A crowd of Davidson residents, town and Davidson College officials, clergy, and family packed the Davidson Presbyterian Church on Depot Street Sunday evening for a prayer service in honor of Kaneisha Gaston, the first-ever Davidson College graduate with family and historical ties to the town’s African American community and to the college.
The event capped a day of honors for Gaston, who received her bachelor’s degree Sunday morning, where she also was given the college’s Algernon Sydney Sullivan community service award. At the church service’s end, Mayor John Woods declared Sunday as “Kaneisha Gaston Day” in town.
Gaston, an English major and aspiring teacher from Charlotte, attended the Davidson church for years and is a descendant of Margaret Davidson, once a slave to William Lee Davidson, for whom Davidson College was named. She’s the great-granddaughter of Davidson resident Annie Mildred Lowery and granddaughter of LaGretta Neale.
Sunday’s service was the community’s way of recognizing both the historical milestone and Gaston’s many contributions and achievements while at the college.
- READ AND LISTEN to Kaneisha Gaston in her own words in our May 19, 2013, report, “Kaneisha Gaston puts a new face on town-gown history”
- LISTEN BELOW to the full worship service recorded Sunday at Davidson Presbyterian Church.
Here’s the text of the proclamation read Sunday by Mayor John Woods, declaring it “Kaneisha Gaston Day.
This is a celebration of community and family, honoring a young lady in our midst who has excelled.
At this time of year, families all over our nation are celebrating the success of students who have met graduation requirements, and attend Commencement, meaning they are “commencing” to take the next step in their lives.
Students in this year’s graduating Class of 2013 at Davidson College come from 38 states and 14 countries. And we, here in Davidson, can celebrate a very personal community moment. Among this year’s graduates is an individual who represents a rare milestone. Kaneisha L. Gaston, Class of ’13, is the first African American graduate with deep Davidson roots.
We know Kaneisha. She attended David Cox Elementary School, Trinity Episcopal Middle School and North Mecklenburg High. But she is also deeply attached to the Davidson community through her grandmother, great-grandmother and other relations extending many generations, even to our nation’s beginning.
We know Kaneisha’s family. We know a family who has lived in Davidson for many generations, a family who taught their young the importance of learning, of education, and the importance of faith, family and community. We can imagine that Kaneisha’s family encouraged her to enroll at Davidson College because her kin instilled in her the love and importance of learning.
Kaneisha is an outstanding leader. She held a Bonner Community Service Scholarship that involved tutoring local children in the Ada Jenkins Center after-school enrichment program. In addition, she was a mentor for the STRIDE orientation program for students of color, served as a hall counselor for first-year students, and was president of both the Black Student Coalition and the Upsilon Mu chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority.
Kaneisha graduated today with a degree in English and an academic concentration in ethnic studies. In the fall, she will teach in Charlotte schools through the New Teacher’s Project (TEACH Charlotte), continuing her family’s focus on education and leadership. And today at graduation exercises, Kaneisha was honored with the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award for outstanding community service.
NOW THEREFORE, as Mayor of the Town of Davidson, it is my privilege and honor to proclaim today, May 19, 2013 as “Kaneisha Gaston Day” in Davidson to acknowledge a young scholar and leader and to honor her family, who gave her the values that encourage her to achieve great success in the classroom and provide leadership to the entire community. Signed this 19th day of May, 2013.
John M Woods, Mayor
Listen to the Sunday, May 19, ceremony at Davidson Presbyterian Church honoring Kaneisha Gaston. Click the play button to start. Can’t see the player or hear the audio? CLICK HERE> (MP3, 51 min, 7 sec)
LISTENING NOTES & PROGRAM
The service includes music by the Davidson Presbyterian Church Mass Choir. The recording begins with drumming by drummers Gary Mumford and Malik Tillman, who provided inspiration to dancers Davidson Johnson and McDaniel Roberts.
Rabbi Michael Shields of Davidson’s Temple Kol Tikvah played a note on the shofar – a traditional ram’s horn.
The Rev. Jody Seymour of Davidson United Methodist Church offered an invocation and “Pouring of Libation”
The choir and Rev. Ernest Jeffries of Gethsemane Baptist Church led the audience in James Weldon Johnson’s “Lift Every Voice and Sing”
Readings and messages were offered by Patti Levering of Davidson Friends Meeting, C. Rashard Alexander (on behalf of Rev. Debra Hall of Reeves Temple AME Zion Church), Rev. Brenda Tapia of Reed Memorial Presbyterian Church.
The Rev. Lib McGregor Simmons invited those gathered to make offerings for the National Kidney Foundation in honor of Karla Gaston, the mother of Kaneisha Gaston, and Melinda Smith, both of whom have had kidney transplants.
Father David Buck of St. Alban’s Episcopal Church led the benediction.
Remarks were offered by Davidson Mayor John Woods, who proclaimed Sunday as Kaneisha Gaston Day, and by President Carol Quillen of Davidson College.