Vigil in memory of George Floyd recalls Trevor Irby

Alex Andrasik, Finger Lakes Justice Partnership

PENN YAN — Twenty-six members of the Yates County community gathered May 29 at the courthouse lawn to solemnize the first anniversary of the murder of George Floyd. 

Organized by the Finger Lakes Justice Partnership, the event was supported by Cobblestone Springs Retreat Center, Keuka Compass, the Penn Yan Action Coalition, the Yates County Progressives, and the Yates County Democratic Committee.

Community members gathered at Court House Park in Penn Yan in preparation for the vigil honoring George Floyd and other lives affected by racially-motivated violence.

Participants took part in a circle sharing session, during which they discussed their observations of racial injustice and committed to actions to better address inequities in our community in the future. In addition, everyone present took part in a reading of the names of more than 100 individuals from across the country who have lost their lives to racially-motivated violence over the past year.

As part of the circle, one participant remembered Trevor Irby, a Keuka College graduate who was one of three people murdered by a white supremacist during a mass shooting event at a festival in Gilroy, California in 2019. Irby’s story serves as just one reminder that Yates County is not insulated from the persistent effects of racial violence in American society.

Others shared resources to better our understanding of the issues at stake. Several participants cited the books of Isabel Wilkerson, including "The Warmth of Other Suns," about the migration of Black Americans to the north, and "Caste," about the ways American lives are restricted by an unspoken ranking system. Others mentioned Ruth King’s "Mindful of Race," which draws on insights in meditation and diversity to explore racial identity.  Anti-Racism Daily, a free email newsletter that can be found at antiracismdaily.com, was also cited as an important resource that offers education as well as tangible action ideas.

As the evening progressed, participants lit candles to serve as symbolic lights in the darkness, a visual representation of the event’s theme, “Yates Sees You.” The lights, like the gathering itself, were intended to reinforce the message that the people of this region will no longer turn away from evidence of inequity in our communities or in wider society.