Iris de la Cruz, activist and namesake of Iris House.
by Beverly Rotter
Iris commanded attention, always bursting into a room, turning an outsider into a friend with a blunt remark, confronting people who looked at her struggle with drugs and prostitution and finally with AIDS as shameful and telling them she was not ashamed. She fought the stigma of AIDS, her body weakened but her spirit and humor never waned. She was an inspiration to so many people that she was afraid her dying would disappoint them. Iris was loved and respected as an activist. She worked with Life Force, women educating women, and wrote a column for people with AIDS a newsline called ‘KOOL AIDS WITH ICE.” It was a humorous assault on bourgeois pieties which flirted with the bizarre. Her writings were filled with salty memories of street life and practical (if weird) advice on living with the illness. She produced political and educational materials and became a widely sought after public speaker. She started the first support group for positive women and another for hetero singles. She would only stand for so much romanticizing. In one of her columns she wrote, “There are the ditzes who insist that they love this virus because it’s part of them. Tell me this after you’ve stopped counting the deaths or have spent time with someone suffering from dementia. Let’s get this straight, I hate this virus and it’s the hatred and rage that keeps me going. Wimps get buried.” Her life was hard and crazy, loud, funny, angry, drifting at times but ultimately filled with purpose. AIDS produced her finest moments. It has been many years since Iris passed. I have been very involved with people with AIDS and I have found that they are going back into the closet. They are ashamed of a virus that they are carrying. What it means to me is that they will not be getting the medication and care they need and would rather die alone in the streets than go for help. Iris wrote these words to help people and it’s time to bring her words to life again and perhaps save some lives. The new medication is not working on women as well as on men. I know this for a fact because I did sit on the Board of Directors at the Iris House. We rented a large space but unfortunately we outgrew it and had to buy a building.
Somewhere along the way the women have lost their spirit. They would never think of asking their men to use a condom for fear of getting a beating. So they get AIDS and die with shame and guilt. Women need to regain their strength and get mad, yes they need to get very mad and fight back. Anger is motivating and I think so many of the words of Iris De La Cruz will make them realize they are victims and should be angry.
Beverly Rotter is the mother of Iris De La Cruz, a founding board member of Iris House and organizer of “Mothers March Against AIDS.”
by Rebecca Scott, Food and Nutrition Services
Resolutions are synonymous with the turn of a new year. Self-improvement lists, including weight-loss goals and the elimination of unhealthy habits, are habitually made by December 31st, yet infrequently maintained for more than a couple of weeks. Here are some simple tips to help keep you on track to create a healthier you in 2013.
Make small changes, one at a time!
Trying to completely makeover your diet or exercise routine in one go is a recipe for failure. Behavioral changes take time! Aim to incorporate one small change into your routine at a time; once you successfully implement the first change, add another. Continually incorporating small changes will lead to the realization of long-term, sustainable healthy choice-making!
Be specific in your goals
Setting a broad goal for yourself, such as “losing weight,” can seem like an impossible task. Be specific in outlining how you will realize your long-term objectives: come up with concrete changes you will make, one at a time, that will help you achieve the end results you desire. Some specific goals for weight-loss include replacing soda with seltzer water; eating whole pieces of fruit instead of potato chips for your snack and incorporating twenty minutes of walking/jogging into your routine four times a week.
Measure your progress
It always feels good to succeed in our endeavors! Check to see how you’re doing in meeting your goals by keeping track of your progress in a journal. Actually seeing that you increased your exercise from 15 to 30 minutes a day over the course of a week, or that you lost two pounds since you last weighed yourself, will help motivate you to continue with your health-supporting plan.
Seek support from your social network
Encouragement from loved ones is another major motivator in making (and sustaining) healthy choice-making. Let your friends and family know about your goals, and allow them to offer words of support and encouragement to keep you on track. You can also get the social circle involved; many people have greater results when completing diet and exercise plans with a partner or group!
Some helpful, easy to include changes, to create a better you in 2013 include:
Preparing half and half (whole) grains – If you struggle to incorporate whole grains into your diet, start with a half and half mixture of whole and refined grains (e.g. ½ whole wheat pasta and ½ regular pasta; ½ brown rice and ½ white rice). Starting with a half and half mixture increases your whole grain intake while allowing time for your tastes to warm up to the healthier grain options.
Substituting fruit for sweets – Don’t let your sweet tooth get the best of you! Use naturally sweet fruit to fulfill your sugar cravings. Experiment with new fruits to find tastes you like; or make a fruit dessert, such as baked apples or pears.
Alternating exercises and intensity levels
Don’t let the marathon runner in the park intimidate you; you are out to better your own personal health! There are many options for incorporating physical activities into one’s routine; no matter your level of fitness or physical limitations. Experiment with different exercise programs until you find one that you enjoy!
Some great beginner options include:
Yoga for relaxation (Integral Yoga Institute, located on 227 W. 13th St offers donation HIV yoga classes)
Stretching and meditation
Walking at different speeds (alternating between normal, brisk and jogging as appropriate)
Modified push-ups and sit-ups
Swimming (The Hansborough Recreation Center, located on W 134th between Lenox and 5thAvenue, have pool memberships for less than $100/year)
Start with these small changes, and you will certainly realize a healthier you in 2013. Good luck!