Tony Williams '15
Organizer for Neighborhoods Organizing for Change (NOC)
The Markkula Ethics Prize. An Inclusive Excellence Award. A Black Senior Award. Tony Williams ‘15 graduated from SCU with some notable recognition for his contributions to the campus community, especially his role in bringing students together to discuss thorny issues.
As the Big Q intern at the Ethics Center, Tony got his fellow Broncos to talk about the drought and how the campus was responding. He chaired a conversation on campus sexual assault. He was part of a panel on student protests. All of these events furthered the Big Q’s goal of engaging undergraduates in addressing the ethical issues in their everyday lives. (And on the side, Williams participated in the Big Q’s “Random Acts of Coffee,” a free caffeine handout during exam weeks.)
“I felt like the work we did at the Ethics Center opened a space to bring up conversations that were difficult for people to have, a space to try to figure out what to do about hard issues,” he says.
Williams was particularly interested in finding new ways for conducting these discussions. He used the Big Q’s Twitter to raise questions with students across the country about issues from open carry policies on college campuses to the “gentrification of public universities.” With Roshan Rama ’16, a 2016-17 Hackworth Fellow, Williams developed “Elevator Pitch,” a series of broadsides that were posted in the freshman residence halls. The posters raised ethical questions for students to ponder while they were riding the elevators. With Hackworth Fellow Justin Fitzsimmons ’15, he experimented with YikYak, another social media platform, as a way to involve more people in the dialogue.
It should come as no surprise that Williams is still bringing people together to address social justice issues, now as an organizer for Neighborhoods Organizing for Change (NOC), a grassroots organization in Minneapolis. Right now, he’s working on a campaign to require employers in the city to offer paid sick leave. “After hundreds of engagements, thousands of doors knocked on, we think the city is about ready to approve the measure,” Williams says.
Other NOC campaigns include an effort to bring physical and mental health services into the public schools and an attempt to raise the city’s minimum wage to $15. Williams says that his work at the Ethics Center “really prepared [him] for organizing. The context is different now—it’s more policy focused—but ultimately, at the core of it is the question, What does our vision of a shared world look like?”
In addition to his organizing work, Williams continues a musical career he has pursued since high school. For a sample of his new EP, “Mixed Blood,” check out the single Checkmate.