Dawnn Jaffier, the 26-year-old Brighton woman who was known for helping young people, was remembered and mourned Thursday night when nearly 1,000 friends, fellow volunteers, and family members gathered for a candlelight vigil in her honor in Allston.
“She was an incredible, vibrant young leader,” said Sandra Lopez Burke, the executive director of City Year Boston. “I look forward to celebrating her beautiful life.”
Jaffier, who was shot and killed last weekend, worked with inner-city children during her time with City Year, which she joined in 2010 after graduating from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She also volunteered with the West End House Boys and Girls Club and Playworks.
Keith Williams, 18, of Dorchester, has been arrested in Jaffier’s slaying and charged with murder, assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, and firearms offenses.
Williams had allegedly opened fire on a rival gang and struck Jaffier, who was attending J’ouvert, the first part of an annual daylong Caribbean festival in Dorchester. Boston police said she was an “innocent victim.”
Many of those at the vigil Thursday wore orange, Jaffier’s favorite color, and some donned tutus, tiaras, and brightly colored leggings.
They danced to Michael Jackson music and celebrated the life of Jaffier, an active community member, volunteer, and mentor who many said was known for her bright smile and infectious laugh.
Jaffier often wore bright outfits when she volunteered in school, because the youths liked it, friends said.
At the vigil, held outside the West End House community center where Jaffier worked, friends, students, mentees, fellow volunteers, and family members shared memories of her.
Stefanie Wong, a friend and student of Jaffier’s at the West End Boys and Girls Club, said she saw her as an older sister. She was always ready to offer advice and support to students, she said.
“Dawnn was funny and hilarious, but also real,” Wong told the crowd, wiping tears from her eyes. “We will miss you, baby girl.”
Jaffier’s uncle, Barnard Jaffier, encouraged people to focus on the positive aspects of his niece’s life, rather than on her violent death.
“Do not let the narrative of Dawnn’s life be overshadowed by senseless violence,” he said, struggling to hold emotions. “Dawnn did everything right.”
Many described Jaffier as a supportive friend, who was always happy to celebrate the success of others.
With her smile, dance moves, and cheerful disposition she was able to light up any room, said her friend and co-worker Bie Aweh.
“Dawnn taught me to find ways to relish and celebrate life,” said Aweh. “I’ll never forget that.”
Local officials, including Boston Police Commissioner William Evans and City Councilors Tito Jackson and Ayanna Pressley, attended the event and showed support.
“This shows that violence doesn’t discriminate,” Pressley said in an interview. “It doesn’t care what degree you have or what your zip code is. I feel robbed that I didn’t have the privilege of knowing Dawnn.”
Evans said there have been no updates in the case since the arrest of Williams.
Another woman was also wounded on Saturday, a bullet grazing her leg.
“We are working this day and night. It is a very active investigation,” Evans said. “If anyone has any information, we want to hear it.”
Anim Awen, a lifelong friend, said, “She refused to let kids think they couldn’t be anything they wanted to be. Children loved her.”
The vigil ended in prayer and song, led by church officials.
“Peace and justice shall prevail,” the crowd chanted. “If I see something, I’m going to say something in memory of Dawnn.”
Jacqueline Tempera can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.