K’imani Gerven-McCoy spent her first day back from the winter break a little differently than other Flagler Schools students: she twice sang the National Anthem at the opening sessions of both the Florida House and a joint session of the Legislature, ahead of Gov. Ron DeSantis’s State of the State address.
The Flagler-Palm Coast High School freshman was invited by Paul Renner, the Speaker of the House who happens to represent Flagler County, and who’s been showcasing other Flagler County talent–students, personalities, politicians–since his tenure began last year, as legislative leaders are wont to do with their home counties: Renner’s Law Enforcement Officer of the Day was Robert Hardwick, the St. Johns County sheriff and former Flagler County Sheriff’s deputy (Flagler’s Rick Staly having already been honored), and the colors were presented by members of the Palm Coast Fire Department’s Honor Guard, with Lt. Patrick Juliano on the bagpipes.
Gerven-McCoy got permission to miss classes Tuesday and set off before dawn to Tallahassee with her mother, Tahlia, and Jeffrey Reaves, the district’s director of teaching and learning. They were greeted by Renner and his staff.
Shortly after 10 a.m., as the 126th regular session of the House was called to order, after the presentation of colors and the Pledge, Renner turned to McCoy: “Ms. McCoy, you’re recognized to sing the National Anthem.” (It’s at 5:20 in the video.)
Standing next to members of the Palm Coast Fire Department, Gerven-McCoy, who just turned 15 on Dec. 31, delivered a flawless, unaccompanied performance of the National Anthem, drawing a 29-second ovation from the already-standing lawmakers.
“You know that’s good but you should hear her sing Whitney Houston,” Renner said. “K’imani, you’re special.” Kimani did it all over again an hour later ahead of the joint session, posing for selfies and photos with legislators and staff afterward, and meeting DeSantis, who had detoured from campaigning in Iowa, in his fading days as a candidate for president, to deliver a State of the State that was decidedly less stirring than Kimani’s performance.
The Legislature then went back to work to forbid the likes of Kimani from accessing social media, restrict their access to books, whitewash the history their learn and forbid them from being referred to by the pronouns of their choice–all initiatives Renner has supported and continues to champion.
Gerven-McCoy returned to Flagler County on a stormy day that included tornado warnings and a local school board meeting, where the board members in attendance recognized and congratulated her and invited her to the January 23 School Board meeting for a spotlight, and possibly yet another performance of the Anthem.
Struggling a bit over her name, Will Furry, the board’s chair, said Gerven-McCoy “did a amazing job–”
“Phenomenal,” Moore said.
“–phenomenaljob,” Furry continued, “and was really a proud moment for Flagler schools to have one of our own be honored in such a way and so we’re–congratulations to her and her family.”
“To watch it and to see him afterwards,” Superintendent LaShakia Moore said, referring to Renner, “with just so much pride in the great job that she did, was super special, and I watched it both times. It was absolutely amazing. And you will see it come to you again, some type of way we will get it to play here before this board.”
Gerven-McCoy, who’s been singing since her earliest years, has won her share of awards: She took top honors at the Spotlight on Flagler Youth Talent Show in the middle-school division two years in a row while a student at Buddy Taylor Middle School. Her voice has a maturity and distinctiveness beyond her years, a district release stated.
She has lived in Tennessee and Daytona Beach, but has spent most of her life in Flagler County. She has three younger siblings at home who are also musically inclined. Her mother is her voice coach, preparing for the Anthem performance in rehearsals with Amelia Fulmer, the Director of the Fitzgerald Performing Arts Center at Flagler Auditorium. Fulmer shared warm-up exercises and pointers on which notes of the venerable song to emphasize and how to pace herself.
To view K’imani’s performance of Whitney Houston’s “I Have Nothing,” from last May’s Spotlight on Flagler Youth Talent Show, go to: https://youtu.be/5FCcTBVqZvc?si=iX1Iblz8DSJJkZuO You can watch the Florida Channel on to see the state legislature’s opening session at: https://thefloridachannel.org/about-tfc/how-to-watch/.