What is a legacy? How does one measure an impactful life?
For many, these are difficult questions, without definitive answers. But for Tracee Blair, a lifelong District resident, the answer is found in a request, a simple request to bring books for young adults. Books celebrating the African American experience.
Tracee Blair’s son, Aaron Boose, was a former Sasha Bruce employee who was born at Howard University Hospital and attended Howard University for both his undergraduate and graduate degrees. On October 26, 2020, he passed away in the same hospital where he was born.
Aaron’s loss devastated his family, his friends, and the communities he’d found and formed throughout the District.
At Aaron’s homegoing service, Tracee requested that in lieu of flowers friends and family bring books to be donated to children at the Sasha Bruce Family Success Center, where Aaron worked as a Counselor. She expected a handful; she received more than 220.
“Aaron loved words, and books opened his mind, and his world. He believed in the lasting impact of books – taking the reader on a journey of learning and exploration. For him, the power of books was transformative.”
He had a smile that could brighten a room. Truly. In photos he grins broadly. Happily. His smile makes one want to smile back. Tracee’s firstborn, and her only son, Aaron was gifted. Not only in the academic sense but gifted in another way.
“Aaron made people happy,” Tracee shared recently. “He had a giving heart, and a kind soul. He put others before himself and loved helping. One time while he was in elementary school, he returned home very late from school. He’d given his bus transfer to a student who didn’t have one and had had to walk home by himself. No matter who they were, he wanted the best for them.”
Aaron was a multi-talented writer, poet, rapper, and playwright who loved the city, loved books, loved his friends and family and loved the Washington Commanders. A peacemaker, a social worker, and an activist with a passion for working with youth, Aaron worked with Sasha Bruce as a Youth Outreach Counselor for students at Ballou High School. He ran a program for 9th grade males, as well as serving as a site coordinator during the summer at Richardson Dwellings (Clay Terrace Family Success Center).
“It hurt him to see some of the situations that the kids came from, and he appreciated his opportunity to help. It made him happy and proud that they could rely on him. Sometimes they had no one else.” She believes that Aaron’s determination to complete graduate school and become a licensed clinical social worker was a direct result of his work with youth at Sasha Bruce.
“After his death, I heard from so many of his friends,” Tracee remembers. “I still do. Without exception, they’ve told me stories of his generosity, his passion and his compassion for youth. Everyone talks about his big smile and the impact he had on them.”
One of Aaron’s friends even tattooed Aaron’s face on his forearm after Aaron’s death. “Legends Never Die,” the quote next to it says. His grin is wide and buoyant.
A social worker at The Lab School at the time of his death, Aaron’s legacy there is clear. In 2021, on what would have been his 35th birthday, students and teachers celebrated his life. Students generated a list of “Aaron words” for a hallway bulletin board that included “love,” “unity,” “strength,” “pride,” and “belonging.” They wore their favorite, most fun and funky shoes and brought the best version of themselves to school.
Months before his death, on February 2020, Aaron launched an event called I AM U (Identity Arts Music Unity) that celebrated the many identities at the school through visual arts displays, spoken word and poetry, theater improv, a fashion show, and a variety of other activities and performances. The event was an immediate and huge success; it continues to this day even without Aaron’s organizing influence, a testament to his legacy.
Which, to Tracee, is what he deserves. “I don’t want anyone to forget Aaron and all he did. I want to honor his spirit of giving by giving back. He empowered people; he brought them together and made them laugh. He empowered everyone to be who they want to be.”
One of Tracee’s daughters, who attended the most recent I AM U event with her several weeks ago in February, overheard students commenting during the event. “I miss Aaron,” they said simply. “I miss Aaron so much.”
Tracee is determined to keep Aaron’s legacy alive. On his birthday last fall, Tracee coordinated a Health Wellness Walk to promote health awareness that included speakers who empowered the attendees with knowledge about diabetes, sickle cell disease, and more. As well attendees had an opportunity to give back via donations to the Aaron Boose Memorial Scholarship at the Lab School and to the Sankofa Scholarship at the Howard University School of Social Work.
She’s not alone in carrying on his legacy. “It’s not just me but Aaron’s family, friends and The Lab School community helping to carry on his legacy. We’re all in support of each other to continue the work he was doing.”
This support led to the donation of 80 of the books collected at his service to Sasha Bruce’s Clay Terrace Family Success Center and the dedication of Aaron’s Reading Corner there for children and youth of all ages. The reading corner features a photo of Aaron and his tremendous grin. There’s an explanation about his love of words and books.
Aaron’s legacy is giving back. In addition to Sasha Bruce, the books donated in his memory went to several other agencies in DC that serve youth. Last Christmas, Tracee asked for friends and family to adopt the Family Success Center at Clay Terrace. She received such an overwhelming response of toys and gift cards that she had to make two trips because it didn’t all fit in her car. This generosity of more than $1,000 in gift cards, along with dozens of gifts, brought holiday joy to our young people and families at the Family Success Center.
Tracee envisions doing something new every year, to perpetuate Aaron’s legacy of giving. Eventually she would like to set up a foundation in his name, one that offers scholarships for students to go to college. One of Aaron’s goals had been to start a school that focuses on arts and empowerment for underrepresented and underserved males. His close friends and colleagues are committed to the idea of starting such a school in his memory.
What does Tracee think Aaron would say about the legacy that he’s left and the impact that he’s continued to have?
“Aaron would be humbled, but he’d be grateful and appreciative, happy that we’re doing it.” She paused. “He had the ability to put himself in others’ shoes, and that’s what we’re doing. We’re remembering to do what he would want.”
Sasha Bruce helps young people find safe homes, achieve and maintain good physical and mental health, create and strengthen supportive and stable families, and explore opportunities in education and careers. For questions about hosting a fundraiser or making a lasting gift in honor or in memory of a loved one, please contact Jasmine Thakurdas, Individual Giving Manager, at email@example.com or call (240) 909-1272.