by The People’s Minister of Information M.O.I. JR Valrey
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Read the transcript of the first part of the interview here: Dr. Raymond Tompkins: How and why does pollution poison Bayview Hunters Point? Part 1
The Health Department – Dr. Aragon – stated that out of 11 (San Francisco supervisorial) districts, Bayview Hunters Point has the highest asthma, heart attack and stroke rate due to particulate exposure that gets deep in your lungs, clogs up your alveoli (tiny air sacs in the lungs) and it’s like you’re bubble wrapped. It’s coated, so the heart has to work harder when you are asleep at night to keep up your oxygen level so you don’t die.
Consequently, you have an enlarged heart and therefore that gives you strokes and heart attacks. In one of the elementary schools when Dr. Paul and I in ‘98 did studies on volatile organic compounds (VOCs), in the air in Bayview, 55 percent of the first graders were asthmatic as defined by a physician. I go back in 2006 and visit the school and 85 percent of the babies are asthmatic.
Lennar’s work at the shipyard put dark-skinned people at greater risk
The air has gotten worse, not better. So these are some of the things that are caused by the dust, the construction and the latent chemicals they have not cleaned up since World War II – plus the current concentration of light industry just outside our neighborhood that all blows into our neighborhood. Yet currently less than 1 percent of African Americans who live in Bayview work in that area and reap the economic benefits. All we get is the pollution and death.
Also one other point I want to make: The Air District did a study released in April of 2014 stating that in terms of BVHP, we have the worst life expectancy in all of the Bay Area. If you live in Bayview Hunters Point, compared to a person in San Francisco who lives in a Russian Hill neighborhood, residents in BVHP live 14 years less.
In Oakland, those who lived in West Oakland next to the old army base and port live 11 years less. In Richmond, next to the oil refineries, their life expectancy is shortened by nine years, but Bayview has the worst life expectancy of the whole Bay Area.
So there is something going on in the air. There is something about the chemical composition of this air; chemicals could mix together in the air, what we talk about in science as a synergistic effect, possibly creating even more deadly chemicals as these things are mixed. These things are not measured, and I have been arguing in these meetings for these thing to be examined and looked at.
Currently less than 1 percent of African Americans who live in Bayview work in that area and reap the economic benefits. All we get is the pollution and death.
M.O.I. JR: Well, can you speak a little bit about the air pollution in Bayview Hunters Point – in particular the air pollution created by Lennar with their drilling into the serpentine rocks as well as what happened a few years back with Candlestick?
Dr. Tompkins: Ok. Couple things. The serpentine rock is the state rock of California and it’s a very poisonous rock. Let me explain how it is. Have you ever been to Stonestown or one of the shopping areas and got a Mrs. Field’s chocolate chip cookie that has the walnuts and the chips and all these other parts? and you crumble it and how the chips and walnuts fall out and it falls apart?
The serpentine rock does the same thing. When you crush it to knock the hill down, it has arsenic in it and the arsenic element falls out and becomes airborne; it becomes real fine dust and you breathe it.
It has asbestos fibers in it, naturally occurring asbestos fibers in the rock. When you crush it, it gets in the air. It has manganese; you need it for life, but too much manganese affects your immune system.
Because African Americans, Africans period, because of the melanin in your skin, you tend to attract these metals. You accumulate more of this quicker; you’re put at greater risk. Again I argue, with the Navy and the rest, all those years that I sat on the Navy’s Restoration Advisory Board in terms of how you protect the African American and the Samoan populations, the brown skinned people.
They said we’ll just cover it (cover the contaminated areas, such as landfills, with a “protective” layer of soil – ed.). They don’t want to remove it.
Lennar was found guilty and they made an out of court settlement over how they were working on Parcel A (the only part of the Shipyard that no longer belongs to the Navy but has been transferred to the City and given to mega-developer Lennar – ed.) and how they were failing to monitor it (the air pollution) correctly. The contractors that they hired had over 68 days of missing data, which just coincidentally was the prime time when they knocked off 30 percent of the hill.
They leveled 30 percent of the hill in Parcel A when their monitors weren’t working. Just coincidentally. They were supposed to put water on the dirt to hold the dust down.
They were taken to court or sued. Some of the children had bloody noses. Arsenic is a two edged beast, a chemical we need to understand can be either used to save your life or to kill you. Just like a knife, you can use it to cut a piece of meat or you can use it to stab somebody.
Arsenic is used in medicine as Coumadin, a blood thinner, but also arsenic is a rat poison that they use for poisoning rats. They found that the children who were adjacent (to Lennar’s massive earthmoving operation) in Parcel A had some of these chemicals in their bodies because of the exposure.
They had nose bleeds and other symptoms. If you are sensitive and you use a blood thinner and you’ve been exposed to it, it’s logical to see that you would get nose bleeds. There was an out of court settlement – I don’t know what it was – but they did not do it correctly.
Demolition of Candlestick Park stadium
Now as far as Candlestick (Point, the next peninsula in the Bay south of Hunters Point) is concerned, initially I was given a call from Golden Gate Environmental Justice Law Clinic and asked did I know that the original EIR (Environmental Impact Report) had been changed from a demolition proposal by Lennar to an addendum, meaning you just missed something and needed to put it in the proposal.
They changed it to say they were going to blow up (the huge old stadium at) Candlestick Point. I read the document. If you were in my class while I was teaching in Berkeley environmental chemistry and engineering, I would flunk you for turning in a paper like that. I would flunk you at San Francisco State if you turned in a paper like that.
It’s like I told them when they had the town meeting at Bret Hart Elementary School (located very near the stadium) and I took on all eight of their engineers, this independent team they hired: “Where did you learn your science from? What? Did you do flunk basic geometry in high school?”
When you do geometry, you are supposed to have your theory, your idea, then your proof, your mathematical proof, how this is supposed to take place. They submitted their report to the Planning Department for a permit; they approved it but did not really look at it until I challenged them on the validity of their science.
There was not one mathematical formula to prove that what they were saying was true. They claimed that if they blew up Candlestick Stadium that all the dust would stay in the parking lot. I went on YouTube and got all kinds of videos of different implosions throughout the United States, showing that this stuff does not stay in the parking lot.
The Alberta, Canada, health department did several studies showing that when you implode a building, when you blow it up, the dust cloud travels over 10 miles, 20 kilometers. Their recommendation: You do not blow up buildings in urban settings.
If you notice, in San Francisco they only blow up buildings in poor communities. They blew up Geneva Towers in the poor community next to the project. They wanted to blow up Candlestick in Bayview Hunters Point. They didn’t blow down the freeway over there at Doyle Drive. They didn’t blow up the Jack Tar Cathedral Hotel over there on Van Ness.
They don’t blow up nothing in white people’s neighborhoods, just in poor people’s communities do we blow it up. The testimony was given in the community; over 350 people showed up a St. Paul of the Shipwreck (Catholic church, located near Candlestick) to tell Lennar, “Hell no, we don’t want you to blow up Candlestick Stadium.”
One poor man, because they didn’t give ample notification over at Geneva Towers, walked out into the cloud and he already had a pre-existing heart condition. He was dead within 15 minutes because the dust just clogged up his lungs and killed him. There were several other people rushed to the hospital with severe asthma attacks, and we have a very serious problem with asthma in BVHP.
They don’t blow up nothing in white people’s neighborhoods, just in poor people’s communities do we blow it up.
Right now I am in a battle with the Health Department over the low standard they are using. We won the battle for them not blowing up Candlestick Park, but the standards for dust control are lower than the state standards for the state of Texas. Texas says you stop working (when the wind blows) 20 miles an hour, and you put water on the dirt at all times.
They can run it past 25 miles an hour right now because it was all economics. If you blow it up then you just get your scoopers and you scoop the dirt on out. We had to make them break it down so you can tear it down and you can work at 25 miles an hour and it’s blowing (the pollution) in the wind all over.
Anybody who’s been to a baseball or football game at Candlestick, you know that wind blows all over the place. But they went over to the San Francisco airport and used wind direction 15 miles away in San Mateo County and said that’s the wind pattern in Bayview Hunters Point, which is a lie.
We set up our own weather station and we have data, empirical evidence showing the wind direction, showing that the wind swirls up on the hill where almost 3,000 people live, up in the condos and the homes. They have not met with us yet. I am still waiting to meet with them.
They turned around and gave me a copy of this ridiculous report of only 16 words from their inspection doing field investigation on how they are supposed to conduct the demolition. And you want to call this a scientific report, and somebody’s getting paid to do this?
They now are going to do a checklist. They tried to hand me a report, and I said: “What is this nonsense? What are the operational definitions? How do you define these words? What does this mean?” Oh we’re going to make it a check-off list. They took it back.
Just because I happen to be of African descent doesn’t mean that I don’t know what the hell I am talking about. I want to protect my niece and her children who live right behind Alice Griffith housing in a private home. She has a right to clean air. Those children have a right to live and to breathe clean air. But yet for the greed of a dollar, they will sacrifice all of them.
Understand, Candlestick Point, the development at the end of this project in 20 years, will be worth over a hundred billion dollars. The shipyard will be worth a hundred billion dollars. Treasure Island will be worth a hundred billion dollars. That’s $300 billion. (The City gave Lennar the land and exclusive rights to develop all three locations. – ed.)
Do you not think they would get rid of us – and use the excuse, “We’re following the law”? Wow.
Planning a new Southeast Health Clinic – for whom?
I am on the advisory board for the Southeast Health Clinic and they plan to put a new clinic out there at Southeast. Now they had a Black architect, Stevens, who designed it, who did the survey and everything else for the people. They threw his stuff out and spent almost another $2.5 million and came up with this design. We’re arguing, debating this.
I am asking the doctors, “Well, who is your population? Fifty-five percent of the total population that goes to the Southeast Clinic are African Americans. Now, we have a high rate of asthma and we have a high rate of cardiovascular disease, but yet you don’t have an ear, nose and throat specialist over here to handle asthmatic children and acute attacks so you can stabilize the patient? You have no cardiovascular unit to stabilize the patients?
What are you planning? To get rid of us and let us die off and then you’re going to do this imaginary thing with the multi-millionaires over there? Because those highrises they plan to build over at Candlestick Point are going to be multi-million-dollar units. These units are designed (to protect residents from air pollution), because of Article 38 – please go read it; they just passed it. (Malia) Cohen, our (District 10) supervisor, passed this.
I reviewed the documents. These buildings will be like a hospital. They will have their own filtration systems; two doors will open simultaneously so that the air inside will be sucked out and filtered through an activated charcoal filter so that those people living in these buildings will have filtered air and will not have the exposure.
But you living in your home, if you bought your home, you’re going to breathe the pollution. So the rich will have filtered air; poor people or working class people will have to breathe the polluted air.
The rich will have filtered air; poor people or working class people will have to breathe the polluted air.
M.O.I. JR: Wow.
Dr. Tompkins: That’s what they have on the record and they are trying to build a clinic to cater to them and I’m saying very vehemently – and some of the other members of the advisory board, too, are saying: “No, you are going to address our medical needs here and today, not this mythological population you’re going to bring in after we are dead or driven out of this city.
“Take care of our medical needs now. You are making your money off of us. This is what we need. We don’t need to be going to General Hospital and dying on the way. If our children are getting shot in the street, why do they have to drive all the way over to General and die on the way. Why don’t you have triage, treatment, where you could stabilize this child and then transfer them over to General?
“Oh, but the cost!” they cry. Well, how much do you put on the value of my life? Now that they don’t need us working on the shipyard, they shut it all down and poisoned generation after generation.
Let me make that very clear to you and to your audience. The average life expectancy of a Black man working the shipyard was 42 years. I had the privilege of talking to Joe Tasky, the second person who worked there.
He talked about how they took irradiated animals and threw them on their back and took them over to the pit – that’s what they called it because it was nothing but a big hole – and they dumped all the waste products in there. These men not only worked in all the nasty chemicals and the radiation, they weren’t only exposed to this, but they never educated them or their wives. They never told the men: “Don’t wear your shoes in the house. Don’t have your wives wash your clothes with the children’s clothes.”
The average life expectancy of a Black man working the shipyard was 42 years.
So in the ‘90s, Dr. Jeffrey Gillis and I were part of the review team on breast cancer and the elevated rates. When Debby did her work, we found that breast cancer among African American women was the highest in the world at one point – in the world, right in Bayview.
But they said, oh, Debby didn’t do her study long enough range, where you spread it over a 50-year period. She only chose a short time period (to study), and it was the peak. That’s all a lot of BS when they want to can the methodology and not deal with the problems.
Let me show you how racism flows. Dr. Lou Grismond, MD, PhD, a cancer researcher, had a PhD in chemistry as well as being a physician, wonderful human being. See, I don’t have no time to practice racism. The color of your skin ain’t got nothing to do with it. It’s what’s in your mind and what’s in your heart and how do you look at it.
There are some Negroes out there in BVHP I wouldn’t trust with two dead flies, because they sell me, you and your mother out for a pat on the head and a penny to try to get over. I don’t have time to be a racist, and Lou was on the cutting edge of science, so I love that. I try to be on the cutting edge of it.
We’re dying too God damn young
Let’s get to the latest. I want to have young Black men and women, thinking men and women, come behind me and take it over and move forward and protect us. I don’t need to look at Dr. Kevorkian’s son. I can do the dying on my own.
That’s the problem: We’re dying too God damn young and I’m looking for ways for preventing, not reacting to the deaths. I don’t want to die, at least not that quick. I’m going to eventually leave this earth, but let it be along with the resident average, and not this short term that they are shortening our lives on.
Debby did the breast cancer research, and if you look up the Scientific America October 1995 edition, it’s called xenoestrogen. It’s where the pesticide DDT breaks down to DD5 after a period of time and on a hot day it heats up just like you take a wire hanger you start bending it how it gets hot and then it breaks, that’s how the atoms do on DDT.
America used tons and tons of it, all up and down in the Sacramento Valley, for growing the vegetables. Well, chemicals don’t disappear. None of us are God; we can’t make things disappear. We can change the form, but the atoms are still there and they settle down in Bayview.
That’s because half of the water now (that used to flow into San Francisco Bay) is being diverted down to the valley to grow the vegetables. So we don’t have a washing out of the Bay like we did before, so we have this accumulation.
So when Lou started working in Bayview with me, we found … I’m looking at the young women’s faces. I went to the funerals. These are not laboratory rats. These young women – 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, there was no 26 year old, 27 – who haven’t had children should be at the low end of the breast cancer risk, and three of these women died because of the concentration of the pesticides.
What happens, it acts as a xenoestrogen. It’s a perfect receptor on the cell. It sends a message to the cell to grow more veins. It grows more veins around the milk glands, more veins around the milk glands increases the lumps, and more lumps (grow) in the breasts. It’s just a mathematical curve whether you get the increase of cancer.
Right now, for your audience, all women in the Bay Area should get their mammograms and do that earlier. Black women, according to the John Hale Medical Society, should do it at 35. Don’t be waiting until 40 and 50. That’s economics. Forget about white women and think about your own health and what puts us at risk.
And we men, we need to go get that colonoscopy and quit worrying about you lost your wiggles to the doctor and he’s playing with your behind. Too many of my good friends have died because they didn’t get in and get their colonoscopy done. By the time they checked, it was in the fourth stage of cancer.
See with colon cancer, your nervous system on the outside of your body lets you know if you fall, so when you start to feel the pain from colon cancer from internal to outward, it’s spread all throughout your body and it’s too late. I lost two of my best friends to preventable cancer if they would have gone in and checked it.
And I’m guilty; I didn’t go in until I was 53 to get a colonoscopy because I didn’t want them messing with my butt, and they found out I have sleep apnea. My anesthesiologist cussed me out. He said, “Do you know you quit breathing on my table?” I thought I was going to have to jumpstart your butt. My doctor was one of my buddies from junior high school telling me I have serious sleep apnea. I’m just lucky I went in, didn’t put it off.
To your audience, please, please go get your checkups and get them early. Don’t put it off. We’re talking about your lives and that you then will be able to be here with your children and be able to take care of them as well. You deserve that and your children deserve to have you here.
I’ve been to too many funerals, I’ve cried at too many, too many unnecessary and too many too early in life, yet I know that if we work together, we can make a difference. It’s about we can overcome – not me, WE can overcome.
To your audience, please, please go get your checkups and get them early. Don’t put it off. We’re talking about your lives and that you then will be able to be here with your children and be able to take care of them as well. You deserve that and your children deserve to have you here.
M.O.I. JR: Can you speak a little bit about the Black Health and Healing Summit?
Dr. Tompkins: Yes. The Rafiki Coalition for Health and Wellness and African American Health Coalition put on a summit on March 19 at San Francisco State University, dealing with different topics in terms of health. And we actually had healthy food that tastes good, so you wouldn’t want to spit it out. You gotta to have food that tastes good. It can’t be just “yuck!”
We had workshops and discussions on “Black Men’s Health and Healing Circle” and “Physical Health: Moving Past Physical Effects of Stress and Trauma.” We all suffer from this. There was a workshop on mental health. I conducted the “Environmental Justice: Your Environment and Your Health” workshop, and there were other topics, such as “The Future of Healing” by Dr. Butler.
There will be another conference on Justice as well, because I have seen for this conference that Black Health Matters – just like Black Lives Matter – Black health, the quality of health. And we need that. I’m tired of seeing too many Black folks dying in the hospital. They have no business doing that; it’s because of inadequate care and not looking after each other and not getting that second opinion and getting that second test.
I had to say goodbye to my mother in December. But I had a team of Black doctors looking after my mother. I may have run a hospital lab, but I’m not a physician. I’ve been fortunate. But it is part of why I’m still involved in research and science.
I hope to engage young men and women of conscience – of all races – to get engaged and to avoid the stereotypes and fight for people of color and marginalized people to have a quality of life that is worthwhile living and not to have a short life. We have a Superior Court judge in San Francisco (who dismisses the huge health disparities) saying, “You Black people are just dying, and that’s it.”
I’m not willing. I’m going to be old and evil when I go, and I’m not quitting. I want to see the next generation come behind me and take over and lead, just as we have had great leaders (in the past), such as Dr. Coleman, Arthur Coleman (who practiced out of his Arthur Coleman Medical Center in Bayview Hunters Point and made house calls until his death).
We have a Superior Court judge in San Francisco (who dismisses the huge health disparities) saying, “You Black people are just dying, and that’s it.”
Dr. Coleman was a physician. He went back to night school and got a law degree, and passed the bar the first time around. He did house calls, because they had no Muni buses that went up on the (Hunters Point) hill. So he went to the patient. He said he went back to get his law degree because people asked questions about the law, and he couldn’t answer his patients’ questions. He didn’t want to leave his patients in ignorance. I love and respect that man.
Dr. Goodlett – I’ve had some meetings with Dr. Goodlett. They named a street after him (one block in front of City Hall). Not only was he a physician, he started the Sun Reporter newspaper.
I worked for Dr. Johnson, the pharmacist who had the pharmacy under Dr. Coleman. He went bankrupt because the state of California was four years behind in paying him for the medicine he gave to Black people. And he gave quality medicine, not some garbage. He went bankrupt, so I never did get (paid so I could buy) my little car. I never did get my Ford Falcon. But he delivered.
And these are the type of men and women who came – Miss Westbrook and Dr. Espanola Jackson, who just passed away – who fought for us here. (I, too, fight for the community,) and it’s not just because I’m qualified. There were more Africans from the continent of Africa attending San Francisco State than they had Black people from here. They had PhDs working at the post office because no one else would hire them. So I’m not running around here with my finger in my behind and saying, “I’m all this.”
I’m here because Arthur made it possible, and I owe, we owe. We owe it to ourselves to look after each other. And that’s what I’m about. Hopefully, I can inspire other young men of conscience to participate in this and get involved. You don’t need a damn doctor to make a difference in people’s lives. That’s my passion, to engage each other and look after each other and help each other.
M.O.I. JR: No doubt. Well, Dr. Ray Tompkins, thank you for coming on the Block Report and giving us such an eloquent, articulate and informative history about the area and the Black population that lived in the area as a mass since World War II.
Dr. Tompkins: I thank you for allowing me to have the opportunity to speak and for you to have the concern and the consciousness to bring up these issues to the public so that it may stimulate people to think about what is going on and just not run out here in the darkness.
Like Public Enemy: Don’t believe the hype. Because there’s a whole lot of BS that is being pushed out here, and we need to speak truth to the powers that be, and we need to know the truth for ourselves. We don’t need to be lying to our children or to ourselves. We need to be honest and for real with each other, because, in the end, all we have is each other, and if we don’t look out for each other, we will be gone, because these people are that cold.
M.O.I. JR: How can people get more information about some of the work that you are doing and keep in touch with you on line.
Dr. Tompkins: I want to stay in touch with you, JR! I’m going to keep you informed on this. People can also contact me at Rafiki Wellness, 415-615-9945, extension 103, and you will be speaking to Maxine. And Maxine will get ahold of me, track me down.
I will be doing a particulate air study later on. I would love to have residents participate in it. I have the most cutting edge of technology in the world, and my other colleague, Dr. Palmer at San Francisco State, is using X-ray fluorescence analysis.
I just had a meeting with Stanford. I’m trying to recruit them. And also UC Davis. So, I’m trying to get the top universities to get in with me.
And the Air District is willing to work with me as well, so that I can get us involved in real science and getting to the truth, whatever it may be – get to the truth and share it with each other, so we look out for each other.
I haven’t changed. I’m still that same old guy from the ‘60s, and I can’t give up the truth. Dr. King fought there, and I have been blessed to be around great human beings. I can’t betray who they are, or me, because that’s what they taught me, and I’m not giving it up.
M.O.I. JR: Thank you, Dr. Ray Tompkins.
Dr. Tompkins: I am very much trying to get young men and women interested in science. Because I’m tired of being in these meetings where I’m the only Black face in the meetings, talking about science on the theoretical side and arguing with them on their theories and showing them and denouncing them on ridiculous nonsense.
I want the next generation. It’s like half time at the football game. Well, I want to pass the ball on to them at half time and guide them and put them at the cutting edge of knowledge, so they can take what I started and take it even further and protect us.
M.O.I. JR: No doubt. Thank you for coming on.
Dr. Tompkins: Thank you for having me. I really, really appreciate it.
The People’s Minister of Information JR Valrey is associate editor of the Bay View, author of “Block Reportin’“ and “Unfinished Business: Block Reportin’ 2“ and filmmaker of “Operation Small Axe“ and “Block Reportin’ 101,” available, along with many more interviews, at www.blockreportradio.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.