by Carol Harvey
On Earth Day, Friday, April 22, 2022, in San Francisco, organizers under the direction of local organizations Youth vs. Apocalypse and Greenaction for Health and Environmental Justice led roughly 1,000 young people who marched with environmental advocates from Union Square to City Hall.
They were demanding climate, social and environmental justice for Hunters Point and Treasure Island, two low-income communities of color that have been suffering from radioactive and chemical contamination for generations under City officials’ blind eyes.
City Hall steps were draped with a huge yellow banner demanding “Lennar stop contaminating and driving displacement in our communities.” Lennar has constructed apartments and condos on Hunters Point and Treasure Island, two superfund sites radiologically and chemically contaminated by the Navy and inadequately cleaned up, despite oversight by the Environmental Protection Agency.
Beneath Mayor London Breed’s window, Arieann Harrison, founder of Marie Harrison Community Foundation, Inc., for environmental and social justice, gave notice: “We are on our way to ruining the planet.”
She said she was “moved emotionally to tears to see the marchers coming down the street. You are the legacy,” she told the youthful crowd sitting below.
Holding them up as champions of the future who are bringing about social and environmental change, she advised, “When you dream, dream big.” She warned them not to let anyone destroy their dreams.
“There is no social justice without environmental justice, and no environmental justice without social justice,” Harrison said, “especially when you are dealing with isolated communities that are impacted by radiological waste. We are seeing our children get sick, and young women getting diagnosed with cancer at 20 years old.”
Kamillah Ealom, Bayview Hunters Point resident, community organizer and project coordinator for Greenaction, spoke as well, saying she started this work as a youth advocate at age 13.
“I’m so proud that you guys came out today,” supporting the Bayview Community, “as we stand up for our human rights on Peoples Earth Day.”
Ealom demanded removal of all contamination away from the shoreline, because, “with rising sea levels, groundwater will flood the site.” She called for “full cleanup and comprehensive retesting of the Hunters Point Naval Shipyard,” but not capping, “which is like a band-aid that will fall off.”
Among the many young speakers, two African-American preteens, Twan and Angel, 5th graders at Tenderloin Community School, explained how climate change, pollution and radiation are affecting Treasure Island, and how that affects them.
Angel has lived on the island about eight years. Standing at the mic, he told the crowd: “I kind of do like living on Treasure Island. Everyone’s nice, and the sunsets are beautiful. But, the radiation should be cleaned up. We should be able to go outside without being afraid that the ground is contaminated. I want to feel safe. I want to feel happy.”
His partner at the mic greeted the crowd, “Hi! It’s Twan,” he said. He had lived on Treasure Island for almost four years.
“We need to get all the radiation off the island,” he said. “Out of nowhere, I had a really bad fever once, and I couldn’t get out of bed for like about a week.
“I still visit,” he said, “but it’s not safe. People get hurt, and that’s not okay.” Angel’s and Twan’s fears are not unfounded. In September 2021, a 10-year-old boy named Sammy Johnson, who lived on Treasure Island, died of a brain tumor. Sammy’s death was most likely caused by contact with his dog, who developed large tumors after digging in the dirt behind the family’s townhouse at 1221 Mariner Drive.
Addressing air pollution from nearby freeways, Harrison urged: “We need to advocate for AB 617,” an Assembly Bill requiring the California Resources Board (CARB) and air districts to develop and implement additional emissions reporting, monitoring, reduction plans and measures to reduce air pollution exposure in disadvantaged communities.”
Take action today: Share this article with your networks and spread the word to advocate for AB 617 and for Black and Brown communities in the Bay!
Carol Harvey is a San Francisco political journalist specializing in human rights and civil rights. She can be reached at email@example.com.