Irvienne Goldson, longtime ABCD health advocate, dies

Friends, family and colleagues of Irvienne Goldson said to know her was to love her. 

Sadily, Ms. Goldson, who served as deputy director of Action for Boston Community Development (ABCD) Health Services, died suddenly last week. 

Ms. Goldson joined ABCD in 1992 as manager of education and training and rose to become deputy director of ABCD Health Services department and a powerhouse of healthcare advocacy in Boston. 

Irvienne Goldson

“It is with the deepest sadness that I share that Irvienne Goldson passed away suddenly,” said EBCD President and CEO John Drew in a statement announcing her passing. “Her rare leadership and unflagging commitment to the Boston community made her not only respected but beloved.”

Drew said with more than 30 years’ experience in health education and training, and curriculum and program development, Ms. Goldson was a trailblazer, teacher, and tireless advocate who saw health equity as a human right. 

“With a passion for reproductive health, HIV and adolescent sexuality, she was an innovator who championed the inextricable link between equal access to health information, education, and care to personal development and empowerment,” said Drew. “Frequently recognized for her work with under-resourced people of color, particularly girls and young women, Irvienne was a woman of vision, determination, and action. We at ABCD mourn her loss as a dear friend and colleague, and we grieve alongside all those who knew her and loved her. Her heart was immense, her impact immeasurable. We will miss her always.”

Former Director of ABCD’s Jamaica Plain APAC/Boston Hispanic Center Ivana Serret said Ms. Goldson was always there for the young people of Jamaica Plain. 

“When I was the Director of the ABCD Jamaica Plain APAC, Irvienne was there for young people in the neighborhood with programs that caught their attention, empowered and educated them,” said Serret. “There was Sister2Sister – a one-to-one prevention program that uses video, brainstorming and skill-building activities to educate young women about sexual health and to reduce their risk of sexually transmitted disease. There was “Safer is S.E.X.Y (Sophisticated Empowered Xtraordinary You) – a social media and community outreach campaign that uses social media as a tool to increase awareness of and educate Black and Latina girls and women and their partners about the impact of HIV on our community. There was the “It Pays” program for teens and parents to prevent teen pregnancy. Those are just a few of the initiatives Irvienne orchestrated. She always focused on advocating to ensure people had access to gain the knowledge necessary to be educated about their health. She truly made a difference in so many lives and I will truly miss her very much.” 

Operations Manager for ABCD Roxbury/North Dorchester Neighborhood Operations Center Joane Guzman said Ms. Goldson always tried to make the lives of Boston residents better. 

“When COVID-19 hit, I worked alongside Irvienne as she set up testing sites at the ABCD Thelma Burns center in Roxbury and other community sites, partnering with Whittier Street Health Center,” said Guzman. “She made sure all communities were served – Roxbury, Mission Hill, Jamaica Plain, Dorchester. Her program “Sister2Sister” touched so many lives, educating young women about reproductive health and sexuality. She was an advocate and supporter, dedicated to making everyone’s life better.”

Former ABCD Health Services Director Joan Whitaker, who worked closely with Ms. Goldson for so many years, said Ms. Goldson was always a champion of women’s and community health. 

“From the 1980s when Irvienne was part of the founding of the Cambridge Feminist Health Center, she has championed women‘s and community health,” said Whitaker, who retired in June. “She has exemplified empowerment for young people and community building by developing creative programs that have been key to alleviating health inequities. With compassion and wisdom, she has mentored and provided opportunities for countless young women of color. I will miss her kindness, her warmth, and the focused advocacy that have benefited me over the 27 years we worked together at ABCD.”

Current ABCD Health Services Director Jessica Aguilera-Steinert added, “Irvienne changed the lives of many young people in Boston and beyond. Young black and brown girls, women and men were her family, her joy and her purpose. She was a fierce advocate and had a lifelong commitment to educating and agitating around sexual health, reproductive justice and health equity. She taught us to be brave and to advocate for others. As one colleague said ‘she walked in her purpose.’ At ABCD, Irvienne was a force to be reckoned with. While working in the Health Services department as the Deputy Director of Community Prevention Programs for 27 years, she developed and led programs in reproductive health, HIV and STI prevention, sexual health and girls leadership and empowerment. Irvienne believed and fought for justice and we will continue to fight in her memory.”

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