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.