank: “_______’s Louisville” should be the next banner on the side of a building.

“EVERYONE. During my time in my dash here on earth, I want to experience a Louisville where everyone feels like they are welcomed, they are included, they belong, they are supported, they are celebrated, they are treasured.”

In one word, what’s your biggest hope for Louisville?

“Unconditional love.”

In one word, what’s your biggest fear for Louisville?


In one sentence, how do you spend the majority of your weekdays? 

“Being president and CEO of Metro United Way, which means working alongside an amazing group of humans striving to see all humans thrive.”

Favorite Louisville street?

“I would say Broadway, primarily because it holds such fond memories of the Pegasus Parade and of when U of L won the 1980 NCAA Championship. And Metro United Way is on Broadway.”

What does Louisville have that it should be known for but isn’t?

“I know that Louisville is known for being a compassionate city, and a huge part of that compassion is the network of nonprofits, including Metro United Way, that works to lift others. While we have strong brand recognition at Metro United Way, we are part of a system of more than 2,000 nonprofits, many of which our community knows nothing about.”

What should be Louisville’s theme song?

“‘Three Little Birds,’ Bob Marley. The lyrics are simple but give the command not to worry because EVERYTHING will be all right. If we can, as a community, commit to taking care of all, then EVERYTHING and EVERYBODY will be all right — or at least hopefully on a path to being so.”

Besides whatever it is you’re currently doing: What’s the best job you’ve ever had? 

“Commissioner of the Kentucky Department for Community Based Services. While this role, in my opinion, carries the heaviest responsibility in state government — ensuring the safety and wellbeing of children and vulnerable adults — it was so rewarding. I led a team of 5,000 people, some of the most underappreciated in all of state government.”

Your drink?

“Nonalcoholic: sweet tea; alcoholic: Fleur-De-Lis Martini from Redlands Grill off Shelbyville Road.”

What would you name a Derby horse?

“Deliverance. You cannot heal until you are free.”

Who would you shadow for a day?

“A NICU nurse. Becoming a nurse was my childhood dream, and I briefly pursued that career at a certain juncture as an adult. I would love an intimate glimpse of what I missed out on.”

Priceless possession?

“A few very old photos of family members, including one of my paternal grandmother when she was a baby, circa 1919.”

Favorite thing hanging on the walls at home?

“This super-cool wall hanging I bought from Work the Metal at Butchertown Market. It’s made up of concentric circles formed from various yarns and fabrics.” 

Book you’ve given away the most?

“My goal is to publish my second book of poetry, so hopefully I can say that one in the future.”

TV character most like you?

“I don’t watch a lot of TV, but in considering the shows I’ve binged on streaming channels, I would have to say June from The Handmaid’s Tale. Now, for those who have watched this series, we know June has done some extreme things in response to extreme conditions. But her strength and her refusal to resign to a fate of subservience and her determination to save the coming generations from this fate resonate strongly with me.”

What three people (living or dead) would be on the guest list to your ideal dinner party?

“Allene Payne Hunter, Charles Hunter and James Baxter Swafford — the grandparents I never knew.”

First thing on your bucket list?

“Travel to Africa.”

What makes somebody a Louisvillian?

“Well, first and foremost, you’d better be able to pronounce LOUISVILLE the correct way. You must love the Cards, you must appreciate that so many of us share a kinship rooted in our high-school years, you must understand that the first week in May is prime time. In all (semi)seriousness, I hope that to be a Louisvillian is to model the expectation that one of our own, Muhammad Ali, so eloquently stated: ‘Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.’”

Secret talent?

“I make one heck of a lemon meringue pie.”

Who should Louisville Magazine interview next? Let us know here.