Celebrating Mother Barrows: A Little Warrior’s Ethos

noun warrior; plural noun: warriors; noun: warrior pose; plural noun: warrior poses
1. (especially in former times) a brave or experienced soldier or fighter.

Reverend Willie T. Barrow’s legacy will be heralded,  especially during Women’s History Month, as one of supreme purpose in the name of Jesus Christ. Mother Barrows pursued her passions with vigor in servitude to the people for our great Creator. I am so proud to have known her spirit and witnessed her influence in Chicago and beyond. To be called a “Warrior” among generals and commanders in chief is the noblest honor one could bestow on an individual of selfless dedication to a supreme mission.

I do not think five facts will ever do her story justice. I do recommend you take the time to watch Chicago Urban League’s tribute video from her 2012 Berry Award celebration. I embedded the Visionary Project’s interview as well below–a must see. Her personality on screen accurately captures her passion-filled, jovial spirit. She believed in the power of mentoring other women as a means to building and sustaining power in the communities. Women like Mother Barrow are reasons why young black women in Chicago are able to compete as women in trades. Her dreams changed the trajectory of our beautiful world.

I am fascinated with my she.elders and their ability to bring peace and strength in spaces where men were expected to be dominant. How did Mother Barrows do it? She wasn’t the only one which begs an even bigger question.

How did our mothers and aunts and grandmothers make it in a more hostile and violent world?

I decided to nerd out a bit and share with you the definition of Warrior.

noun warrior; plural noun: warriors; noun: warrior pose; plural noun: warrior poses
  1. 1. (especially in former times) a brave or experienced soldier or fighter.
    synonyms: fightersoldierservicemancombatantmercenary

    “fearsome warriors”

In an era where reading and literacy were critical skills, words really meant something. Reverend Barrows was recognized early for her experience as a fighter of the people’s army in the war for justice. Her weapon of choice: community organizing. As a skilled tradeswoman, she led several campaigns that created major wins for the Labor, Civil, and Women’s Rights Movements. A trained warrior of Reverend Barrow’s petite stature surprised many, which earned her the title “Little Warrior.” Her fierce leadership as the co-founder of Operation Breadbasket earned her stealth influence when it came time to whip political talent into shape.

To better understand the impact of Reverend Barrows on men like Jesse Jackson, Harold Washington, and President Barack Obama, one must understand warriors are made, not by their wins, but by their character and integrity of their victory. Below are the four tenets of our United States Armed Forces Warrior Ethos.

• Always Place The Mission First

• Never Accept Defeat

• Never Quit

• Never Leave A Fallen Comrade.

Knowing what our Commander-In-Chief expects of soldiers in his battalion, their ethos helps us understand why President Obama esteems Reverend Barrows as “Little Warrior.”

source | whitehouse.gov
source | whitehouse.gov

Little Warrior Barrows had a similar ethos, or fundamental values specific to her purpose:

  1. “Service Is Power!” Reverend Barrows prided herself on being a servant leader. Serving the people was the prerequisite by which power could be established and cultivated. Rev. Barrows understood this and kept it central in her organizing. As she explains in her exuberant interviews with the Visionary Project (watch the entire playlist here), filling a need is always a great reason to organize. She believed whole heartedly that if people knew how much they were needed they would be motivated to serve. Even those who were driven to serve by self-interest, they would all discover that service manifested power.
  2. “Know Your Place.” Reverend Barrows was not confused on her “role.” She learned early on what motivated her and she learned how to turn that passion into a strategy for success. Mother Barrows would say “I know how to Preach, Speak and Organize!” Those talents served her well in her career as an campaign organizer and strategist.
  3. “Do Not Be Jealous.” Of the several nuggets of wisdom Mother Barrows shared with her mentees and “Godchildren” it was to never be jealous of someone else because all have paid a price to be in position. She encouraged the young women and men seeking leadership roles to understand their purpose and be diligent in doing. As the “Service and Action Arm” of Rainbow PUSH, Reverend Barrows was never confused on her purpose which she explains was to “…stablize, organize, and carry out the plans of God.”
  4. Passion Breeds Commitment Undoubtedly she executed well. I pray the Creator greeted her with a “Well done faithful servant.” In deed and truth, she prayed to the Father to give her passion for the people. Without passion, Mother Barrows shares, one will refuse to commit.

If we have learned nothing at all from the short time Reverend Barrows graced humanity, it must be to focus on what must be done and not always on what is being said or should be said. Reverend Willie Taplin Barrows will be laid to rest at Oakwood Cemetery on March 21, 2015 following her funeral on March 20, 2015 at her church home, Vernon Park Church of God.


Public viewing and memorial services will take place at Rainbow PUSH Coalition Headquarters on Thursday, March 19, 2015. 

Rest in power, Mother Barrow, knowing your little warrior Addie Wyatts and Dorothy Haights are ready and coming.

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