Building More Willie Barrows
February 07 2018

K. Sujata

You may not have learned about Reverend Willie Barrow in school, but she is there, in the background of many key moments of American history. A lifelong advocate for civil rights and racial justice, Rev. Barrow marched with Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in Selma, helped bring Dr. King to Chicago, and was a mentor to Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. and President Barack Obama.

An organizer and leader, Barrow co-founded Operation Breadbasket in Chicago — the precursor to Operation PUSH, where Barrow later served as the first woman executive director — and chaired the board of the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition for ten years.

This Black History Month, we celebrate not only Rev. Barrow’s role in black history, but also her commitment to a brighter future for black women and men.

Barrow was a fervent believer in women’s leadership and mentorship. “I opened my house up to all of the powerful women in the movement — Coretta Scott King, Dorothy Height, Addie Wyatt,” Barrow said. “That’s how I learned. We have to teach this generation.”

“I want to build some more Addie Wyatts, some more Willie Barrows.”

Barrow knew she would not always be able to open her home, to serve as a mentor and godmother to future activists. So she planned a legacy that could support new black leadership for future generations.

“She sought to create opportunities for black girls and women to become leaders and activists,” says Andreason Brown, Chair of the African American Legacy Fund at Chicago Community Trust.

Rev. Barrow’s estate worked with the African American Legacy Fund and Chicago Foundation for Women to create the Willie Taplin Barrow Fund for Black Women’s Leadership at Chicago Foundation for Women.

The daughter of farmers, and herself a former welder, Barrow does not fit the stereotypical image of a philanthropist. But Barrow understood the power of giving at any level. She saw first-hand that the civil rights movement was powered by a rich tradition of community giving and reinvestment, with foundations playing a supporting role in funding advocacy, education and litigation.

“There is a long and impactful history and legacy of philanthropy in the African American community,” says Baronica Roberson, Vice-Chair of the African American Legacy Fund. “Each and every one of us, regardless of our giving capacity can be a philanthropist. It is through the power of collective giving that we can create generations of philanthropists that will shape our communities.”

Three years after her death in 2015, The Willie Taplin Barrow Fund for Black Women’s Leadership at Chicago Foundation for Women will continue Barrow’s legacy through Willie’s Warriors, a leadership development cohort for black women in the Chicago region, creating the next generation of Addie Wyatts, Coretta Scott Kings and Willie Barrows.

Adds Roberson, “Rev. Barrow remind us all of the importance of working to ensure that we remain committed to addressing the challenges in our community both now and long into the future.”

Read original article here.