Interfaith CEO/President LaRay Brown Has a Message for the Community
Interfaith Celebrates the Women in the Health Justice Movement
With Bedford-Stuyvesant under assault both health-wise and economically, people ask what they can do to bring about change.
An answer can be found in the example of the transforming role of the actions of the women delegates of 1199 and NYSNA. It was they who provided the boots-on-the-ground that filled legislative offices and the passion that unsung heroes and heroines bring to movements.
And the movement at Interfaith Medical Center is an old one. The goal of the broad-based Coalition to Transform Interfaith – – a coming together of unions, elected officials, clergy and other community leaders – – is to fully integrate Interfaith into the community so that its economic impact is felt by local businesses and job seekers.
As Interfaith Board member Roger Green explained the Center must change from the “neo-colonial” model to a community-controlled entity that is free to determine where its economic impact should lie as it delivers state-of-the-art health services.
Thanks all of you and I especially thank the ladies. Because, as was said, eight women in particular who are strong and who persevere and are willing
to go the extra mile are worth 8000 folks who are just tepid in their belief.
Today is the last day of my fourth week. So what I can tell you for sure is that I really don’t know very much. But I’m learning. And I’m learning from folks who know a lot. And not because they have lots of degrees or things behind their names. They know a lot because they’ve been in the struggle, because they stayed. Because they stayed and they’re committed to this medical center. And I don’t want to say this institution, I want to say this medical center because I don’t want to say this hospital. Because one of the things that I want to make sure that I imbue upon everyone who’s committed to transforming Interfaith is that they’re committed to not only transforming what happens in this building, but what happens at Bishop Walker. What happens at the small dental clinic that we have on Bedford. That we have off of Eastern Parkway. What happens on Bergen Street where we serve 450 individuals who get methadone maintenance treatment. Where we serve individuals who have HIV and who need primary care. And I want to do more of that. I want to do more in the community. I want this institution, this medical center to be seen as a resource for the community.
Now I can tell you someone said there are lots of challenges. Believe me, there are challenges that you don’t even know about.
So, a couple of things. Someone mentioned about the need for this facility, this medical center and others that are of a community to support a community. And not just providing the health care but the economic strength, the economic health of the community.
We had some unfortunate events my first week in this facility that some of our Interfaith family members all know about. And I said to folks here, do you have a list of the MWBE businesses? Do you have a list? Because we need to get some plumbers, some painters. We need to get some folks to do some remediation in here. And folks looked at me… They just looked strange.
So I call someone who had worked for me 20 years ago who works in the governor’s office, who’s responsible for some of the MWBE certification. And I said to her before she got to work, send me the list of certified MWBE businesses in Brooklyn. I asked folks, and some of your witnesses to this, I asked some of my colleagues to call the elected official’s offices. I also called myself. And some of the responses I got when I called was this is the first time anybody has ever called and asked us for this.
We need to make sure that this community sees us as part of it. As strength of it. And as it is. So it’s not just about me and my face. It’s about all of the people who work in this organization. And it’s about all the folks who will work in this organization so, because the best ambassadors of any kind of organization, particularly if it claims to be a community-facing organization, are the people who work within it.
And I know there’s lots of work to be done. But you have to have aspirations. You have to have dreams. You have to have a vision. You have to aspire for the best possible of anything. And I aspire for us to be the best possible health care provider in this community. I aspire for folks to say… They were talking 10 years ago about closing Interfaith. Now we’re going to be sending folks there to figure out how to do it right.
One of the things I commit to is using the experience and the energy that I’ve used in the past 30 years of working with many, many, many organizations. And for us being not competitors, but partners in doing the right thing on behalf of our, our community.
So I’m going to stop there. I’m still learning, my vision is evolving. I’m working with our board on that. But I commit to you that I’m here. I’m committed to this Interfaith Medical Center. I’m committed to its growth. I’m committed to not just surviving but to thriving and I will go anywhere to anyone to tell our story. Thank you.