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.

The Willie’s Warriors 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, gaining a deeper sense of themselves as leaders and how to sustain themselves while moving their communities forward.

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

Applications for the Spring 2019 cohort of Willie’s Warriors have closed. Sign up for updates.

Meet the Warriors:
Spring 2019
Fall 2018

Willie’s Warriors Leadership Initiative Advisory Board 2018
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
Melody Spann Cooper, Midway Broadcasting Corporation
Rev. Harriette Cross, First United Methodist Church of Wilmington
Felicia Davis, City Colleges of Chicago
Kim Hunt, Pride Action Tank
Myah Moore Irick, JPMorgan Chase
Kathy Pope, Chicago Community Trust (Retired)
Pier C. Rogers, Axelson Center for Nonprofit Management
Lanetta Haynes Turner, Office of the President, Cook County Board

Who was the Rev. Willie 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.

Frequently Asked Questions

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 Spring 2019. The opening and closing retreats will occur on a Friday and Saturday. Other sessions will be either Friday afternoon-evening or on Saturday. Cohort members will be responsible for arranging any time off from work required to attend the session.

The dates for the Spring cohort will be:

  • Friday, March 8 – Saturday, March 9 – Opening Retreat – Redefining Leadership
  • Friday, April 5, 2 p.m. - 7 p.m. – Session I – Communications and Building Networks/Alliances
  • Friday, May 3, 2 p.m. - 7 p.m. – Session II – Economic Empowerment
  • Saturday, May 18, 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. – Session III – Warrior Designed Session
  • Saturday, June 15, 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. – Session IV – Structural and Systems Change
  • Friday, July 12 – Saturday July 13 – Closing Retreat – Sustaining and Transforming Ourselves


How many women will be selected?

The Spring cohort will be comprised of 15-20 women.


How much does the program cost?

The fee for the program is $250 for cohort members. Fee waivers and discounts are available if this fee would pose a burden to a potential Warrior.


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, as both mentors and mentees.


What is the selection process? 

A Selection Committee comprised of representatives from CFW and the Willie’s Warriors Advisory Board will review all applications. You may be asked to participate in an in-person interview in late January or early February. 

We anticipate notifying Warrior applicants of selection results by the end of February.


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.