Willie’s Warriors Leadership Initiative




Willie’s Warriors elevates the leadership of Black women across the Chicago region, creating a pipeline and network of Black women leaders committed to equity and justice in Chicago.

Become a Warrior

The Willie’s Warriors program offers participants a space to gain a deeper sense of themselves as leaders, strengthening their personal leadership style and bringing their whole selves to the table. Warriors explore the idea of leadership, personal growth and transformation, and how to sustain themselves while moving our communities forward.

A co-created curriculum focuses on systems change, economic empowerment, communications and building alliances across movements and communities. Warriors have the opportunity to learn from experts and each other.

Willie’s Warriors is open to Black women from all sectors, industries and educational background interested in nurturing their leadership and relationships with other Black women leaders in the Chicago region.


Meet the Warriors:
2020 Cohort
Spring 2019 Cohort
Fall 2018 Cohort

Willie’s Warriors Leadership Initiative Advisory Board 2019
Deborah Harrington (Co-Chair), Woods Fund of Chicago (Retired)
Amina Dickerson (Co-Chair), Dickerson Global Advisors
Tracie Anderson, TransUnion
Brenda Asare, The Alford Group
Claudette Baker, Claudette Baker & Associates
Sharon Bush, Grand Victoria Foundation
Patricia Morris Carey, New York University
Melody Spann Cooper, Midway Broadcasting Corporation
Rev. Harriette Cross, First United Methodist Church of Wilmington
Andrea Horton, Northwestern Memorial Hospital, Fall 2018 Cohort alumna
Kim Hunt, Pride Action Tank
Gail Arthurs Krahenbuhl, Triton College
Tamela Milan-Alexander, Access Community Health Network
Kathy Pope, Chicago Community Trust (Retired)
Pier C. Rogers, Axelson Center for Nonprofit Management
Phasha Spencer, OneGoal, Fall 2018 Cohort

Frequently Asked Questions

Who was the Rev. Willie T. Barrow?

The Rev. Willie T. Barrow was a Civil Rights activist, minister, co-founder of Operation PUSH, and mentor to multiple generations. As a leader in Chicago’s civil rights movement, Rev. Barrow believed in breaking barriers and challenging the status quo, mentoring an ever-expanding pipeline of leaders. She helped to build connections with others working for change, often saying, “We are not so divided as we are disconnected.”

Rev. Barrow believed in bringing women together to support and learn from each other. That work continues through Willie's Warriors, a leadership development cohort of Black women in the Chicago region. Rev. Barrow’s legacy and fierce commitment to justice lives on through The Willie Taplin Barrow Fund for Black Women’s Leadership at Chicago Foundation for Women.

Willie’s Warriors was created to honor and continue the legacy of the Reverend Willie Taplin Barrow, with support from Rev. Barrow’s estate in partnership with African American Legacy (AAL) at the Chicago Community Trust.

How do I apply?

Willie’s Warriors application requirements are as follows:

  • Resume or biography of no more than two pages (candidates are encouraged to choose a format that best represents them)

Who should apply?

Willie’s Warriors is open to women who identify as Black, African American or as part of the African diaspora. The cohort is open to women, including trans-, cis-, and gender-nonconforming women, and non-binary individuals, from all sectors and industries, for- and non-profit, government, faith-based, and others, who are committed to building upon their leadership skills to advance issues of equity within their communities.

What is the commitment involved in being a member of Willie’s Warriors?

Willie’s Warriors will meet on a monthly basis beginning in February 2020. The opening and closing retreats will occur on a Friday through Saturday. Other sessions will be held on a Friday from 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. Cohort members are responsible for arranging any time off from work required to attend the session.

The dates for the 2020 cohort will be:

  • Friday, December 6, 2019, 3 p.m. - 7 p.m. – Orientation
  • Friday, February 7, 10 a.m. – Saturday, February 8, 5 p.m. – Opening Retreat – Redefining Leadership
  • Friday, March 13, 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. – Session I – Communications, Building Networks and Alliances
  • Friday, April 17, 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. – Session II – Topic to be Determined by Warrior Interest
  • Friday, May 8, 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. – Session III – Economic Empowerment: Entrepreneurship, Philanthropy and Wealth
  • Friday, June 12, 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. – Session IV – Topic to be Determined by Warrior Interest
  • Friday, July 10, 4 p.m. - 8 p.m. –Networking Event
  • Friday, August 14, 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. - Session V – Warrior Designed Session
  • Friday, September 25, 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. –Session VI – Structural and Systems Change
  • Friday, October 23, 10 a.m.  - Saturday, October 24, 5 p.m.  – Closing Retreat – Sustaining and Transforming Ourselves

How many women will be selected?

The 2020 cohort will be comprised of 20-25 women.

How much does the program cost?

The fee for the program is $250 for cohort members. If this fee would pose a burden to a potential Warrior, fee waivers and discounts are available. If you have any questions or concerns regarding the program fee, please contact Maleia Scuefield-Ransom.

What will selected Warriors gain from the program?

The program curriculum will focus on systems change, economic empowerment, communications and building alliances. Warriors will gain a better sense of themselves as leaders and how best to sustain themselves while advancing goals of equity and justice, and moving their communities forward.

Warriors will also build a network and relationships with other Black women leaders who are moving equity forward in the Chicago region.

What is the selection process? 

A Selection Committee comprised of representatives from CFW and the Willie’s Warriors Advisory Board will review all applications. Finalists will be asked to participate in an in-person interview in October.

We anticipate notifying Warrior applicants of selection results in November, 2019.

If you have any questions about Willie’s Warriors or the application process, please contact Maleia Scuefield-Ransom at mscuefieldransom@cfw.org or 312.577.2819.