Willie’s Warriors Leadership Initiative

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 and nonbinary leaders 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. 

Become A Warrior


The Willie’s Warriors Leadership Initiative elevates the leadership of Black women and gender nonbinary individuals across the Chicago region, creating a pipeline and network of Black women and gender nonbinary leaders committed to equity and justice.  The cohort is comprised of 15-20 participants representing a diverse cross-section of the Chicago region, including socio-economic status, orientation, birth country, and professions.   

Warriors nurture their leadership and develop supportive relationships with Black women and gender nonbinary leaders in the Chicago region.  By focusing on building a supportive ecosystem, the program acknowledges the systemic barriers Black women and gender nonbinary leaders experience and seeks to empower participants to thrive both personally and professionally.  The program has a holistic approach to leadership development, acknowledging the importance of personal growth and well-being alongside professional advancement. 

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.  

Who Should Apply

Willie’s Warriors is open to women and gender nonbinary individuals 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, and non-binary individuals.  

Willie’s Warriors welcomes individuals from all sectors, industries and educational levels and backgrounds interested in nurturing their leadership and relationships with other Black women and nonbinary leaders in the Chicago region. 

Potential Warriors should have 10-20 years of relevant experience, including leading people, projects, communities, or initiatives. Applicants should also have demonstrated a commitment to issues of equity and justice. 

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

Warriors will meet monthly for eight months. Most sessions will happen on a weekday in the morning and afternoon. The opening and/or closing retreats will occur on a Friday and Saturday. Cohort members will be responsible for arranging any time off from work required to attend the session. 

How to Apply

Applications for Willie’s Warriors 2024 cohort are now closed.


For more information, contact Christina Armstrong, Program Officer, at carmstrong@cfw.org