Latavia Deane in 2010 with Despers in their panyard
Another When Steel Talks Exclusive © 2011 When Steel Talks - All Rights Reserved
New York, USA - Miguel Reyes’s The Last Band sung by Peter D’Royce was the last Panorama piece lovely Latavia Deane got to perform with Despers USA Steel Orchestra, when the band competed in the 2010 New York Panorama. A song that makes one dance and sing whenever it is heard, it was close to the heart of Latavia, who herself was a dancer and who enjoyed what was to be a three-year relationship as a member of one of New York’s premier and champion steel orchestras. Despers USA’s PRO Kern Simon shared the background of the song and the chords it struck within Latavia, as the band was about to play before those present for her home-going service at Cross Over Ministries on Clarendon Road in Brooklyn, New York.
One week ago, Cross Over Ministries was a church packed with hundreds. All seats occupied, people lined the walls on either sides, and took up positions midway down the center aisle of the building, in addition to overflowing outside the doors. The New York steelband community joined with friends and family of Latavia to celebrate the life and amazing legacy of the stunning 18-year old who passed away October 9, after defiantly mounting years of challenge to leukemia, first at the tender age of six. After a ten-year remission, “Tae” as she was affectionately called, had valiantly gone into the battle for her life once more.
Part of Despers USA Steel Orchestra since early 2009, Latavia had initially been a friend of one of the band’s steelpan musicians. She visited the panyard to catch him at band practice, and became a staple at the Classon Avenue-based Despers Pan Loft. “She was just inquisitive; started asking questions. Next thing - Latavia was asking people to show her music. She picked up really quick for a first-timer,” reminisces band captain Wilfred “Wiz” Kieal.
Band mate Sewajo “Jo Jo” Dawson and fellow tenor bassist Jessica Nosiles shared their memories of Latavia at the service, with “Jo Jo” warmly recalling that which first struck him when he met her - her outlook on her life, her smile - the energy which simply radiated from her. Jessica referenced her positive attitude and determination, not only within Despers’ tenor bass section, but the entire band. What kept her (Jessica) going at times when she thought something was difficult: “If ’Tavia could do it, I can do it!” Jessica says she would tell herself. Both band members put into words what band mates throughout Despers felt about their fellow pan player.
Amazing Grace was Despers USA’s first selection played as everyone reflected on Latavia and her life. The church clergy in turn shared their thoughts of and experiences with Latavia as a member for several years in their fold, and pledged ongoing support for her family inclusive of her parents and three brothers Lawrence, Lenny and Lincoln. Her sisters in dance, Cross Over Ministry Praise and Worship Dance Group, honored her with their performance, and also shared some tear-filled words later on in the evening, wearing white T-Shirts adorned with their friend’s pictures, saying “Barbie” - as they called Latavia, at church, especially. Two eye-catching images of “Tae” flanked her casket on either side; yes, “Tae” was also a working model, with prospects lined up, including a scheduled audition with the Louis Vuitton agency before her relapse.
Throughout the evening, many bore witness to Tae’s life – all were in agreement. Each and every person who spoke gave testimony on the astonishing strength and faith of Latavia. To put it succinctly, she continually turned the tables on them; for despite her challenges, Latavia was always the one who asked after everyone else, being supportive, even helping them through their own reactions, when faced with the news her own health predicament! A ray of sunshine on the darkest of days - it was a message of the profound ‘Joie de vivre’ with which Latavia lived and loved every moment of life – one that she was determined to be and ultimately ensured she is, remembered for.
In this vein, Latavia had made her own wish known - that those who could do so, wear white when the time came to celebrate her life. In keeping with this request, several in attendance, including members of her family, were so attired. But none appeared more dapper than dad Victor Deane, while her mom Karen Deane was a vision of loveliness, reflecting the beauty of her brave daughter. Africa McGroader sang what was Latavia’s favorite song, to which her parents danced briefly, but poignantly, in celebration of Latavia’s favorite activity, dance. Dad Victor would later share, among other memories while at the podium with his wife, that he was fortunate to have known, and had someone in his life, such as Latavia - noting that not many fathers had the opportunity to have a daughter who was also such a sterling ballroom dance partner...
When Steel Talks (WST) saw Latavia in 2010 during the height of the panorama season in Despers’ Brooklyn panyard. In motion on the tenor bass, she appeared like any other panist in the band, intent on getting her music down pat, and enjoying the run-throughs of the parts. A woman standing near to her tenor bass, smiling as WST moved around with camera in hand, customarily taking pictures of the band at practice, calmly informed us that Latavia was her daughter, and promptly asked if we knew that she had cancer? The lady had introduced herself as Latavia’s mom, Karen. WST had not met Latavia before, so Karen Deane went on to say that her daughter was determined to be at steelband practice, that it made her happy, so she was there with her. WST would see Latavia again when we returned to Despers USA’s Pan Loft later in the Pan season. She did love being there, and loved playing Pan. And this is why the behavior of the management of Woodbine Hall - where those gathered at the church were invited to repair to for repast afterward - would not have made Latavia happy, at all.
Interestingly, though the steelpan art form has moved forward for a significant part of the planet, some still seem caught up in the trappings and mindset of the past. The management of Woodbine Hall located at the corner of Bedford and Church Avenues in Brooklyn, falls into this lamentable category. This came to light with regard to Despers USA’s expected performance at the repast after Latavia’s service. Band captain Wilfred “Junior” Kieal told WST that the band was disappointed and stunned to learn of the declaration by the management of Woodbine Hall, that he “didn’t want no steelband in his place.” This declaration had been made to Latavia’s mom Karen, who in turn was forced to communicate same to Despers USA, who had prepared a repertoire for sharing at the repast at Woodbine Hall. The saying goes at times, the more things change, the more things stay the same – enter the management of Woodbine Hall into this hall of dubious repute.
For Latavia Deane, life was joy – every moment. Everyone who had the privilege of knowing her, treasured the times spent with and around her. And they include her Pan Family of Despers USA Steel Orchestra.
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