Meet Aaron Morris, Ex-Gangster And Lowest Paid Public Servant In St. Louis

Categories: Community

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Aaron Morris
Morris started the "Feed Our City" program, part a larger four year campaign to lower STD rates and stop gang violence.
See also: Battle Lines Gangs keep their murderous hold on the streets of St. Louis. And kids like Lil' Robert Walker pay the price.

By 2011, Morris says, his outreach efforts were "hanging by a thread." Nowadays, he tries to keep in touch with the teens -- many of them gang members -- who once were his interns. It was a good gig for a teenager, Morris recalls, because they could make $12 an hour.

"I don't want them to lose hope," he says. "I still have connection with those children, and they still come see me. They still talk to me, and they see me struggling with no money, trying to put things together."

Last year, the Youth Empowerment Services program dissolved due to funding problems of its own, says Stallings. Today, the door Morris escaped through -- from gang life to city employment -- is now closed.

"It is hard," Morris continues, "when those youth call me and tell me, 'Mr. Morris, I think I want to move this little package,' or 'I'm finna make this move.'"

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Aaron Morris
Morris' "Body and Soul" program sought to lower STD rates through awareness and prevention events.
Morris still organizes outreach and empowerment programs for at-risk youth, just without city funding. He gives speeches at churches and community centers, spreading the Good News and recounting his life as a gang member.

In 2012, Morris published a slim memoir of that life, From Gangs To God. In the book, he describes how he was nearly killed in 1997 when he tried to leave his gang. He was seventeen years old at the time.

"I know this will sound crazy, but my head was set upon some concrete stairs and stomped on three times, and my skull was cracked in half. I had an out-of-body experience, and I saw everything."

"I watched everybody beat me up and leave me there. I saw --" he pauses for a moment. "It's going to sound crazy," Morris continues, "but I saw the spirit of my deceased grandfather come to me, escorted by angels. He walked toward me."

Morris says he later woke up on a family member's couch, covered in blood. The experience left him filled with gratitude to God and, he says, a profound desire to help kids like he was, those with lives bereft of belief and hope.

"Now, the funds for at-risk prevention, the funds for the STD campaign, the funds for these different programs, they are gone," he says. "But I'm still remaining. As I live for a purpose."

Follow Danny Wicentowski on Twitter at @D_Towski. E-mail the author at Danny.Wicentowski@RiverfrontTimes.com


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31 comments
Rod Burguiere
Rod Burguiere

Thanks for that incredibly insightful reality check.

Thomas Myers
Thomas Myers

Yeah that's kind of my point, nobody cares about the people that have always made an honest living, instead they glorify this gang banger that went legit. He was born into it so he's not responsible for anything? He got curb stomped out of the gang, ok. But it doesn't mention how many people he curb stomped before that happened. How many of them were innocent, helpless people? What else has he done? Now he's sharing his sob story, which is only half the story, trying to get book sales. I don't owe him anything, nobody does.

Rod Burguiere
Rod Burguiere

"Middle Class White Guy Maintains Job While Living in Suburban STL." Sounds like an Onion article.

Aaron Morris
Aaron Morris

Stinks so badly I had to clean it ! When You Know Better You Do Better, if a Nation of Native Murders can change , so can it's So can Rose seeds from Concret Gardens GOD Bless You..

Colleen Qadadeh
Colleen Qadadeh

It's a good story with a underlying message about your fellow man. Anyone can change even the gangster. Quit judging. It's also decent journalism

Kaven Snyder
Kaven Snyder

Look at all these Facebook Hero's acting like their shit don't stink. Thomas Myers is 100% correct, why are we turning a blind to the fact that he was a gangster?

prophet.awasetemple
prophet.awasetemple

This is a testimony that i will tell to every one to hear. i have been married four 4years and on the fifth year of my marriage, another woman had to take my lover away from me and my husband left me and the kids and we have suffered for 2years until i met a post where this man Dr. Oboh have helped someone and i decided to give him a try to help me bring my lover back home and believe me i just send my picture to him and that of my husband and after 48hours as he have told me, i saw a car drove into the house and behold it was my husband and he have come to me and the kids and that is why i am happy to make every one of you in similar to met with this man and have your lover back to your self. His email: drobohspellworks@outlook.com

Brooks Fiercee
Brooks Fiercee

Hey I met him when you took me to that breakfast

Quinn Travis
Quinn Travis

Oh Thomas Myers, I feel you, I do, but then again its really ridiculous....the POINT of the STORY is that someone OVERCAME a huge obstacle, and went on to do great things. Of course the man who always did good deeds with no obstacles to overcome is a good thing, but is it news worthy, or nearly as inspiring as someone who was never given anything, struggled, faced death, and turned away from it. Nevertheless, lets congratulate our fellow man. Thank you RFT for bringing light to this story and this man:-)

Nicholas Frisella
Nicholas Frisella

Did you read the article? I don't think a 9 year old can make an informed life decision. Seems to me he was born into that life style. When he was old enough to realize this was not the life he wanted he risked death for a positive change. Then he dedicated his life to help kids in similar situations. That's positive news that I want to hear about. It gives people hope.

Justin Curia
Justin Curia

lol thomas why you so mad brobro? i don't think anyone is asking for your (lack of) sympathy and here's the thing, no one gives a hoot about a story of good people who worked hard yeah, what a touching inspiring story that would be: "a perfect man who never made mistakes worked hard did good in life and look at him now he's a good guy who did good stuff 4 society wowe cool" how about bore me to death instead cuz it'd be about the same end result as reading a story about someone who never had to overcome anything challenging or completely change their lifestyle to accommodate responsibility anyway, put your work boots back on, man go be a good dude and contribute to society don't worry about the struggle; we got this

Thomas Myers
Thomas Myers

Am I supposed to feel sorry for this guy? He chose that life, it's news worthy that he decided to stop being a criminal and get a job? Where's the story about good people that have worked hard, made an honest living and have contributed to society their entire lives?

chontomlin
chontomlin

While I am extremely proud of this young man and his ability to turn his life around, I am equally disappointed in RFT for overshadowing the message by highlighting the low wages in the headline to increase readership. Why is every article positioned to get a rise out of folks?

Douglas Dial
Douglas Dial

Hands down, the best RFT article I've read. Inspiring story. From going in the wrong direction, doing a 180 onto the right path trying to help young people along the way. Although, I suspect the finds didn't "dry up". I bet a supervisor or politician made the funds appear in their own pocket.

Jeff White
Jeff White

This guy is worth more than all the gangstas all put together

cinthehous
cinthehous

It's great to see a positive story from the streets.  Keep it up Aaron!!

KITTY
KITTY

For what he did, give him praise. For what he does, give him a raise!

aliasg2g
aliasg2g

I was  born a homeless child who was taught to gang bang, "gang banger I Am Not..... I never was but something I did.

Now with no money I teach youth and adults how to find the strength in H.O.P.E., Workmanship, Forgiveness. i teach love not hate. partnership not indifference.... If You grew up having a good honest life and yet can't see the impact of the POWER of G.O.D. in Humanity then You Too shall have hardship so that your Honest Up bringing Serves You Purpose...........Bless you Son...


aliasg2g
aliasg2g

I was a member of a gang, The Pilgrims we're Murders yet U sing the star stained I mean spangle banner at every sport event there is... MMMMM

Any willing some one can make a change in JESUS's name I Promise....


jaco1175
jaco1175 topcommenter

No, but the rest of us can feel pity for you for being such an obvious dildo of a human being. Congrats dawg!

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