Bachelor of Arts, Architecture, Sam Fox School of Design and Visual Arts, 2008
To paraphrase Steve Biko, human dignity is a basic tenet of Black consciousness that we are owed from within and outside our community. Aaron Williams’ commitment to community engagement and advocacy is rooted in reclamation of this dignity.
Educated in the historically black 18th & Vine District of Kansas City, MO, Aaron came to Washington University as an Ervin Scholar with an unwavering commitment to the Black community. While at the university, he founded the Campus Y Field Day and received the Touissant L’ouverture Award for his commitment to the community. After graduating in 2008, Aaron worked abroad before being drawn back to St. Louis following the killings of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown.
Since returning, Aaron has become deeply connected to The Ville, a historic African-American neighborhood located in North St. Louis with a rich history of African-American education, business, entertainment, and culture. As a team member of 4theVille, Young Friends of The Ville, and Ville Collaborative, he is dedicated to seeking out every opportunity to celebrate The Ville. Aaron desires to educate the region about The Ville’s era of Black excellence and the systemic inequities that disrupted it and to cultivate talent in the Northside. He combines his skills for creative thinking, innovation, graphic design, project management, and community organizing to raise awareness and resources. The work he does both in and outside of The Ville aims to create a more equitable St. Louis by strengthening and empowering the Northside.
Aaron works by amplifying community voice. His guiding principles for engagement are respect, humility, and equity. Aaron begins by listening first and really hearing the residents of The Ville. He asks for their solutions rather than just posing his own and then works toward seeing their vision realized.
As his nominator Nichole Murphy, 4theVille team member, writes, “He has taken all ego out of the work because he exemplifies how, when you find something worth doing, you do it regardless of whether or not it is in your job description, you are recognized for it, you are busy, exhausted, or otherwise burdened. The only thing that matters is that you do it, and you do it well.”