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
Published by Ithaca Journal from Sep. 2 to Sep. 3, 2020.