Project sWish HER is partnering with Queen Key to bring a multi-faceted empowerment event to young women in Chicago on March 31. 

“The Queen Within Her” event is focused on enriching the mind, body and soul of young women in Chicago. The day will include a yoga and meditation session, a spa treatment and a women’s empowerment panel moderated by Power 92’s Bree Specific. Panelists are LSD Studios Owner VIIBEZ, cinematographer and RoyalT Media founder Taylor Johnson, Nude Vanity founder Maleiya Porter-Jones and rapper Queen Key. 

Project sWish was founded by McKinley Nelson in 2018 to provide teens and young adults with a safe space to hang out and hoop. In addition to hosting open gyms at city parks and high school courts, Project sWish also provides free meals at its events, hosts back-to-school backpack drives and — through a collaboration with Loyola University — offers mental health resources to their attendees. 

Although Project sWish began as a gender-neutral program, its events had the appearance of being male-dominated, according to Kareema Hill, who works for the Chicago Sky in the community relations department. 

Project sWish Her is an effort to subvert that earlier male-centric appearance, and be direct about uplifting young women with its programming. This includes the usual mental health services, giveaways, and sports events, but also adds off-court activities such as dance classes, creating vision boards and events like “The Queen Within Her.”

“The goal is to reach out to young women specifically and benefit them in the same ways as we’ve done with Project sWish,” said Hill. Though she had been a volunteer for the organization since its inception in 2018, she officially joined as the program director in January of this year.

“I joined Project sWish just recently, but McKinley and I have known each other since high school. We have similar goals,” Hill said. “We both want to help Chicago youth and we felt like joining forces would give us an even greater platform to do that.”

After a registration period, The “Queen Within Her” randomly selected 20 girls between the ages of 14 and 18 to invite to a private location in Chicago. It’s hosted in collaboration with Queen Key’s own nonprofit organization, Queen Camp. 

In the past, Queen Camp has allowed Key to provide similar experiences, like when it partnered with Fitness brand owner and reality TV star Alicia Samaan and The Wig Clinic for an event in August 2020.

“One thing I can do is provide a great experience,” Key said. “I feel like this is gonna stick with them. It’s going to influence and inspire them in a great way.”

Hill and Key each spoke with the TRiiBE to share what their hopes are for “The Queen Within Her,” and why events like these are important for the development of young women.

Tell me about what went into planning “The Queen Within Her.” How did Queen Key become the face of the event?

Hill: The collaboration actually came about because, of course, it’s Women’s [History] Month and Project sWish, as well as Queen Key, wanted to provide a satisfactory experience for young women. Most young women in high school don’t have the resources to get basic self-care done like facials, massages and things of that nature. So we just wanted to combine forces and provide them with that experience as well as just create an environment where they’re able to connect with entrepreneurs and Black women from Chicago or other areas, to see that they’re able to attain whatever goals they have, and just a safe space for them to have fun.

I believe that Queen Key is relatable to a lot of these young girls. She’s someone they know, who they can see is successful, but also someone they’ll actually listen to cause she’s accessible. She’s from Chicago. But she also can speak to them as an entrepreneur and an artist. Plus, she does Queen Camp which resonates well with our values at Project sWish.

You’ve done events similar to “The Queen Within Her” under your Queen Camp nonprofit in the past. Why is it so important for you to give back to young women in this way?

Queen Key: Queen Camp is my nonprofit. We do vision boards, massages [and] facials. We feed the less fortunate. I invite different speakers to talk. I want to help make the girls’ belief in themselves become unbreakable. I just hope they come there and feel loved. I want them to feel loved and feel better. And that “better” is whatever way they need to get better.

Does it feel like you’ve unlocked another level of nurturing children since having triplets of your own?

Queen Key: Actually, yes. I was already kind of like that, nurturing with kids, period. But now since I have my babies, it’s like I’m nurturing and I actually got the skills now. I already had the personality for it, but now I’ve got the skills. 

Do you feel like there are any similarities between the goals of "The Queen Within Her” and the messages you convey in your music?

Queen Key: Yeah, because this is an empowering event, and I feel as if my music is empowering. I know my music is empowering. It’s about taking care of your mind, body, and soul; them the vibes. I’m all about treating yourself very well.

Ultimately, what do you hope that participants gain from their experience at "The Queen Within Her?"

Hill: I think it’s really important for us to power and encourage and celebrate young women. A lot of times, young women don’t have the support or the mentors to help them engage in entrepreneurship, or push their businesses, and things of that nature. Then they get to college and they’re forced to figure out what they’re going to do, and most times they don’t have a clue because they don’t have that hands-on experience, they couldn’t dabble in different things to see what they’re actually interested in. This event is putting them in front of successful women who want to help change that. So I hope they come away with some new connections with their peers, new mentors, and just feeling pampered and celebrated during their spring break.

is a staff writer with The TRiiBE. Email him with news tips.