Veteran Publicist Barbara Kensey dead at 71

Tribute planned for professional who showed Black Chicago to the world

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Barbara Kensey

Barbara Kensey, a veteran publicist, world traveler and cultural maven who introduced thousands of tourists to Black Chicago, died Saturday at Holy Cross Hospital. She was 71.

A tribute to Kensey’s life will be held at 5:30 on Friday, May 25th at the event venue, Room 43, located at 1043 E. 43rd Street.

Kensey was president and CEO of Kensey Communications, a media and event marketing firm she founded nearly 30 years ago. A media savvy professional, Kensey built an impressive portfolio of prominent clients that included the Bud Billiken Parade, the DuSable Museum of African American History and the Chicago Tribune.

She traveled extensively, chronicling the uniqueness of destinations from Brazil and Cuba, to India and South Africa.

Kensey’s work has appeared in a number of national consumer magazines, including Essence, Savoy and Pathfinders Travel Magazine and on-line at www.ebonyjet.com, according to Kensey’s website.

Kensey was the founding publisher of the groundbreaking “The Guide of Black Chicago/Access Chicago.” It was the first visitor’s and resource guide to Chicago’s Black history, culture and entertainment.

When tourists visited Chicago, Kensey took them to historic Black sites shunned by tourism guides. With her flair and enthusiasm, Kensey provided customized tours that included historic homes, the Supreme Life Building, the 47th Street Blues and Jazz District, Quinn Chapel A.M.E. Church and the Great Migration Statue.

Born in Chicago, Kensey was raised on Chicago’s Near North Side. She attended the Cooley Upper Grade Center, which was the subject of the 1975 film, “Cooley High.” Kensey graduated from Waller High before it became Lincoln Park High School. As a single mother, Kensey attended City Colleges of Chicago and worked as a secretary before entering public relations to support her son. Under the late Mayor Jane Byrne, Kensey worked in the city’s Department of Cultural Affairs in the late 70s. She remained in the department for over a decade under Mayor Harold Washington and several other mayors.

When she left the department, she started Kensey Communications. She would receive many awards and was listed in Who’s Who in Black Chicago. She was a member of the Publicity Club of Chicago and the Black Public Relations Society (BPRS). She served on the Advisory Board of the Chicago Defender and was a member of the Trinity United Church of Christ, where she sang in the choir and volunteered for civic organizations.

Survivors include Kensey’s mother, Mary; four sisters Betty Johnson Scott, Rose Johnson, Shirley Johnson, Dorothy Riddell, and a brother, Laurence Kensey.

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