Dear All Saints:
Last Sunday, I attended the opening of a new exhibit at the Hoboken Historical Museum, The Fires: Hoboken 1978-1982 by photographer and educator Christopher López. I spoke with Mr. López a number of times as I was working on the same topic for my doctoral dissertation. All Saints was founded in 1983 as a wave of gentrification swept through Hoboken, displacing many people, especially low-income and immigrant populations. Arson was the method of choice for some landlords and developers, and over a five-year period, 56 people died.
My research on this painful era focused on the church’s role in healing the community. Even forty years after, the trauma remains for those who lived through it. I will be speaking on this at the museum on March 5, and a small group of people with whom I have collaborated have been working on placement of a memorial marker for the victims and hope to have that in place by then.
These years were an ugly part of Hoboken’s history, and it’s important to understand what happened because we see the ripples even now in the debates over affordable housing and rent control. Given that those who can least afford it bear the brunt of the decisions, as people of faith we are compelled to step in, to listen, and to amplify the voices of those who might otherwise be ignored.
I hope you will take the time to visit the museum while this exhibit is on display. You can learn more and listen to some of the stories on the museum’s website.
With every blessing as this new year continues to unfold,