Takeover tells the story of the Young Lords’ 12-hour occupation of Lincoln Hospital in the South Bronx in 1970. The hospital was known as the “Butcher Shop,” so poor was the treatment offered to the mostly Brown and Black poor residents of the New York City neighborhood. The activists barricaded themselves inside the hospital, refusing to leave without a promise from the city that a new hospital would be built.
The 38-minute fast-paced documentary is a magnificent resource for the middle and high school classrooms. The film’s creator, Emma Francis-Snyder, combines archival news footage and the photographs of Hiram Maristany with powerful contemporary interviews with veterans of the hospital occupation. Francis-Snyder also made the risky choice to include re-enactments of key scenes in the hospital; these work because they are more impressionistic than realistic, and are narrated by the reflections and recollections of the Young Lords themselves: Iris Morales, Juan Gonzales, Felipe Luciano, Miguel “Micky” Melendez, Denise Oliver-Velez, Celo Silvers, and others.
The film highlights the power and possibility of direct action campaigns and offers a wonderful introduction to the Young Lords’ focus on community organizing around health care — of which the hospital takeover was only a part. The coronavirus pandemic has made the inequalities and injustices of the U.S. healthcare system undeniable — especially for communities of color. This film offers our students critical historical context about the long fight for health justice that continues today.