Chicago Crusader staff report
It was a funeral fit for a princess.
On a warm spring morning of Wednesday, May 25, nearly 1,100 people said goodbye to 15-year-old De’Kayla Dansberry during a service at New Beginnings Church at 6620 S. King Dr.
Community leaders led an emotional service that was packed with teenagers, parents, Woodlawn residents and friends who remain shocked and saddened by the murder of the popular high school student.
Long lines of people filed past De’Kayla’s white casket before and after the service. She was dressed in a creamed-colored floral jacket and a bright pink skirt. The high-achieving Johnson College Prep student looked peaceful wearing a tiara.
The service reflected De’Kayla’s style and personality. It was upbeat and many of the mourners wore pink, De’Kayla favorite color. The glossy pink program was elaborate and contained numerous pictures of De’Kayla’s life. A spray of pink peonies and roses adorned her casket.
Massive crowds overwhelmed ushers as the church’s large sanctuary was not big enough to hold huge numbers of mourners. A large overflow crowd was forced to wait outside. Many viewed De’Kayla’s body after her funeral ended. Traffic along King Drive was snarled after mourners flooded the street after the service. Many joined a long funeral procession to Mt. Hope Cemetery, where De’Kayla was buried.
The funeral was held just several blocks from where De’Kayla’s life ended. On Saturday, May 21, she was stabbed to death at Parkway Gardens apartments by a 13-year-old during a fight. She and her mother, Tamika Gayden, were both charged with first-degree murder. Friends described De’Kayla as a bright student who had a 3.7 GPA. She was also an athlete who ran track.
Alderman Willie Cochran spoke, but after the funeral mourners shared their experiences with De’Kayla to a Crusader reporter.
The day before she died, Donte Brown, 14, a student at Anna R. Langford Academy in West Englewood, said he played with De’Kayla at the Parkway Gardens. Donte said De’Kayla’s death left him in shock.
Another mourner, Deanne Hillsman, said she knew De’Kayla since she was born. She said five days before, De’Kayla died, the high school student spoke to her younger sister on Facebook about an upcoming track meet.
“De’Kayla was a smart, educated young girl,” Hillsman said. She was the life of the community.”