A mom, a daughter, a sister and devoted aunt— Desiree Tate was not only their rock but she was a significant boulder throughout the city of Chicago. Her undying commitment to her work and public service for nearly 37 years would allow her to move through some of the most influential circles in politics, community, and business. As the CEO of Tate and Associates, a global public strategies firm that specialized in communications, reputation management, and corporate social responsibility, her clients included powerhouse corporations and institution such as the Obama Foundation, The University of Chicago, Illinois Medical District and Lyft.

Over the Memorial Day holiday in 2018, while enjoying the company of her daughter, Ashley and family in her home—Desiree didn’t feel her best and decided to retreat to her room to rest. Shortly after, she suffered a massive heart attack and would remain unresponsive, making her transition. She was 62. Her sudden death would send ripples throughout the African American community and beyond affecting those who were touched by her spirit. Tate was a driving force behind some of the nation’s most historical movements.

Hard Work and Perseverance

The youngest and only daughter of six children, Tate’s parents moved to Chicago from Tangipahoa, Louisiana. After giving birth to five boys, Bertha and Oscar Tate were blessed with a girl who would go toe-to-toe with her brothers in the bustling Tate household. Growing up in the Washington Park community, she attended Austin O. Sexton and eventually Lindblom Math and Science Academy, graduating a year early. Becoming the first of her siblings to attend and graduate from college, she earned her bachelor’s from Indiana University and later a master’s degree from De- Paul University.

Mahalia Hines and Desiree Tate

For the next two decades, Tate would rise through the political, community and social circles becoming a key strategist in the Harold Washington administration working with various nonprofit and faith-based groups. Her name and her brand rang strong, working as a senior advisor for U.S. Senator Carol Moseley Braun and eventually becoming an intricate part of the then-Senator Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign. With the same amount of vigor she displayed nearly 25 years later, she volunteered to help him throughout several Midwestern states and becoming a mainstay for his following 2012 re-election campaign. Her counsel would also be invaluable toMayor Rahm Emanuel in his first term in office.

Her daughter Ashley Tate-Gilmore recalls, “She has this sense of value and determination. She was the first to graduate college among her siblings even though she was 23 years younger than my oldest uncle. She just really had a drive. I use this in my own business now. I’m now running three businesses. The one I started on own is travel concierge service. The goal is ‘nothing is too big.’ That was always the goal of my mom. Nothing was out of her reach or inaccessible. She treated everyone that way. I think that’s all about determination,” she says.

Working for the Obama administration, Ashley would not allow a day to go by without their morning talks and closing out the night. Although she says they were similar in many ways—she admits unlike her, her mother was not an early riser. She laughs, “We would joke about Christmas, I would be up at 5 am, and she would ask, ‘Can you just let people sleep until 7 am?’ On a daily basis, I’m up at 6:30 am. She would be up around 8 am. She allowed me to be me. I would be excited and enthusiastic to talk to her and to start my day with her. We would chat every morning when I was in D.C and ended I conversations every night with her. I always had this excitement about my mom.”

Ashley Tate-Gilmore and mom, Desiree Tate.

A Mentor and Loving Friend

Knowing her dedication to mentor others, she practiced the same kindness that was bestowed on her. Ashley remembers, “She would tell me the people who took her under her wing-propelled her to pay it forward. As a single mother, we had a village. I had aunties like Auntie Velma Wilson, who was her mentor, and a group of others. They encouraged her to ‘pay it forward’ and be that type of mentor to other women. To raise me in a space in my formative years as an African American woman, she was giving me a particular set of value they had instilled in her.”

Friend and veteran journalist, Darlene Hill says she learned a great deal from Tate.

“As a young journalist in Chicago, I met Desiree Tate 20 years ago on the other side of the microphone. She was working as an activist and consultant in local politics and 20 years in the game, her passion for civic engagement was still shining brightly. “Dez” knew so much about the city, the people and the power players I wanted to spend time with her to soak up all of that power and knowledge. “Dez” was a diamond in Chicago with a powerful voice that will never be silenced. She wanted every child in Chicago to have everything and to hear them laugh at the Bud Billiken Parade always put a smile on her face!”

Her sister-in-law, Johnnie Tate recalls her as the“cornerstone for our family.” She says, she held everyone together and a friend to many. “She would build bridges between people from different walks of life while creating community and unison amongst them all. I am so grateful to have had her in my life. Her home was filled with love, and she welcomed everyone in with open arms. She was a volunteer with a servant’s heart helping others tirelessly.”

Much like Darlene Hill and Ms. Johnnie Tate, there are countless stories of love and admiration for Desiree Tate’s beautiful spirit and grace.

Following in her mom’s footsteps of creating her own business—Ashley is the CEO of Fortis Global, LLC; Managing Partner of Tate & Associates, LLC and operates a global emergency travel concierge.

“I started my business and told her I wanted it to be about branding. With her brand, it was about Black people—who we are, where we came from and where we can be. The general sense of knowledge of what we didn’t have and where we come from and how we continue to grow is what made that critical for her,” she said.

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