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John Gaskin: Ladue High Grad, Definitely on the Move

Youngest organizer of the St. Louis County NAACP Freedom Dinner in 103 years.

Look out, John Gaskin might be on your doorstep soon, selling you a ticket to the St. Louis County NAACP Freedom Fund dinner June 5 at the Ritz Carlton in Clayton.

But you’d better get that that check book out quickly, there are just three tables yet to be sold. In the 103 year history of this dinner, this is guaranteed to be the biggest success ever. Gaskin, who graduated Ladue Horton Watkins just one year ago is definitely a young man on the move.

He is the youngest chairman of this dinner in the lengthy history of the organization. Gaskin, who plays on the defensive line for the Benedictine College, Atchinson, KS football team just completed his freshman year.

Already, he’s represented the local chapter of the NAACP at a convention in Cleveland and is headed to a national leadership conference in Destin, FL the end of the month.

“We toured Akron (Ohio) and we saw empty steel mill after empty steel mill. It was terrible to see cities just crippled so much by governments,” he said.

One year ago, this affable, friendly outgoing leader was picked from his peers to deliver the keynote address at Ladue’s 2011 graduation ceremony. That night in the Nielson Gym, he looked his classmates in the eye and challenged them “to get off the sidelines and be active in decision making. The future is now for young people to lead,” he told the nearly 300 graduates at Ladue.

Gaskin speaks in glowing terms of the dinner, honoring the memory of Civil Rights advocate Benjamin Lawson Hooks who made significant contributions to the movement in the African-American community during his lifetime.

The dinner hosts have lined up U.S. Representative Emanuel Cleaver II-Dem. of Kansas City as keynote speaker.

“I am so excited about this dinner. You will see so much diversity there. It used to be that companies bought tables and sent their employees to attend. This year, the CEOs and presidents are coming,” he said rattling off table sponsors the likes of Centene Corp, Ameren Missouri, SSM Healthcare, Schnuck’s Markets, Southwest Airlines, BJC, AT&T and a host of others.

Two members of the Ladue High faculty are being recognized that night. That includes Dr. Eric Hahn, chair of the history department and Gaskin’s mother Angela Haywood-Gaskin, Spanish teacher.

Most major luminaries of the Democratic party will be in attendance, Republicans were all invited and the only one responding so far is Peter Kinder, Missouri’s Lieutenant Governor from Cape Girardeau and a constant backer of NAACP causes.

Gaskin’s day planner this summer is jammed. He is working as an intern for Rita Day, former Missouri State Senator and now head of the St. Louis County Board of Election Commissioners. Gaskin will continue his volunteer duties for the St. Louis County NAACP.

Also, he is working on an effort to get minority Americans identification cards so everyone will be eligible to vote in the national election in November. That is a joint effort being run collectively by Atlanta schools of higher education, predominently for African-American srudents at Spelman College, Clark Atlanta University and Morehouse College.

Gaskin says for young people, the future is now. “I am so proud of Ladue (high) students. They pitched in and helped pass that tax levy (Prop 1) this spring. They got a good idea what can be done with organizing efforts in a positive way,” he said.

Time is short. Gaskin has less than 30 tickets to sell. Tickets are $85. Call 314-389-1552.

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