Erin Williams

Fellowship Producer

Erin Williams has joined St Louis Public Radio as a Fellowship Producer, where she will be creating stories centered around regional race matters, as well as diversity and culture. Prior to arriving in St. Louis, Erin Worked as an editorial aide and staff writer at The Washington Post, covering arts, culture, and entertainment for the Style section and was a reporter for the site The Root – DC. She also produced the Friday ‘NewsViews’ roundtable segment for WPFW-FM under the tutelage of veteran journalist Askia Muhammad. She graduated from The University of Alabama with a degree in Telecommunication and Film. During her undergraduate years, Erin interned at Alabama Public Radio, and spent part of the summer of 2008 as an congressional intern for Artur Davis.  

Erin enjoys traveling and road trips, live shows, exploring museums, and finding the best that every city she inhabits has to offer.

Ways To Connect

St. Louis Public Radio

For the past year, St. Louis Public Radio producer Erin Williams has covered regional race matters, diversity and culture as part of an inaugural fellowship made possible, in part, by a grant from the Public Policy Research Center.

Her last day is today, October 18, 2013, and we wish her well as she continues her journalism career.

Williams' commentary about her one year in St. Louis as well as her conversation with St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh appear below:

Courtesy of Stewart Goldstein

After being ousted from their home at The Grandel Theatre in Grand Center, The Black Rep theater company has found a new place for its productions at Harris-Stowe State University.

The company will now hold its performances at the Emerson Performance Center on the school’s campus, which seats over 200. The Grandel Theatre was owned by Grand Center Incorporated, which sold it earlier this summer.

Erin WIlliams / St. Louis Public Radio


When Katherine Dunham - world dancer, former professor, and part-time East St. Louis resident - died in 2006, she made it a point to make sure that her legacy was remembered. She held workshops and gave personal instruction to other dancers on how to perform her flamboyant, graceful, Africa-influenced Dunham Technique; she wrote books, gave talks, and did interviews at length on overcoming racism and 

  discrimination while traveling the world with her troupe, the Katherine Dunham Company; and, most importantly, she oversaw the day-to-day operations of the Katherine Dunham Museum in East St. Louis, housed just across the street from the three homes she owned and occupied during her time in Illinois.

Unfortunately, memories can’t make money. And that’s what you need in order to run a museum.

Though the museum receives grants from time to time, there’s no trust or steady income, visits are by appointment only, and paying members of the museum are few. In fact, if you call the number listed on the website to book a tour, you get the cell phone of Laverne Backstrom, board president of the Katherine Dunham Centers for Arts and Humanities - and tour guide for the museum. Unlike the lights and the phone line at the museum, she can guarantee that her phone won’t be turned off.

“I think that her plan was by continuing to certify instructors, she then had these persons understand that they were more than dancers, that they were perpetuating a way of life, and it was the way that she thought that life ought to be lived,” says Backstrom, a retired schoolteacher.

Ideally, Dunham envisioned the museum as a bastion for artist to dance, make music, and learn about other cultures – and for the most part, that’s still happening.  The studio located in the backyard still serves as a place for instruction and weekly classes, and there’s still a yearly intensive held at Wash U every summer. If she were ever in financial trouble, Dunham could quickly call on friends like Harry Belafonte to help her cover costs. Her daughter, Marie-Christine, lives in France and leaves the day-to-day operations of the Museum in East St. Louis to the Board.

“You’re always subject to losing all of it. But you don’t think about that on a day to day basis. You continue to think where the next grant is going to come from or where the next resource might be,” says Backstrom. “I’m not going to be very effective screaming and yelling by myself that this is what needs to happen.”

Erin Williams / St. Louis Public Radio

Fast food workers and supporters held a press conference today in response to a recent report from the University of California-Berkeley.

The report stated that the low wages of fast-food workers cost the public $7 billion a year in public assistance.

Gathered in front of an area McDonald’s, employees took turns talking about their experiences struggling to raise families and covering medical costs on their salaries.

Erin Williams / St. Louis Public Radio

Students and workers from several schools and businesses assembled at John Burroughs School to assemble food packages for people in need in the country of Tanzania and St. Louis city today, as part of an event held by nonprofit St. Louis World Food Day

The event was held in honor of World Food Day, which was created by the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization. The cause is being led by Don Soffer, a high school senior at John Burroughs. The 17-year-old is trying to both alleviate hunger and change how others think about it. 

Erin Williams / St. Louis Public Radio


Back in the mid-1980s, entrepreneur Pat Woods was quite the multitasker.

Courtesy of Hettie Barnhill

Of the dancers who performed as part of the Muny Chorus in 1962, only one of them had their own security guard.


For the second time in two months, St. Louis is focused on fashion. St. Louis Fashion Week is back for its eighth fall season. 

The 10-day event is a collection of fashion shows, exhibitions, and fundraisers that brings together both local and national designers to celebrate the best sartorial offerings in the region.

(via Flickr/NWABR)

A multi-disciplinary study released today finds that in relation to school dropout rates, health plays a bigger role than one might think.

The study is part of ‘For The Sake of All,’ a five part series from Washington University and Saint Louis University that focuses on the health of African Americans in the St. Louis region.

Intel Free Press/Wikimedia Commons

Students at Kirkwood High School became the latest to join AT&T's nationwide push to stop texting and driving.

Erin Williams / St. Louis Public Radio

We’ve all been there: You get in the car and begin driving your normal route, only to hit construction and be re-routed to another street, or traffic that forces you to creep along at a snail’s pace. In your annoyance, you glance out the window and spy a cyclist whizzing by and think, ‘Man, I need to get one of those.’

For Sean Lowery, commuting by bike is more than a summertime hobby  - it’s a way of life. The 27-year-old Marine Villa resident has been commuting on two wheels for three years now, and has created a whole new transportation lifestyle for himself.

(via Flickr/alkruse24)

After receiving several questions and concerns over students who missed the Aug. 1 transfer deadline, the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary education has released revised guidelines for parents.

Per DESE’s guidelines, if a student missed the Aug. 1 deadline, parents have been instructed to complete the transfer packet in their home district and notify the district they want to transfer to.

Typically, 21st century writers fall into two technical categories: Mac or PC. But poet Henry Goldkamp would much rather use a typewriter. He's the sole owner of a mobile poetry business, and for the past three years, he's spent his weekends traveling St. Louis, banging out short poems, on the spot, for anyone who stops by his table.

Erin Williams

Being an entrepreneur takes more than just having what you think is a “good product.” It takes marketing, development, being social, and most importantly, mentorship. And, you have to be willing to build it from the ground up. But where do you start? For Sylvester Brown, you go with something that’s plain and simple: sweet potatoes.

Erin Williams

Public officials and religious leaders gathered in East St. Louis Saturday to celebrate the expansion of a major housing project aimed at providing low-income residents with an affordable place to live.

The Mount Sinai Development Corporation has secured land to add 30 homes to the original 30 that were completed two years ago in the Winstanley Industry Park Neighborhood.

Erin Williams/St. Louis Public Radio

Updated 4:31 p.m. 8-23-13

St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley announced the appointment of Reverend Dr. Freddy J. Clark and businessman David R. Spence to two recently vacated seats on the St. Louis County Board of Police Commissioners.

Clark’s appointment will fill the vacancy left by Floyd Warmann, who chose to resign in July due to a conflict of business interests, and Spence will fill the slot vacated by subcontractor Gregory Sansone.

(via Flickr/Shoes on Wires)

Today marks the beginning of the first-ever Missouri Fashion Week, which is taking place here in St. Louis.

The four-day event will incorporate the work of nearly 20 designers, and each show will help promote a local nonprofit.

Erin Williams

  Henry Goldkamp has established himself as a bit of a writing fixture in the arts world of St. Louis. He spends his weekdays working in his family’s construction business, but on the weekends you can find him around town at his mobile office, banging out short vignettes of happiness, fear, love and passion on his manual typewriter as sole proprietor of Fresh Poetry, Ink.

(via Flickr/woodleywonderworks)

The BEACH Project, an initiative focused on quickly creating permanent housing and additional services for the city’s chronically homeless, received an additional $1 million to continue its mission.

Bill Siedhoff, director of human services for the City of St. Louis, says that the funding is essential for the project’s goal to end chronic homelessness in St. Louis by 2015.

(Erin Williams/St. Louis Public Radio)

Updated at 4:45 p.m. with comments from Francis Howell Central principal Sonny Arnel. Updated 5:39 p.m. with comments from parents and students.

Some transportation hiccups aside, the first day in the Francis Howell School District in St. Charles County appears to have gone smoothly.