Kirby V. Edmonds
1951 - 2020
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Kirby V. Edmonds

Ithaca - Kirby V. Edmonds, 69, of Ithaca, New York died peacefully on August 22, 2020 in the company of his loving family. He was born on August 17, 1951 in Huntsville, Texas. As a youth he was educated in Glastonbury, Connecticut, Nairobi, Kenya, and Beirut, Lebanon. He held two degrees from Cornell University, a B.A. in History and an M.P.A.

Kirby was a mighty river that flowed through our community and far beyond, watering the positive seeds of possibility. He led in countless ways: as Managing Partner of TFC Associates (Training for Change), as Senior Fellow and Program Coordinator of the Dorothy Cotton Institute (DCI), co-founder of the Building Bridges network, and as lead facilitator in development of the City of Ithaca Comprehensive Plan. He functioned behind the scenes as a coach, mentor, encourager, and backbone in several collective impact initiatives, for example, as Coordinator of the Cradle to Career, as Chair of the Ultimate Reentry Opportunity Advisory Committee and by supporting the Childhood Nutrition Collaborative, community involvement in Ithaca's Green New Deal, and family engagement in My Brother's Keeper Ithaca.

Early in his career Kirby set up a drug and alcohol crisis hotline and became a trainer in prevention and treatment systems. He developed a deep understanding of groups, the dynamics of oppression, and the challenge of getting well in an unhealthy society. He worked on the cutting edge of education and training for people in recovery becoming community-based practitioners equipped to lift up and assist others struggling with addiction. A foundation of his practice in whatever action was at hand was to champion people most directly affected by oppression and inequity.

In 1981, Kirby co-founded Training for Change (TFC Associates) to support healthy organization development, collaborative leadership, and to eliminate racism and all forms of oppression. Over a 33-year creative partnership in TFC and later DCI, Kirby Edmonds and Laura Branca built a far-reaching practice and shared mission, true to the taproots of anti-oppression, social justice, human rights, educational equity, cultural competency, and the power of collective endeavor. Kirby was brilliant at interweaving and operationalizing these ideas. Between 2007-2015 Kirby and Laura designed and facilitated the original Multicultural Resource Center's Talking Circles on Race and Racism. For three decades, Kirby volunteered as a mediator and coach for the Community Dispute Resolution Center. As a Senior Fellow at DCI, he championed a vision of a global human rights movement achieving the full realization of human dignity, justice, and freedom for all.

In 2014 Kirby and a cadre of community leaders attended Tamarack Institute's Collective Impact (CI) Conference in Toronto and brought back models for achieving big audacious community goals. Right away Building Bridges took up leadership, often without compensation, to get powerful and lasting CI initiatives going. Only days before his death, Kirby was on Zoom calls from his hospital bed, fulfilling his long-term commitment to these and other initiatives as organizer, facilitator, and coordinator.

Kirby was everywhere. Kirby worked with indigenous people in the Northwest Territories and was a co-founder of Human Rights Educators USA (HRE USA). In the 1980s he led anti-oppression workshops for Cornell's Human Relations Training Program. Kirby was bravely willing to go toward conflict situations, as when he mediated a volatile land use dispute in Ghana for World Vision. He was a close colleague and champion of civil rights leader Dorothy Cotton, co-founding the Dorothy Cotton Institute and doing everything in his power to promote her legacy of non-violent direct action. In 2012 he helped DCI bring a delegation of 23 civil and human rights activists and scholars to Israel-Palestine to meet with Palestinians and their Israeli allies non-violently resisting the Occupation in the West Bank.

Kirby described himself as a community organizer. He was that in practice and through the strategies he used, seeking funds to pay other community-based organizers to engage and empower their neighbors. He was a master network manager, able to weave together many strands of relationship through his persistent willingness to show up with a shared purpose on his mind. Everywhere that people of good will united to tackle problems or cultivate opportunities, Kirby was quickly pulled into the center. He took on many roles-- contributor, connector, or designated leader, but always encouraged folks to plan actions that would get more power and resources into the people's hands. Soft spoken and kind, Kirby was skilled in the art of posing incisive questions, ever asking folks to consider who else should be at the table. He had a keen understanding of power and the courage never to shy away from issues of violence, racism, poverty, hunger, and intergroup conflict.

Kirby was a builder of movements and a peaceful warrior for human rights. He had almost limitless vision, determination, and optimism. He sought and created possibilities for many people, paved avenues for positive change, and drew others in with his quiet, unflappable confidence. He was an exceptional singer-songwriter who had three bands in Ithaca. He loved music, enjoyed dancing, jig-saw puzzles, reading sci-fi, and watching baseball and football games with his son. And in his off hours, he was often painting and renovating houses. He was a valiant leader and a giant in his community.

He is survived by his wife, Judith Scherer and sons, Quincy J. Edmonds, and Ramsey M. Edmonds of Ithaca; his mother, Doris Edmonds, his sister Katree Edmonds, and was pre-deceased by his father, George Freddie Edmonds of Albuquerque, New Mexico; his partner and comrade, Laura Branca of Ithaca.

Information will be shared in the future about a memorial celebration of his life. All who were blessed to know, admire, and love him miss him greatly.

Cards and notes may be sent to the Dorothy Cotton Institute, PO Box 321, Ithaca, NY 14851. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made by check payable to The Center for Transformative Action with "DCI" in the memo line, and mailed to Dorothy Cotton Institute PO Box 321, Ithaca, NY 14851

or you may donate online at https://www.givegab.com/donations/new?group_id=dorothy-cotton-institute




To Plant Memorial Trees in memory, please visit our Sympathy Store.
Published in Ithaca Journal from Sep. 2 to Sep. 3, 2020.
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31 entries
September 30, 2020
Kirby was a friend. We shared deep and meaningful moments in the early 70s at Main-line, a long defunct crisis counseling center in Collegetown that was on the front lines of the drug scene, the counter-culture and a revolution of consciousness in Ithaca and America. He was young, flawed, wise and a flaming beacon of justice and kindness. I loved him like a brother. We lost contact over the years, an occasional phone call or randomly running into each other at the Ithaca Bakery after I moved away from Ithaca in the 1980s but returned a few times a year. We watched a summer ballgame together at Ithaca College one year. My heart aches to think those chance encounters are over, that his voice for justice and equality and kindness has been silenced. RIP, my friend. I will carry on with your eyes burning into my soul.
David Moriah
September 13, 2020
Kirby was a very special man. He was like water flowing over rocks. He stayed calm and soft spoken during some very difficult and heated discussions
I will always remember his wisdom on committees at City of Ithaca. Rest in Peace, Kirby, you did much good.
Phyllisa DeSarno
Acquaintance
September 12, 2020
Deepest condolences to the Kirby family. May the Lord watch over you always. God bless Mr. Edmonds for his dedication, passion and focus. He truly was an Angel.

Purnima Prabhu
Purnima Prabhu
Acquaintance
September 12, 2020
Kirby was a dear friend through High School and College. Though we lost touch over the years I have always held his friendship close, I can still feel the warmth of his soft voice and tilted gaze. One of my last memories of Kirby is staying up late into the night playing chess during a visit to Ithaca. I only wish I had a chance to know and learn from him in his extraordinary professional life.
Diane Parton, Brattleboro, VT
Friend
September 10, 2020
He was kind and gentle and wise. I was fortunate to have participated in a workshop he led.
Mary L. White
Acquaintance
September 7, 2020
Kirby was always an inspiration to me personally and in my work. He exuded strength and conviction -- with a soft and compassionate heart. What a loss his passing is, to our communities here in Ithaca and to the world at large. I will remember Kirby so often... when I vote on election day, when I volunteer and support community organizations, and whenever I see people coming together to stand for what is just and compassionate in the world.
Thank you Kirby. You left the world a better place.
Diane Traina
Friend
September 5, 2020
Kirby was a kind, easy going, soft-spoken cousin. His words was filled with power and knowledge. He convinced me to start my own business and taught me the steps to take in order to do so. Kirby always supported his families losses. He was always there when I needed him most. My husbands funeral and my dads, Kirby was there making sure I kept my head up. I always felt close to Kirby even though we lived so far apart. I always loved my cousin. Rest In Peace Kirby. I can imagine Jesus saying “well done my faithful servant!”
Joyce bowser
Family
September 5, 2020
Group of 10 Memorial Trees
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Michelle Berry & Family
September 5, 2020
Kirby's soft-spoken power was full of insight, wisdom, and a sense of knowing beyond this world. It was always my honor to be in his presence and to have spent time with him inside and outside of his brilliant educational trainings. This is a huge loss for Ithaca and the world, but he would want us to continue the work he was so proud of, yet so very modest about. This one is a heartbreaker. Rest in power, dear Kirby.
Michelle Courtney Berry
Friend
September 5, 2020
My cousin played the guitar and sung a song that had me soo mesmerized I still remember it to today..May God Bless him and all those he helped and all those he loved.Rest in Peace..
George A Washington
Family
September 5, 2020
May every action that Kirby made to bring about change continue even though his physical life on earth has ended.

I am Larry Small the husband to Kirby’s second cousin Wycessa. I never met Kirby, but heard a lot about him from my wife, Kirby’s mother Aunt Doris, and his sister Katree. Whenever the three of them would talk about Kirby they shared encouraging words of how caring for others was always a focus of Kirby.

I am thankful and inspired by the legacy Kirby leaves. Thanks for providing a portion of his story, which was a joy to read and has motivated me to get more involved with all that is going on in our local, national, and global communities.

Thanks again with my sincere thoughts and prayers for peace to endure in this time of bereavement for the entire family and friends of Kirby Edmonds.
Larry Small
Family
September 4, 2020
Kirby Edmonds was a wonderful Teacher, friend to Community, and a tireless Worker for Justice & Peace.Rest in Peace.Pat Shea
Patricia shea
September 4, 2020
It was an honor to work with Kirby while we planned and instituted the Interactive Theater training at Cornell in the late 80’s. His contribution to the program was invaluable. Although, it has changed hands and title, hopefully, Kirby was proud that the training continues to effect an array of learners in both public and private institutions.
Gentle journey, my old friend.
Judy (Atcheson) Hoffman
Judy Hoffman
Coworker
September 4, 2020
Kirby was a guide for me, in that he helped me calm my inner rage about the injustices in the world, and refocus on what needs to be done. He was also simply a good and kind person. Our talks were meaningful, fun, and there was always a larger point that I never missed. I thank the universe for gifting us with Kirby's presence for an all too brief period of time.
Cynthia Henderson
Friend
September 3, 2020
I feel so honored to have worked with Kirby many years ago at The IthacaYouth Bureau. His passing saddens me.
Bob Yavits
Coworker
September 3, 2020
Kirby touched my life in so many ways. He was a beautiful soul.
Antonia Cesari Lieb
Friend
September 3, 2020
It is hard to imagine Ithaca without Kirby. We will honor his legacy by continuing the fight for justice, Rest in power, Kirby.
Karen Friedeborn
Friend
September 3, 2020
Kirby was a wonderful teacher who taught us to approach questions of structural racism with courage. I am very fortunate to have participated in his talking circle on racism which opened my eyes to my own systemic privileges. I hope that he rests in peace.
Nidhi Subramanyam
Student
September 3, 2020
He was an incredibly inspiring presence in this community, indeed the world. We will miss him greatly.
Christa Nunez
Coworker
September 3, 2020
Kirby, you were a great help and a great friend to me in my Ithaca days. May you Rest In Peace. Until we meet again.
Scott Perez
Friend
September 3, 2020
My dear cousin Kirby your life spoke volumes because of how you treated others and what you did for others. May your legacy of selflessness and community always be an integral part of the memory of you. Rest well and in peace. Time is always too short so we must use it well. And you did use your time well.
Wycessa (Penny) Small
Family
September 3, 2020
I was privileged to meet Kirby and Laura Branca when they led training for GreenStar Natural Foods Cooperative staff decades ago. Their guiding influence powerfully fueled the New Jim Crow Book Read led by the Multicultural Resource Center a couple of years ago, which Kendal at Ithaca residents and staff participated in--including (we are honored to remember) Dorothy Cotton herself. When Kirby oriented me to the work of the DCI Steering Committee last fall, I saw close up the depth of his integrity and commitment. Here, may I simply offer my deep respect for Kirby's life work and legacy.
Laura Peters, Kendal at Ithaca
Coworker
September 3, 2020
Rest well, Kirby. So glad I got to work with you, learn from you, and become your friend.
Liz Field
Friend
September 3, 2020
Kirby was a shining light for positive changes. His influences will continue to illuminate through the people he touched.
Jerry Feist
Acquaintance
September 3, 2020
There is loss and sadness and remembrance of the ways in which this man was able to guide and mentor with just one or two well articulated sentences. He could in seconds transform difficult chaotic conversations into ones in which all of the participants held a deeper understanding about the need to be very intentional and thoughtful of the work.
Justine Waldman
Friend
September 3, 2020
Kirby was a force for good and a warrior for justice. He will be sorely missed.
Deborah Dietrich
September 2, 2020
I hope that many that were teach by you will follow you example and became great leaders like you
Eliana Parra
Friend
September 2, 2020
I attended a training taught by Mr. Edmonds. He was a profound teacher and I remember clearly so many lessons I learned from the very brief time I was in his presence.
Jeff McCall
Student
September 2, 2020
I am so saddened, so sorry for our collective loss. Kirby was such a force, such a presence here, it feels almost as if a piece of Ithaca has fallen into the sea. Let's honor him with our continuing commitment to creating the beloved community.
Joanna Green
Friend
September 2, 2020
I was lucky to get to know Kirby and I benefitted a lot from his "incisive questions" and all the really meaningful conversations we had about the condition and perspectives of human kind, society and the world ... may his efforts continue to bear fruit in the work continued by the people who were close to him Veronika
veronika branca
Friend
September 2, 2020
You are missed, my friend. Words are difficult to find in describing the emptiness since your passing. Until we meet in the land of Ancestors, your journey has begun. Wado, Wado, Wado Winishi. ❤
Audrey Cooper
Friend
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