Sharpton Joins Fight To Save Brooklyn’s Interfaith Hospital

[Eye On Brooklyn]

During The Harlem Renaissance of the 1920’s a prominent literary figure, Claude McKay, penned a poem titled, “If We Must Die”.

In it he challenged the community to keep fighting injustices, even when their backs are against the wall. Well, with backs against the wall, on Tuesday, New York State Nurses Association, Local 1199 Union, The Rev. Al Sharpton, Politicians and the Bedford-Stuyvesant community joined forces in a Rally and Town Hall meeting to save Interfaith Hospital.

A group of staff members and demonstrators marched from the Interfaith Hospital entrance on Pacific Street, down Fulton Street to The King Emanuel Baptist Church at 342 Malcolm X Blvd. On the journey they carried signs and chanted, ”they say cutback; we say fight back”, as people who drove by and ordinary folk looked on. New York Police Department vans, cars and scooters were on the scene.

A resident Police Precinct team even threatened to shut the demonstration down if they did not get out of the streets. Undeterred, the demonstrators pressed on, in search of justice.

At the church, Union Delegate and Nurse Charmayne Saddler-Walker, gave the most poignant example as to why the hospital should not be closed.

Only a couple of hours before she joined the marchers, a Police Officer rushed down Fulton Street on a scooter to the hospital, carrying a baby in his arm. The quick care saved a life. Had the hospital been closed the child may not have survived traveling the added distance to another one.

Interfaith Hospital is located in Brooklyn, a Borough whose population increased by over 60,000 new residents recently. The hospital is in the heart of Bedford-Stuyvesant, a community undergoing gentrification. It serves a population of over 11,000 residents each month. This Teaching Hospital sees over 40% of AIDS patients from the community; it has a high ratio of patients with heart problems, and with limited mobility seeking geriatric care. It is an easy access for pediatrics.

Interfaith hospital is scheduled for closure because of financial difficulties.

The faithful are praying for some form of intervention even as the darkened clouds approach. Even the announcement of the hiring of a new President and CEO of the hospital drew a thunderous applause. The closing of hospitals in Brooklyn was stressed throughout the evening.

There are too many not to notice: Long Island College; SUNY Downstate; Brookdale; and, Interfaith.

All of these hospitals are located in communities with large populations of people of color. This glaring miscarriage of justice was addressed by City council member Letitia James, Comptroller John Lui, City council member Dr. Mattieu Eugene, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, Public Advocate Bill DeBlassio, 1199SEIU President George Gresham, New York State President of the Nurses Association, a host of elected officials from across the city, Clergy and community residents.

Rev. Sharpton reminded the crowd that he was a Brooklynite. He said that he was committed to the plight of Interfaith Hospital and promised “to be here every Tuesday night because we have issues that will not be solved with one Rally.”

He added “the Supreme Court overturned section 4 of the Voting Rights Act. Everything Dr. King fought for has been destroyed”.

Sharpton continued: “If you have any integrity, you always make sure where you come from is alright, we cannot allow Governor Cuomo to close Interfaith Hospital, we must make it clear that they will not close Interfaith, including moving up in the building, so that they do not close Interfaith.”

His point was well taken.

And, to quote Claude McKay again: “Though hunted and penned in an inglorious spot, if we must die, O let us nobly die so that our precious blood may not be shed in vain. Like men we will face the pack. Pressed to the wall, but fighting back!”


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