Nykea Pippion McGriff is driven by a passion for making real estate more equitable

If you’ve ever bought or sold a house, you know that the process can be winding and complicated. But you may not know that some prospective homeowners face even more obstacles to their dreams. That’s what Nykea Pippion McGriff discovered when she bought her first home. It was not a great experience. But it did change the course of her life. Her story contains so much wisdom and inspiration for all of us who are building movements for change, both in our communities and within ourselves. And I am thrilled to share it with you today.

Getting in the Game

Today, Nykea is vice president of broker services with Coldwell Banker Realty’s City Center Management Group in Chicago. But a few decades ago, the real estate world wasn’t exactly welcoming to her. Back then, she was a single mother who wanted to buy a home to build wealth and an economic legacy for her son. However, she found that lenders were reluctant to work with her. And she kept getting steered toward the “housing that they thought a single mom should be considering.”

 When Nykea finally did buy a condo, she didn’t just settle in and put the problematic home-buying process behind her. “I wanted to give people the service I didn’t necessarily receive,” she said. “You can complain from the sideline or get in the game.” So she got in the game herself and got her real estate license.

Holding the Door Open

As working with first-time buyers became Nykea’s niche, she dedicated herself to gaining the knowledge she needed to help them. “I needed to know as much as possible about the industry, not just how to buy or sell a house, but financing vehicles,” she said. “Because, especially in the communities I serve, credit was an issue. Some big-box lenders simply did not have financing vehicles that met the community’s needs.”

To gain that know-how, this movement maker volunteered with nonprofits that focused on housing. As she learned, she also built relationships with others who shared her vision. Her passion and hard work paid off — and then some.

Since working in real estate in 2005, Nykea has racked up honors. In 2019, she became the first Black woman to be elected Chicago Association of Realtors president. As someone who’s been a “first” many times, I was eager to hear her viewpoint on this milestone. “Your job is to bring other people behind you or with you,” she said. If you had to (metaphorically!) kick down a door, hold it open for others.

One way Nykea held the door open was by creating a leadership accelerator for the association. “My legacy is forever intertwined with those class graduates,” she said. The goal is to create a leadership pipeline, so that “firsts” like us are followed by seconds, thirds, and so on. You can hear in her voice that her heart is filled with joy. 

Xavier’s Legacy

Amid her professional success, Nykea was hit with the most devastating event a parent can experience: the sudden loss of a child. Xavier O. Joy, the son who motivated Nykea to buy a home all those years ago, was fatally shot near the University of Chicago. Just 23, he was simply trying to walk home after parking his car.

The loss of Xavier was a catalyst for Nykea’s decision to run for Congress in 2022. For a private person like Nykea, this wasn’t easy. She also discovered that while she was a record-setting fundraiser for organizations, she was less comfortable asking for money for her campaign. But, as always, she was determined. “I had to get over it,” she said. “I had to get out of my own way.”

While she wasn’t elected, she continues to build Xavier’s legacy in other ways. Recognizing that violence often stems from economic and educational opportunities, Nykea partnered with the Chicago Association of Realtors to set up a scholarship fund in her son’s honor. The scholarship is awarded to Illinois students who plan to attend Morehouse College in Atlanta, where Xavier played football.

Inspiration Lives On

 Xavier’s legacy also plays out every day in his mother’s life. She continues to be inspired by the passion he had for helping the community. Through the City Year program, Xavier worked in schools attended by disadvantaged children and had a knack for reaching “unreachable” kids.

“Xavier was really the impetus that not only should I be volunteering to learn more about how to help my clients, but also to help the real-estate community be a little bit more balanced,” Nykea said. “Because real estate in Chicago is still very segregated. There’s still a definitive line between the haves and the have-nots.”

She also feels Xavier’s influence at home. Nykea’s younger son, Artie, has autism. While she fought hard to ensure educational opportunities for Artie, she says Xavier was truly Artie’s greatest advocate. She recalls how Xavier always saw Artie, not his disability. Today, even with her busy schedule, she makes sure Artie gets uninterrupted time with her daily.


When the conversation turned to Me-Sets, Nykea shared that she started taking a closer look at her life when Covid-19 sent all of us home for a long time. She realized she wanted to be healthier, both physically and mentally. She also realized that she poured time into her work and into helping Artie, but not herself. “And now that he is healthy and thriving, I have no more excuses. It’s time to focus on Nykea.”

 Her calendar demonstrates Nykea’s new commitment to herself. She blocks out time for Me-Sets, even amid her other myriad commitments. “I literally have ‘eat lunch’ and ‘walk away’ (from the computer) in my calendar,” she says. She also makes it a habit to look ahead to the coming week, asking herself, “Where am I on that calendar?”

Practicing Me-Sets also helps Nykea process her grief. She takes time off around her “trigger days,” such as Xavier’s birthday and the anniversary of his death. I often say we can turn obstacles into opportunities by looking for joy. Nykea is a walking example of this practice.

“When you’re going through a change — whether that’s a divorce, a new marriage, a new baby, the death of a loved one — it is a change in how you see the world,” she said. “So you have to stop, acknowledge that, and figure out a plan.”

As we wrapped up our time together, I realized how perfect it was to talk with Nykea as Black History Month drew to a close, and we began Women’s History Month. She has helped so many clients change the course of their family’s history by buying their first home, and she did it by becoming the first woman to lead an organization. While she’s writing a new chapter for herself, Me-Set by Me-Set, it is clear that joy leads Nykea’s way.  



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