Graduate student. Special education teacher.
Digital humanities specialist. Writer. Poet. Musician. Indie artist.

Those are only some of the myriad vocations of
Jeffery Collin Suttles. To call him enterprising would be an understatement.

A candidate for the M.A. in Urban Studies at SLU this semester, Jeffery found new inspiration for his art in a cooperative management course that he took with Rebecca Lurie in 2019. As his final project, Jeffery composed a song called, “Co-Op,” which he subsequently premiered last month at a community development rally/video shoot held at the Black Lives Matter mural in Brooklyn.

“I’ve been performing for over twenty years,” Jeffery said. “I started out in a vocal group called Mass Appeal, along with my brother and cousin. We opened up for a lot of artists, including the Notorious B.I.G. and Jay-Z. Now I’m working with another talented group of musicians called UC, which stands for Underground Collaborative, I continue to write and produce for indie artists as well as work on my solo projects.”

So how did “Co-Op” come about? “It started with an idea from my co-op class. Ironically, I worked at Green Worker Co-op as an intern a few years ago, and I was interested in learning more about the cooperative concept. The class was an extension of my initial interest in connecting people to build companies. So I wrote a song about how cooperative businesses and opportunities can open people up. The narrative starts with a rap by Berklee College of
Music professor Raydar Ellis, explaining what’s going on in urban neighborhoods, and what it will take to make our dreams come true. It’s a fun song about community enlightenment, with a funky groove.”

“The rally was a really cool event. Green Worker Co-op, the Black Panthers, and NYC Network for Worker Cooperatives, all showed up to support the movement. We shot various scenes that I want to turn into a music video/PSA to educate people about the cooperative business model. That’s my main message nowadays: sustainability, community growth, and creating a level playing field. I want to share a message of empowerment through the people.”

Music isn’t the only way Jeffery is getting his message across. “I have a degree from the Graduate Center in digital humanities. My capstone was a digital project entitled “Black Economic Empowerment: Educating in the ‘Hood.” I also have a publishing certificate from the City College of New York, where I got my undergraduate degree. Now I work with several forms of multimedia on content which relate to my passion to address issues in social and environmental justice. Oh, and then there’s my day job. I’m a special education teacher, and I just finished my first children’s book, Iggy Likes Sunday.”

Besides being the inspiration for “Co-Op,” how has his time at SLU informed Jeffery’s artistic ambitions? “Being at SLU has helped me develop a whole new theme for my art. Urban studies has really made me grow in my understanding of communities and the labor movement. A lot of my classmates already work for the city or in government agencies, and learning from them as well as my professors has taken me to a whole new level. I want to incorporate empathy in urban studies, and what it takes to make communities work with some of the technical knowledge I learned in digital humanities. And of course, with my music. I really believe some amazing things are going to happen.”

Learn more about Jeffery in On the Scene NY.

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