Remembering Z’ane Davis-Smith
Friends, faculty reflect on Z’ane’s time at AU and the talents she shared with others
Friends, classmates, faculty and administrators remember sophomore Z’ane Davis-Smith as a creative, passionate, supportive, talented and intelligent individual. Davis-Smith passed away suddenly on Thursday, Nov. 4 following a medical emergency.
Approximately 100 members of the AU community mourned her death at a vigil the following Saturday night at Kay Spiritual Life Center.
Davis-Smith was present and active in many organizations around AU’s campus. She participated in the 2015 Summer Transition Enrichment Program (STEP) and was a dedicated student and frequent actor in the Department of Performing Arts, most recently performing in “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” in October.
She also volunteered as a tutor for D.C. Reads, a tutoring program for elementary school students in underserved public schools in D.C., said Amanda Choutka, Davis-Smith’s two-time College Writing professor.
“Z’ane was one of those students who said something really brilliant in class that other people missed and refocuses the class and everyone says ‘that was the point or, we keep going around this issue but that’s actually what we should be talking about,’” Choutka said.
Sophomore Cassie Castro, a member of STEP as well as a classmate and friend of Davis-Smith, spoke of her uplifting personality and her ability to encourage others.
“During the dreaded ice breakers at the beginning of each semester, instead of a fact she would always tell people her motto: ‘You are enough. You are SO enough. It is unbelievable how enough you are,”’ Castro said in an email. “This quote resonated with me from the beginning because it was something I needed to hear at the time and it's something that everyone needs to hear sometimes.”
Castro also highlighted Davis-Smith’s perseverance and notable ambitions for her future.
“If there was downtime in class, instead of going on her phone like everyone else, Z'ane would do things like write out all the things she aspired to be in her life on a piece of paper. I'll never forget her number one dream which was to play Tiana from ‘Princess and the Frog’ on Broadway,” Castro added. “You could tell without a doubt that musical theater was her passion and what she was destined to do. This world is truly a darker place without her.”
Assistant Vice President of Campus Life Fanta Aw met Davis-Smith through the STEP program and said she will miss Davis-Smith’s smile and energy.
“She was a wonderful and beautiful young lady full of great promise and with a great presence when she entered a space,” Aw said.
Even with her ambitious drive and incredible talent, Davis-Smith had a kind and uplifting spirit, Caleen Jennings said, who directed Davis-Smith in the Freshman Showcase, a performance for first year students that takes place in September. Jennings was also her professor for Fundamentals of Acting I during her freshman year.
“She was an extraordinarily talented young woman with big, big dreams and tremendous drive and ambition,” Jennings said. “When things were hard she got tough and worked harder. She always found a way to lift others up. If you ever felt sorry for yourself or were slacking during rehearsal, Z’ane was there saying ‘let's get it done.’”
Mallorie Stern and Davis-Smith were partners in the Fundamentals of Acting class during their freshman year and became very close friends. Stern remembered her selfless and honest character.
“She cared so much about everyone that she met. She really didn’t complain about her life. She wanted to listen and help you,” Stern said. “She was always there to listen and also to give her opinion. It might not have been the opinion you wanted to hear, but it was the one you need[ed] to hear.”
Davis-Smith had a knack for fashion, design and make-up, said sophomore Christina Martino, who also performed in a “Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” with Davis-Smith and recalled the many hours they spent together helping prepare their makeup and costumes for each performance.
“Z'ane and I would share the corner spots of the dressing room for every show because we are #fashionistas,” Martino said in an email. “We would show up to our call times early with our oversized makeup boxes, ready to get our fashionista work on.”
Martino remembered Davis-Smith’s endless support and care for everyone around her.
“Through whatever she was going through, she never forgot her number one motto ‘to never give up’,” Martino said. “She reminded me of this every day and inspired me to always keep going. She told me that I could do anything I wanted in my life and in her words, ‘the haters can back off.’”
Davis-Smith’s family has set up a GoFundMe page to raise funds for funeral arrangements, burial costs and student loan debt.
“Z'ane was suppose to be famous and her dreams were to carry her far,” the page’s description reads, written by her mother Carla Davis. “She was full of life, always playing different roles in plays, dancing and singing her way into our lives and hearts. She was sensitive yet caring. If you knew her you were touched by her loving kindness.”
Martino said she would remember Davis-Smith and carry her spirit.
“Although I am heartbroken that she is no longer with us, I am honored to carry her light on my shoulder every day from this day forward. Z'ane told us what it means to have a dream and to keep reaching for it, and to never let anyone stand in the way of those dreams,” Martino said. “Love everyone unconditionally because Z'ane taught me that unconditional love is the most important gift anyone could ever receive.”