Let’s show up and show out

4/11/2024, 6 p.m.
Members and supporters of the Save Community Hospital Work Group remain vigilant in their quest to have Virginia Union University ...

Members and supporters of the Save Community Hospital Work Group remain vigilant in their quest to have Virginia Union University officials publicly declare that the historically Black university will not demolish the former hospital on Overbrook Road.

The group’s latest effort came on Sunday when more than four dozen people gathered on the grounds of the decades-old hospital building to implore anyone within earshot to hear their concerns and join their cause.

And what a mighty cause it is.

Since early February, the Richmond Free Press has published several articles and photographs that chronicle efforts by the work group, organized by public servant Viola Baskerville and business owner Farid Alan Schintzius, to save the hospital. Built in the early 1930s, the former Richmond Community Hospital was designed to treat Black people when white medical facilities refused to do so.

Virginia Union University currently owns the building and, during a news conference in the university’s Living and Learning Center on Feb. 2, VUU President Hakim Lucas said the building would be demolished to make room for new housing units on the site and at other nearby VUU-owned properties.

When many VUU alumni and longtime Richmonders read about VUU’s plans, they mobilized by writing letters to the Free Press and other media outlets. Many of those “other” outlets have dropped the ball on covering this important story. But not the Free Press.

Images and words in this edition of the Free Press encapsulate the emotions, thoughts and words by many in attendance.

Historian Selden Richardson said “the joy generated when hundreds, thousands of babies held by proud parents emerged into the sunshine for the first time on these steps. Think of the pride of the professionals, who have been trained for years in medical school, finally had a chance to practice and aid their own people after generations of mistreatment and lack of facilities.”

Attorney and historian Bessida Cauthorne White, said Richmond Community Hospital provided the community all that was needed in one space.

Ms. White, an attorney, genealogist and community historian who was born in the hospital on Dec. 28, 1947, shared photos and memories of the family and doctors who connected her to the hospital that she visited for routine medical visits, emergencies and other occasions.

“All of those folk, the doctors, the patients, the nurses left such a legacy that we must preserve. They sang a song that they’ve left with us, and we’ve got to keep that music

in our hearts, and as long as we do that and preserve this space, then I think they’ll be happy.”

Mrs. Baskerville, 72, also a trained lawyer who has dedicated her life to serving others said “What we’re trying to do is continue to be visible, to keep the issue before the public.

“There were people out here today that weren’t here last month,” she added. So that tells me the word is going out to the community and people are willing to come forward and share their experiences. We’re thankful.”

The next rally to save the former Richmond Community Hospital building is scheduled for May 5, 2024.

We at the Free Press encourage all Richmonders—whether you live across the river, on the river, on the South Side, North Side, East End, Fulton, West End, Byrd Park or the Fan—to be there.

Let’s show up and show out. Think of it as a summer of 2020 reunion. Those sorrowful spring days that morphed into summer after the murder of George Floyd. When we all gathered to demand the removal of those Confederate statues on Monument Avenue.

If we can dance, dine and dunk in anticipation of the destruction of such symbols of oppression, certainly we can do the same for the survival of our own institutions that symbolize breath, healing, hope, life and community.