From Editor-in-chief to Arts and Community Voices 

Posted March 26, 2024, 9:39AM

Michael S. Williams ’03, is founder of The Black on Black Project, which started as a space for Black curators to present the work of Black artists. Today, The Black on Black Project presents fine arts, produces short films, and offers events and programs aimed at encouraging dialogue among all members of the community – particularly among those who tend to be least heard.  

“The arts are a great way to engage people,” Williams said. “I don’t want spectacle, I want intellectualism. Here I am today, doing what I always wanted to do, gathering information and packaging it.”  

Williams started early. Raised in Goldsboro, North Carolina, Williams began writing about baseball for a local newspaper while in high school. When it came time to choose a university, he was impressed by the leadership at North Carolina Central University (NCCU).  

“We had this civil rights legend as chancellor, Julius L. Chambers,” Williams said. “He had the first integrated law firm in North Carolina. He fought the busing desegregation case in Charlotte. I was like, dude, I have to go to this university.”  

He studied English with a concentration in journalism and at the end of his freshman year became sports editor for the Campus Echo. As a junior, he became editor-in-chief, a position he held for two years.  

“We used to win all those Black college awards,” Williams recalled. “A lot of that had to do with DP (Campus Echo adviser Bruce Depyssler). He just believed in us and the power of our voices in a way that I’m not sure even we did. He is to be commended for that.”  

“Mike was all energy,” Depyssler said. “A real lively guy. He pushed us to go from six editions to eight editions per semester.”  

Following graduation, Williams considered law school or earning an MBA but instead found work as a designer and writer for the Raleigh News & Observer newspaper.   

In the mid 2010s, he and a partner were asked to put on an exhibit by an arts organization. They called the exhibit “Black on Black.” Williams was hooked.  

In 2019, he founded the Black on Black Project. Nowadays Williams consults on arts projects across North Carolina.  

“African American artists talk about things African Americans go through,” Williams said. “They have dialogues about these things. We are continuing a tradition we have always had through the civil rights movement.”  

Topics include police interactions with young Black people and gentrification.   

“Community engagement is a big piece,” Williams said. “Artists spend a lot of time in communities understanding people – especially elders and young people – and their needs. The artist can really embody what they have gained from members of the community. My goal is to continue to share voices that sometimes get ignored.”  

Williams responsibilities include initial research, leading discussions around subjects and directing short films.  

“All this is a result of me understanding my agency from being at NCCU, a historically Black university, and being able to engage in journalism at the Campus Echo,” Williams said. “The Echo helped me chart a pathway to get there.”  

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