Twenty Five Years ago last month, the doors opened at 2271 Second Avenue and, with a staff of four, Iris House began serving a community of women of color who were living with HIV. Two and a half-decades later, we had a chance to honor our founding board president, Sukey Wagner, who brought together some of our original board members to celebrate with us at Stage 48.
Several longtime associates — women who knew Iris De La Cruz personally — were brought to tears during the evening. For them, the evening wasn’t just a celebration, but also had aspects of a memorial. So many of our founding sisters — clients, community members and board members alike — never got to see Iris House’s ascent or the amazing successes we’ve accumulated since 1993. We want to make sure that as joyous as an anniversary is, that we remember Iris House was built in part by women who knew they were dying and wanted to ensure their children were safe and had a future.
I hope those women would be proud of the work we’ve done and how we’ve tried to keep their founding vision in front of us. We include male and transgender clients today, but we have kept our focus on what makes us special in New York City’s HIV community: our ability to design and deliver gender-specific care, our interest in meeting clients where they are emotionally and physically, and our refusal to keep quiet when greater advocacy is required. After 25 years, you’d think that women would always have an equal place at the table, but we know that our world doesn’t always honor or acknowledge the value in that. We may be 25 years old, but our work is as important and as urgent as ever.
I want to thank YOU, our friends and supporters, for always having our back and for ensuring that we can continue to deliver thoughtful, creative and personalized programs to all of the clients in our care. Without your support, yesterday, today and tomorrow, these voices might go unheard and forgotten.
We often talk about how Iris House's prevention and outreach teams are out and about: in 2016, we delivered high-touch HIV101 and Prevention Interventions to nearly 700 people and provided 2200 individuals with HIV, Hepatitis C and STI testing. But that doesn't even come close to counting the thousands of people we interact with in health fairs, street fairs and other events.
June is a particularly busy month in the field for Iris House, and our teams appeared in full purple and orange at Queens Pride, Brooklyn Pride, the Bronx Borough President's Pride Celebration, NYC's Pride March, NYC Pride Fest, the Puerto Rican Day Parade and Folsom Street East. Special mention to our team members Antionettea Etienne and Leroy S., whose presence in any Pride Celebration brings cheers of welcome and recognition -- for both them and Iris House!
This year, we were especially delighted to be selected this year as beneficiaries of not only Folsom Street East, but also of a pre-FSE party thrown by the Bully Boyz at the New York Eagle.
Iris House's team is working to End the Epidemic! Like us to join you at your health fair or event? Contact Ken at (646) 548-0100 x303. Like to table with us on September 16 (in NJ) or September 30 (in NYC) for our own Community Health Fair? Contact Michael at (646) 548-0100 x222.
For the community, in the community, of the community: it’s been an exciting spring at Iris House and you’ve probably been around to see some of it! In addition to the new outreach programs you’ve read about on page one, May was a flurry of activity, and we are exhausted (in a great way!)
On May 1st, we had our 8th collaborative fundraiser with celebrity stylist Christo, of Christo Fifth Avenue and Curlisto. He’s been an amazing supporter of ours for over a decade, and we are deeply grateful to him for his ongoing support. This year we tried something new and ventured to a rooftop event space in midtown, The Attic! With friends from New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Washington DC in attendance, we got to celebrate the beginning of our 25th Anniversary Year. It’s hard to believe, but Iris House began its life in 1992 and began delivering services to the East Harlem community in 1993. We will be commemorating our Anniversary with a special project next Spring: be sure to watch out for it!
On Monday, May 8th, we produced the 12th annual Women as the Face of AIDS Summit, and this year with the theme “Resilient, Fierce and Wise,” we offered a challenge to our community to come together in strength and wisdom, stand up for themselves and help advocate for each other. We are all concerned about Ending the Epidemic, and the news from our
Federal Government gets grimmer and grimmer each week. One of our lessons is that we need to come together as a single community: people of color, women, LGBTQ individuals, people living with HIV/AIDS and other chronic conditions and our allies, families and friends and fight for our needs. We all have to rally together, to stand and protest, to call our representatives and to make our voices heard. We hope this year’s Summit brought some inspiration to you. Though we had to postpone our May 13th Health Fair (to September 30, join us then!), we were out on the route at AIDS Walk New York (and breaking our team’s record with over $14,000 raised!)
We continue to sit on and take leadership roles in NY State End the Epidemic workgroups and the New Jersey HIV Planning Group to ensure that our voices — and in particular the voices of women of color — are actively part of the conversations.
As I write this, we’re into June, which is Pride Month here in NYC and our prevention and outreach teams will be all over the City helping people to know their status, get connected to care and have greater independence over their lives!
Ingrid Floyd, Executive Director
Post by Guest Blogger Anne Forbes
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