Desiree Davis honored, mourned: “She overcame everything”
on September 29, 2009
Memories of kindness and courage filled the mausoleum at Piedmont’s Mountain View Cemetery on Monday, and later turned to song as friends and family members gathered to celebrate a life cut short by violence.
Desiree Davis, an Oakland Technical High School senior who died in a Labor Day shooting, lived a full and inspiring life in the short span of her life, mourners said at her funeral and a memorial party held later in the day.
Again and again, mourners spoke of a woman who did nothing to deserve her death. Lorenzo Franklin, a Northwest Oakland minister who said he was with Desiree at the time of her death, compared her to a tall tree struck down by lightning—felled only by random circumstance, he said.
Desiree, known by friends for her loyalty and aversion to conflict, was an innocent victim, Franklin said at an altar decorated with flowers and a large photo of the 17-year-old.
“Sometimes the righteous get taken away from us,” said Franklin, who works at Humanity Baptist Church, which sits across the street from where Desiree died.
Dru Ann Davis, Desiree’s mother, added that her daughter’s death reflects the fragility of human life. “Each child is so special and meaningful,” Davis said. “We have to be happy every day and just love our children.”
While the memorial took on a solemn note as Lorenzo and others urged young people to reflect on their value for human life, mourners offered memories of a young woman who possessed hidden musical talents and a resilient spirit.
Acclaimed jazz musician Jesse Davis, Desiree’s father, spoke of his daughter’s early signs of independence and perseverance. When Desiree was still a small girl, doctors discovered that she was blind in one eye, a condition that made her a target for bullies throughout her life. Yet while visiting an eye doctor, Desiree made it clear that she wouldn’t let her partial blindness get in the way of her aspirations.
To test the girl’s vision, Jesse Davis said, the doctor threw a small green object into a shag carpet, and before her parents could locate it, she found it and plucked it from the long threads.
“She overcame everything,” said Jesse Davis, who is currently separated from Desiree’s mother and now living in Italy. “Her determination started the day she was born.”
David McGhee, Desiree’s uncle, recalled meeting the girl in New York City, where she was born, and a note of thanks that she left on a whiteboard in his home. McGhee, who recently taught Desiree to drive, said the note still remains.
“My life is less rich without her, and for that I will always be very, very sad,” David said.
Following the memorial service, a small group of mourners went to the home of one of Desiree’s relatives, located within walking distance of the cemetery, where words of remembrance and reflection turned to laughter and music.
Close friends sang lyrics that alluded to Desiree’s uniqueness and kindness, and her father played “Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans”—an homage to the city Desiree loved. Davis, a Hurricane Katrina Survivor, moved to California after her home was destroyed, settling at first in the Santa Cruz area and then moving to Oakland.
Jesse Davis said that New Orleans is where Desiree gave her life to Christ and made an impression on friends and neighbors with her unique personality.
“Her love for New Orleans became a passion,” Davis said.
As numbers at the memorial party dwindled, friends of Davis posed for photographs of their memorial T-Shirts and shared memories.
Oakland Tech classmates Dejanae Mladinich and Jimmie Hayes, both 17, said after singing “The Miseducation of Lauren Hill”—a song of a woman’s search for faith and identity—that they were still trying to come to terms with Desiree’s death. This summer, when a group of acquaintances robbed the girl, she insisted that there should be no retaliation, Hayes said.
“She was the sweetest one,” Hayes said. “She wasn’t the type to go and fight those girls.”
Mladinich also recalled that Desiree had no interest in conflict. The girl, who was often introverted around strangers yet warm to close friends, put a wall between herself and those who tried to provoke her into fighting.
“She never had time for stuff like that,” Mladinich said.
Adrianna Pharr, 16, said she’ll cherish memories of the past summer, when Desiree got a car and took her friends on her first drive to the Pacific Ocean.
“There wasn’t a day that went by that we weren’t with her,” she said.
As of Monday, the Oakland Police Department had no information on the investigation into Desiree’s death. Anyone with information on the shooting can contact the Oakland Police Department at (510) 238-3821.
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