Tombstone Memorial for 233 Dead

San Jose’s annual December 21 Tombstone Memorial to honor the memory of unhoused people who died this year in Santa Clara County was held on the Arena Green, across from the SAP Pavilion. This year 233 of our unhoused neighbors died, of whom 122 were people of color. Eighteen people died from the cold.

A small group gathered at 11 AM to hear speakers from the unhoused community and friends, including activists Sandy Perry and Shaunn Cartwright, shown in the photo above. The tombstones are painstakingly designed by people who are unhoused themselves, formerly unhoused, and friends and relatives. They include the names and ages of the deceased along with basic personal information where available.

It was decided to move the project this year because the memorial service it was previously associated with has shifted its focus from the voices of unhoused people themselves to elected officials (notably the Mayor). Many feel that officials responsible for perpetuating homelessness should not be part of a memorial service meant to honor those who are forced to experience it.

The 2023 Tombstone Memorial was held in recognition of the fact that this year there is a dark spirit spreading over America and the world. Now more than ever it is time to recommit ourselves to compassion and hope and turn away from condemnation and oppression.

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