Peter Tucker, community activist and resident of the Shepherd Park community, was in the midst of daily ritual of listening to a grassroots non-corporate talk show on the radio station 89.3fm a little after 9am, when he heard the announcement that threw him in a new life of community activism. The radio announced that the Merck manufactured HPV vaccine, Gardisil, was going to be mandatory for sixth grade girls in Washington, D.C.
“I thought that they were talking about something that happened decades ago,” said Tucker. “My first thought was of all the medical experimentation that been done on black community. My second thought was that if Merck claims that this drug can prevent cancer, what proof do they have?” said Tucker.
Tucker began to research the Gardisil drug and its history of testing. Tucker discovered that the vaccine was only five years old; therefore there had been no determination of its long-term side effects. He also discovered that there had been no independent testing of Gardisil.
“I suspected that they were trying to hide that Gardisil makes people sick and that they cheated on their testing,” said Tucker.
“The fact that there is no independent testing makes it worse. The FDA approves the drug by just looking over the data given to them by the company that stands to make the profit. I felt that it was going to be a repeat of the Vioxx incident.”
Later, Tucker heard another announcement about people were getting together at Lamond-Riggs Library to organize against the new vaccination law. The people that met there formed a group now known as The Parents and Citizens Committee to Stop Medical Experimentation in D. C.
“I met a bunch of others, and we went to city council before the first vote,” said Tucker. “We lobbied hard and gave them a lot of evidence that this was not a good thing to do. “
The group’s lobbying and evidence made a major impact on the city council.
“We got it pushed back which gives us a small window,” said Tucker. “If we didn’t do it, it would already been given to girls.”
Tuckers public outward protest against the mandatory of the vaccine has had some negative consequences.
” Councilmember David Catania has banned me from testifying at hearings,” said Tucker. “He won’t tell me why. He called me a conspiracy theorist,”
Since joining The Parents and Citizens Committee to Stop Medical Experimentation in D. C., Tucker has also become an advocate for other community movements.
“I hadn’t ever really gotten involved locally until the HPV protests, which led me to other stuff, said Tucker.Now, He also works with Empower D.C. on the People’s Property Campaign.
“I met the Empower DC.org is like my family, said Tucker, “There is a lot we can do, that requires organizing and standing up.”
Tucker has gained respect from his colleagues for his dedication to community activism.
“When I think of Peter Tucker, the adjective committed comes to mind said Oscar Madson, fellow member of Empower D.C. “He is a person that cares about social justice. He’s very active with Empower D.C. and does a lot of work to democratize the media. He is also trying to get the WPFW radio station to cover more local issue.”
Tucker takes on developers trying to buy public property, fights the elimination child care facilities, and also advocates for the homeless and their issues.
No issue seems to be too big or small for young activist Tucker, who is also finding time to finish a Masters Degree in Education at The Institute of Human Education.
“People got me involved an I passed the potato and got people involved,” said Tucker. “It’s contagious, it’s tough work but you meet such amazing people.