Willie Barrow

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Rev. Willie Barrow

Rev. Willie Barrow serves as co-chairperson of the Rainbow-PUSH Coalition, the organization that grew out of Operation BREADBASKET. At the Coalition, she coordinates the activities of the national organization and serves as an aide to the Reverend Jesse Jackson, with whom she has shared a partnership since the first days of BREADBASKET. Reverend Barrow also serves as associate minister of the Vernon Park Church of God in Chicago.

Barrow has been honored with a doctor of divinity degree from Monrovia, Liberia, and a certificate in leadership from Harvard University. In September 1997, a street on Chicago's South Side was renamed in her honor. Earlier that year, the Reverend Willie Barrow Wellness Center was opened. The Center is a clinic housed within Doctor's Hospital that treats those with limited healthcare benefits. Together with the Barrow Health Mobile Clinic, these services bring affordable and accessible health care to needed areas in Chicago. [1]

She was a long time friend and colleague of the late Rev. Addie Wyatt.


Nicknamed "The Little Warrior" for her tireless work as a "social and spiritual activist", the Reverend Willie Barrow has spent her entire life on the front lines of the civil rights struggle. She grew up in Burton, Texas, where as a student in the 1940s she led a demonstration of rural African American schoolchildren against a segregated school system that refused them bus service because of their race. The success of that early campaign taught Barrow that determination and organization could bring about positive social change. Barrow attended Warner-Pacific Theological Seminary in Portland, Oregon, and as a student built a church in that city. After graduation, she was ordained as a minister and began her career as both a spiritual and social activist.[2]


Chicago activist Mark S. Allen revealed many of the connections in Chicago politics in an article in a March 29, 2012 article in Chicago Now.[3]

Rev. Addie Wyatt was a legendary leader whose life and legacy in the religious, labor and civil rights movement are historic, and I want to add my personal thanks for the role she played in my life as a young student and next generation leader who grew up under her leadership in the organizations led by the The Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr, from Operation Breadbasket, Operation PUSH, now Rainbow/PUSH Coalition. I and other youth leaders like Barack Obama were counseled and supported by Rev. Addie Wyatt as we worked at local and national community organizing and direct action activities. She was up close and personal with me along with the Rev. Willie T. Barrow (another former aide to Dr. King) as I worked as a national staff member to Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr and during the historic political campaigns of Harold Washington For Mayor, Jesse Jackson, Jr. for Congress, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sr. For President and of course the campaign of Barack Obama for President Of The United States. I will forever be humbled and blessed by the input Rev. Wyatt has had in my life and her legacy lives on! (Mark S. Allen, veteran political activist/community organizer, Chicago Chairman of Black Wall Street Chicago)


One of Barrow's key roles was as field organizer for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. during the major civil rights marches and demonstrations of the 1950s and 1960s. In this capacity, Barrow was responsible for the organization of transportation, shelter, meetings and rallies for the demonstrators who came to participate in the marches and sit-ins during that era. Beginning in 1953, she served in this capacity and continued her field organizer duties through the legendary 1965 March on Selma, Alabama, where she trained new recruits, organized boycotts and demonstrations on King's behalf, and participated in voter registration drives. [4]


During the 1960s, Barrow was among the founding members of Operation BREADBASKET, a program that provided "spiritual guidance and practical assistance to communities in need".

North Vietnam

In 1968, Barrow led a three-person delegation to North Vietnam and participated in the negotiation of the Vietnam Peace Treaty.

Barrow returned to North Vietnam in 1971 with Irma Zigas, a minister and Women Strike for Peace activist.

Harold Washington for Mayor of Chicago

Circa late 1982, members of the Citizens Committee/Harold Washington for Mayor of Chicago (in formation) included Willie Barrow.[5]

Harold Washington campaign committee


In i983, Rev. Willie Barrow, served on the Harold Washington Campaign Steering Committee.

Clergy and Laity Concerned, Chicago Chapter

In 1983, Willie Barrow, Operation P.U.S.H., served on the Board of Directors for the Clergy and Laity Concerned, Chicago Chapter. [6]

"Memorial Services for Karlin Flory"

In an article about the 1985 memorial service for Karlin Flory, son of "Ishmael Flory, former chairman of the Illinois District of the Communist Party USA, and the late Eloise Boone", he was identified as having been in "many activities for peace and equality" including protests at the South African Consulate, was a "Daily World supporter" who circulated the paper "in the early days of Operation Breadbasket, which later became Operation PUSH".

Among the speakers were:[7]

Tribute to Golub and Montgomery

ON November 16, 1989, Willie Barrow served on the Tribute Committee for the Chicago Committee to Defend the Bill of Rights Tribute to Leon Golub and Lucy Montgomery, held at the Congress Hotel, Chicago.[8]

1987 Rainbow conference/Board

At the 1987 National Rainbow convention in Raleigh North Carolina, a new board was elected, which included Rev. Willie Barrow.

2002 Chicago PWW banquet

Kathy Kelly, two-time nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize, and Ishmael Flory, long-time member of the Communist Party USA, headed the list of honorees at the 2002 annual Chicago People’s Weekly World/Nuestro Mundo banquet. Barbara Moore, vice president of the Coalition to Protect Public Housing, and a representative of the Carousel Linen workers rounded out the list of those who had been nominated to receive the Chris Hani/Rudy Lozano Award.

William McNary, president of USAction, was be the keynote speaker. "People’s artist" Peggy Lipschutz and singer Christian Lens highlighted the afternoon’s cultural presentation.

“We are very proud of our honorees, keynote speaker and entertainers, all of whom represent the finest of today’s struggles for peace, justice and democracy,” John Bachtell, chair of the banquet committee, said. “They also represent the ideals for which Chris Hani and Rudy Lozano gave their lives.”

Bachtell said the banquet committee sees the event “as more than a fundraiser for the People’s Weekly World, important as that is. It is also planned as an opportunity to draw strength for a final push to defeat the right wing in this year’s election wars.”

Bachtell, organizer of the Illinois district of the Communist Party, said the election will be “even more crucial” if the Bush administration succeeds in its effort to win congressional approval for launching a war against Iraq. “We simply cannot allow such a crime to happen,” he said.

The Chris Hani/Rudy Lozano Award is named in honor of Chris Hani, one-time commander of the armed wing of African National Congress and General Secretary of the South African Communist Party, and Rudy Lozano, a Mexican-American activist and key player in the campaign that elected Harold Washington as Chicago mayor in 1983. Both were gunned down by assassins.

In addition to Bachtell, banquet sponsors included Rev. Willie Barrow, chair, Rainbow/PUSH Coalition board of directors; Chicago Alderman Theodore Thomas; Katie Jordan, president, Chicago Coalition of Labor Union Women; Rep. Bobby Rush; and Tom Balanoff, president, SEIU Local 1.

Doors opened at 2 p.m., Oct. 20, at the Three Happiness Café, 2130 S. Wentworth.[9]

CBC 33rd Legislative Conference, 2003

Anger at the Bush administration for waging war abroad and attacking rights at home bubbled up at the Congressional Black Caucus 33rd Legislative Conference in Washington DC, Sept. 24-27, 2003.

“Collective Leadership: Challenging A Bold New World” was the title of the conference, which attracted thousands of participants in 53 plenary and workshop sessions.

A standing-room crowd at a session titled “The Iraq War: America Speaks Out” convened by Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.), cheered Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), who recently accused Bush of “fraud” in tricking the U.S. into war. The White House reacted with rage to that blast.

But Kennedy did not apologize. “If your son or daughter is in the National Guard or Reserves, you know they are going to be called up and sent over to serve in Iraq,” Kennedy thundered. “They are asking $87 billion for the war in Iraq and they cannot find enough to fund ‘No Child Left Behind.’”

Kennedy read from the Pentagon’s 28-page draft plan sent to Capitol Hill after weeks of protests from lawmakers that the occupation is floundering. “Locate and secure weapons of mass destruction,” was the goal one week. A week later, again, “Continue to locate and secure weapons of mass destruction.” The crowd groaned and Kennedy flung the draft in the air, calling it “an insult to our troops serving over there.”

Democratic presidential contender Al Sharpton told the crowd that Kennedy “has nothing to apologize for” in his blistering attacks on Bush. Recalling Secretary of State Colin Powell’s presentation to the UN last Feb. 14 with spy photos allegedly showing Iraqi weapons sites, Sharpton demanded, “Where are they?” He said, “Our children were put in harm’s way. It is immoral to give this president $87 billion for this war.”

Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) asked, “What do you do if a president has committed acts that should lead to his removal? Citing mounting calls to investigate lies and misuse of intelligence by the “unelected president and the people around him,” Conyers said, “How do we withstand the mood of people who are saying to us: ‘What are you waiting for?’”

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) said, “Every day people are dying. I am appalled and outraged that Republicans are blocking a full and fair examination of the facts.”

Civil rights leader Rev. Willie Barrow said, “Mr. Bush, you didn’t find Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein, or weapons of mass destruction. We know a lie when we hear it.” She challenged the crowd to start now to register millions of voters. “It’s not enough to register people. We have to get them out to the polls on Election Day,” she said. “Let’s come together and show Bush the door.[10]

Obama relationship

Willie Barrow has a close relationship with Barack Obama.

Rev. Willie Barrow, Co-Chairperson, Rainbow-PUSH Coalition wrote on the Obama/Biden 2012 website under "faith testimonials";[11]

I support Barack because exemplifies a real man. He is a Christian, husband and father. I remember he would consistently attend our Saturday morning broadcasts with his two little girls long before I ever met his wife Michelle. Universal healthcare, employment and education are the primary issues for me. Our children are not going to school and not graduating. The state is closing schools and opening jails. I think that people of faith have to broaden their ministries outside the walls of the church. Anyone can sing in the choir or serve on the deacon board but how many know the level of unemployment in their community or the number of people losing their homes?

From the Chicago Sun-Times November 9, 2012; [12]

Just shy of 88, there was a time the Rev. Willie T. Barrow couldn’t imagine she’d live to see the first African-American president elected.
But there she was Tuesday night, in the inner sanctum of President Barack Obama’s McCormick Place headquarters, watching returns with other VIPs as the man she has called her godson since he was a U.S. senator won his second term.

Rev. Willie Barrow was a member of Obama’s official campaign Faith Outreach Team, is a close friend of Louis Farrakhan’s, an ardent Nation of Islam supporter and an Obama superdelegate.[13]