Community activist, attorney, educator, film maker, former executive director of the Union Square Awards, Iris Morales (1948 – present) is now working as the director of the Manhattan Neighborhood Networks El Barrio Firehouse Community Media Center.
Thanks to her creativity in using her various skills, Iris Morales always built bridges between conflicting interest groups. Her education as a lawyer and an educator helped her in her involvement in community activism. She always used her knowledge to help people in need, for example as a tenant organizer with the West Side Block Association in East Harlem. Furthermore, she helped the Latino youth to obtain agency by supporting and promoting educational neighborhood programs.
Radical Young Lords Activist (1969 – 1975)
Iris Morales joined as the first woman the Young Lords Party in 69 and soon became an important advocate for women’s rights. She held the position of the Deputy Minister of Education and leader of its Women’s Union organizing Puerto Rican communities for racial, economic and social justice. As part of this militant group, she fought for better social and political conditions for her Puerto Rican neighborhood. Her key concerns were better housing and education and improved health care. As the New York Young Lords went through changes, Morales continued to advocate for women and workers’ rights.
In 1996, Iris Morales was able to publish a documentary film she produced by the name of “¡Palante Siempre Palante!: The Young Lords”. This documentary is a great heritage of the Young Lords and her feminist principles are still a source of inspiration and education for new generations of Puerto Rican activists.
Iris Morales was always very closely connected to her community in East Harlem. As a lawyer, she also helped to establish Luchadora an organization and newsletter that advocated feminist concerns of Puerto Rican woman. Furthermore, she was the director of the New York Networks for School Renewal and education director of the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Educational Fund. Moreover, she also became the director of the New Educational Opportunities Network. Before accepting her current job as director of the Manhattan Neighborhood Networks El Barrio Firehouse Community Media Center, she run the Union square Awards which is a projects that intents to recognize grassroots activists.
In 1966 Iris Morales started her studies as a political science major at the City University of New York.
In 1975 she received the prestigious Root Tilden scholarship to attend New York University School of Law where she obtained her J.D.
As the first Puerto Rican, she received the Root Tilden scholarship in 1975 to attend New York University.
Iris Morales produced a documentary on the Young Lords in 1996 called ¡Palante Siempre Palante!: The Young Lords.
She also wrote a short story, called “I became the one that translated … the go-between” about her childhood and about how she grew into the role of a mediator.