Connected Through Hoops

Guest Author Post by Board of Directors Member, James Tate, Jr.

My father introduced my brother and I to the game of basketball but it wasn’t until I was in 8th grade that I started to fall in love with the sport. Some might consider me a late bloomer. I was a student at Theodore Herzl Elementary School in the North Lawndale area and I remember dunking tennis balls and then volleyballs on the regulation rims. It’s possible some of my father’s athleticism trickled down to me. I have heard that he was a pretty good ball player. It turns out that athleticism was enough to earn a spot on Lane Tech High School’s basketball team, which eventually opened up an opportunity for me to play basketball on a collegiate level. This chronology changed the entire path of my life.12049202_824817727630812_1170513912135510309_n

My father would drive the two and a half hours to Madison Wisconsin to watch me play and then drive back to Chicago after the game.  I’d like to think that he was proud of me. I’d like to think that he lived his hoop dreams through me. I realize that he was probably proud of me for more significant reasons like graduating high school and getting a college education because those experiences were not guaranteed for most of my peers but I’d like to think that our love for this sport connected us.


While my experiences at Edgewood College gave me institutional education in academics and athletics, it is my personal experiences as a father to my own son (pictured below) that inspired me to create the Connected Through Hoops event. 17973633_1231541073625140_8243092528487541577_o-2.jpgI wanted to give fathers and sons another opportunity to connect with each other and together build skills that can help them in their own lives. There are so many levels of connectivity and I believe the more levels we can connect on (as a community), then the stronger our bonds become; the stronger our communities can become. I am fortunate to sit on the Board of Directors for Henry Williams Love Foundation, who through my service and some board training, I am able to plan these types of events. Help me strengthen the community of fathers and sons on December 8th at the Richton Park Community Center between 5 and 7pm.  Register to attend at


Gratitude in Loss and Leadership

I’ve experienced more loss in 2017 and 2018 than ever before in my life. First, my Father passed in May 2017. Then his Sister, my Aunt and only living sibling left of my father’s siblings, passed in July 2017. And all of that was happening while I had to lead Smart Chicago Collaborative through a merger which in many ways also felt like a loss. My Grandmother then passed in July 2018 and now my Mom on November 1st of this year. 240f07edfde5c34c7de5300a89e9609bIT HAS BEEN TOUGH! But I am middle- child tough and have always tried to live a deeply-rooted life, full of good purpose. Even with sadness, I want to be helpful to as many people as I can.

In The Secret Powers of Middle Children, Lynn Griffin, R.N., M.Ed shares on Psychology Today, how middle children are mistakenly labeled as undriven versus first-borns. She challenges that notion and believes middle-children are actually very driven and “more oriented to principles and concepts, like justice, over earning power or prestige.” I align with this frame of thought which has provided the framework for my entire life, inclusive of my career pathway. I am so grateful that I had fantastic parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and mentors who poured into me such love, and sometimes tough love, which I believe has made me a good leader.

f28dad37d5914b4874677d753a103b17When determining what Henry Williams Love Foundation (HWLF) would be organizationally and how we would serve those communities that needed the most help, the Board of Directors wanted to instill a sense of love and gratitude in the provision of services. The hope is that our community co-designers and participants experience healing and build resilience by spreading love and gratitude in their own life’s journey while retaining knowledge which helps with skill building. When the storms of life come, and they will as evident by my first paragraph, people can still find something in their day to be grateful for and keep thriving. Don’t ever underestimate the power of gratitude in difficult times. It serves as an excellent motivator and I believe an answer to the critics who believe social programming decreases resiliency and fortitude.

As I sort through the sadness and continue along this lifelong journey of gratitude, I know there are beautiful things coming along the path for HWLF, our partners, and participants. The Shuri Project has some expansion opportunities locally and internationally and we are trying to secure resources to realize that goal. Global Logo with Date_0We are launching the brother program to Shuri, The T’Challa Project, and currently, have a Go Fund Me Campaign in collaboration with #GivenTuesday that will assist with purchasing laptop computers to ensure we are ready for summer 2019. As we look to our other areas of focus, HWLF will introduce two new programs in December that we are really excited about and have a couple of promising ones that will be announced in January if funding is received.

I am grateful for the many colleagues, collaborators, stakeholders, community-champions, participants and friends who consider the words that I share and work that I do here at HWLF valuable. Building a new organization in the land of non-profits and the current philanthropic environment is tough, but again…I’m middle-child tough. 

Kyla Williams
President and CEO
Henry Williams Love Foundation


Ola Williams


It is with deep sadness, the Henry Williams Love Foundation announces the passing of Ola Williams, wife of the organization’s namesake, Henry Williams. The memorial services will be held on Monday, November 12, 2018 at Sun River Terrace Community Center (SRTCC) located at 7219 E Chicago Street, Sun River Terrace, IL 60964. The memorial service starts at 11am and the repast will immediately follow. Ola’s favorite color was navy blue, so the family is asking that everyone in attendance wear something navy blue in her honor. Flowers will be accepted at SRTCC. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made directly to the Henry Williams Love Foundation by clicking the donate button on this website. Cards and other written condolences can be mailed to PO Box 703, Hazel Crest, IL 60429 for those unable to attend.

#TWTechTalks-Building the Tech Sector We Want

Five years ago Silicon Valley tech companies were pressured to share their workforce demographics and revealed the industry is overwhelming white and male.  None of this was a surprise to diversity advocates and equity champions. But the media inquiry helped to stir of diversity and inclusion conversations all over the world with plans put in place to “do better.” Leaders of tech companies penned blogs, adopted immediate policies, and pledged to devote resources for recruitment of more diverse staff members. The word “diversity” was added to mission and value statements and some larger companies even hired heads of diversity. Existing staff members were sent to unconscious bias training and the box was checked, done. EIO55-Got-it-done-opt

But change has been really slow and the number of Black and Latino people in the tech workforce has actually declined. Diversity fatigue has set in and many early supporters have found themselves stuck and alone. If what has been prescribed as a “solution” to diversifying the tech industry is not working, what new approaches to diversity and inclusion exist and how can we build the tech sector we want? Those questions inspired great conversation during the Thoughtworks Tech Talks panel on Monday 10/30/18. President and CEO, Kyla Williams, along with CEO of Change Catalyst, Melinda Epler, participated on this panel that was moderated by Tarsha McCormick, Head of Diversity and Inclusion for ThoughtWorks.  


The initial conversation starter after introductions was centered on where to start when launching diversity and inclusion efforts within a work environment. Melinda referenced data and understanding what has been done previously in similar situations to address diversity and inclusion and has it worked. She stressed that unconscious bias training has had little impact on corporate diversity and inclusion and a paradigm shift should be made to allyship. In Melinda’s Ted Talk, 3 ways to be a better ally in the workplace, she lists:

  • Do No Harm
  • Advocate for underrepresented people in small ways
  • Change someone’s life significantly


Tarsha in turn addressed the issues with diversity and inclusion efforts when leadership is not onboard and the short-sightedness of plans. Racism, sexism and all other exclusionary practices are not going away overnight, so an organizational plan that lacks intentional leadership and does not have timed activities and check-ins to determine efficacy will fail. Tarsha details in the Built in NYC article, ThoughtWorks reveals how they built one of the most diverse and inclusive tech companies, how active support by senior leaders and key stakeholders emphasizes “the walk” versus “the talk.”


Kyla added that before data is consulted and plans are made, a crucial step in organizing and establishing workplace norms around diversity and inclusion begins with the individual. She believes self-inventory to determine the internal value of diversity, privileges, as well as apathy and exhaustion around diversity and inclusion conversations is a necessary step for organizational cultural shifts.

When HWLF made the decision to launch a tech mentoring program, it was through a value assessment of the Board members that supported launching The Shuri Project as a girls only program as shared during her talk with Chi Hack Night. Those values were further supported by data and even provided necessary information about failing efforts in diversity and inclusion efforts in the jobs sector that influenced the program and curriculum design plan for The Shuri Project. 

The panelist had much more to add on the topics of intersectionality, specific needs of  excluded populations, more accelerations and incubators and education around them, venture capital, and other anecdotes. The entire panel discussion can be found on the ThoughtWorks YouTube channel in the coming days. For more information about The Shuri Project or to book Kyla Williams as a guest speaker, please email

#BGVChicago-#TheShuriProject Scores Second Place


On Friday, 10/19/18, The Shuri Project participated in the Black Girl Ventures Pitch Competition. Black Girl Ventures is the brain child of founder Shelly Bell. The completion was held at Google’s Chicago headquarters and the room was packed! The BGV Pitch Competition is a crowdfunding meets pitch competition. We charge a nominal admission fee for attendees, then the money raised is giving to the winner of the competition.

  • Each founder has 3 minutes to pitch and a 3 minute Q&A from the audience.
  • The audience votes and the winners are chosen.
  • There will be a first and second place winner.

Winners receive….

  • A meeting with an investor (1st place only)
  • Funding collected from the event and/or sponsor (1st place only)
  • Dedicated consulting from BICTech for 3 months (DC Only)
  • A free accountant consultation for your business or brand
  • A free consultation with a lawyer
  • Free business coaching
  • $3K in Google Cloud Credits
  • All 8 participants will become a part of the BGV Cohort access to resources and exclusive updates

The Shuri Project along with nine other business completed their pitches and took really good questions from the audience. At the completion, an electronic vote was taken among the eligible voting audience members and The Shuri Project scored second place. It was an exciting experience and we learned a lot, which will prepare HWLF for future pitching of the program. We are thankful for this opportunity and appreciate all of the encouragement and networking connections that were made. To learn more about The Shuri Project or to inquire about partnership, please contact President and CEO-Kyla Williams at

Chi Hack Night (Pics and Tweets)

There was lots of energy and good questions about The Shuri Project during Chi Hack Night on 9/18/18. Soren Spicknall captured the highlights of the presentation perfectly on Twitter.






To watch the full presentation, visit Chi Hack Night on YouTube.

What’s Next for The Shuri Project?


The Shuri Project-Summer 2018 session has completed. Graduation was full of excitement and celebration! We are very proud of the 14 young ladies who stuck it out and worked very hard to complete the learning objectives.

Now that The Shuri Project pilot has successfully been implemented and completed, Henry Williams Love has a couple of next step tasks and plans.



  • Aggregate and analyze data

We collected a lot of data during this program including a pre and post assessment of the participants, instructor observations, instructor survey, parent/guardian survey, case studies, speaker survey, and others. All of that information is currently being reviewed and will be part of the Outcomes and Impact Report. That report will be added to a new section of the website under the same title. Additionally, Kyla Williams is scheduled to speak at Chi Hack Night on 9/18/18 and will present some of the preliminary data findings.

  • Follow-up with participants

Data collection and reporting continues to be one of the areas of improvement requested by funders for many non-profit organizations. Organizations like Henry Williams Love are challenged with the questions, “how do you know this worked and was it impactful?” To prove The Shuri Project as an emerging promising practice model, we are committed to implementing more sophisticated data tracking especially pertaining to participant follow-up. Henry Williams Love will be doing quarterly follow-up until the end of the school year with all of the participants of the Summer 2018 session and some deep-dive case study follow up with three of the participants.


  • Local to Global Expansion

The Shuri Project is actually a four-part learning experience. The summer 2018 session focused on the (T) in STEM, but the program has a Science, Engineering or Math edition as well. Since The Shuri Project by design improves general literacy, Henry Williams Love has a particular interest in partnering with communities where reading and math scores are below average. So we will continue the expansion of The Shuri Project (T), but identifying community host sites partners for the program, but will will specifically search for a new community host site partner in Chicago to implement The Shuri Project (M) with an aggressive goal to improve their reading and math test scores.  Henry Williams Love has several funding requests pending, which will determine if The Shuri Project will be implemented as an after-school program this fall or return as a summer program in 2019.

  • Broadening the Scope

The Shuri Project in its pilot demonstration was designed to test a curriculum that was created for 12-18 year olds with 8-12 year olds, and with a couple of minor adjustments, it worked. Several of our pilot participants had younger and older siblings as well as parents who expressed interest in learning. Henry Williams Love is very interested in exploring how the program can be used within households to address generational digital learning gaps. We have some ideas that are being flushed out and hope to be selected at Mozilla Fest-2018 to conduct a design thinking workshop on this subject. More to come on this.

  • Fund Development

Henry Williams Love is extremely grateful to The Don Benedict Fund of The Community Renewal Society, the many donors of the Go Fund Me Campaign, and the many volunteers that helped to make this program a success this summer. In order to implement any of the plans noted, we need funding. Henry Williams Love continues to implement its fund development plan by submitting grant applications and networking, but we need help to execute our vision and fill the digital divide gaps noted in communities. As such, if you are a philanthropic institution or cheerful giver interested in learning more about The Shuri Project, we would love to talk with you and demonstrate how an investment in this program influences positive changes. Or you can easily, visit our donations page for more information.

WakandaCon Meets The Shuri Project

In early 2018, a Facebook post about WakandaCon came down the timeline. President and CEO Kyla Williams, has participated in comic con culture and was really interested in t30264989_366179107123290_1249076047018721280_nhe concept, especially after all the well deserved support of the Black Panther Movie. The initial posting had few details, but did have a place to sign up to receive more information.

We have now come to know that WakandaCon is a afro-futuristic experience. An imagined place free and unshackled from the ravages of racism; of exploitation; of discrimination; of emotional, physical, and sexual violence. The founders, a group of siblings consisting of David Barthwell, Ali Barthwell, and Matt Barthwell hoped to create a space for people of all types to come together, educate each other, and celebrate all of our passions. While the event is targeted towards establishing a positive and supportive space for black people across the diaspora, WakandaCon is inclusive and all have been encouraged and welcome to come celebrate together. Something special to note is WakandaCon is an independent project that was not created or backed by any large corporations, and all of the programming is curated internally.


The Shuri Project had just submitted its grant proposal to The Don Benedict Fund at the Community Renewal Society and thought if funded, this would be a great opportunity to showcase the program. On March 21st, Henry Williams Love received notification of funding and on April 11th, an email officially announcing the dates, location, and programming submission details. The Shuri Project was submitted and accepted on May 7th. These details are important to the storyline of this program because two of our major programmatic goals is to improve communication and provide exposure. So, a workshop presentation at WakandaCon would meet our goals, serve as a public demonstration of the power of this program, and provide the participants with an unforgettable experience. Additionally how apropos the program was named for Princess Shuri from The Black Panther.


An appearance at WakandaCon was added to The Shuri Project participant recruitment efforts. We stress the significance of adding “conference presenter” to the list of skills participants would receive. During The Shuri Project program orientation, none of the participants had ever heard of a Con before and didn’t really know what to expect but fed off the excitement that it was something big! In our program structure, the end of Week 5 is website demo day, where youth participants demonstrate the skills learned in the program by publicly presenting their websites. However, WakandaCon was scheduled for the end of Week 4, so the participants have been working really hard to get ready for their public presentation debut. One of the things they have worked on was creating and memorizing The Shuri Project Creed.

The inaugural class of The Shuri Project will make its appearance at WakandaCon on Saturday, 8/4/18, at 11am in Salon C, Room 3. WakandaCon is being hosted at the Hilton-Chicago 720 S. Michigan Avenue Chicago, IL 60605. The students have prepared an engaging workshop presentation that includes website demos, skill explanations, and vision boards. We are highly encouraging attendance at WakandaCon as there are several workshops, panels, vendors and other cool things to see and do. If attending, please stop by The Shuri Project presentation and show our girls some love and support.