By Ellie MacLean
While standing at the corner of Tremont and Worthington Street, 56-year-old Seth Burns is able to greet nearly every passerby by name. Over the past 30 years of living in Mission Hill, Burns has made a habit of standing at this heavily populated intersection.
“My favorite part of living here is just being able to walk up and down these streets freely and talk to everybody. Everybody knows who I am, what I do. They say, ‘Hi Seth.’ And I say, “Hi darling, how ya doing? Hi sugar booger, what’s happening?’ And I can say that because they know who I am and what I’m standing for.”
Burns purchased a house in Mission Hill with his wife, Mary, after they both graduated from Northeastern University in the mid 1980s. He fondly reminisces the times when a strong focus rested on uplifting the community. Some of his most vivid memories include the neighborhood block parties, dances and cookouts.
“Back then, it was about how we laughed and played, and it was about how we stood together and prayed. That’s what you call a neighborhood of love,” Burns said.
Burns spent his career in housing management, and he saw firsthand the profoundly damaging effects of gentrification on Mission Hill.
“Half of the original residents have been thrown out into the streets, and have turned to taking drugs. When we had people from other neighborhoods — from the suburbs — come in, all hell broke loose,” he said.
He described the anger many residents felt, along with lies that were spread about the black and hispanic communities at the time. He disdainfully recalled the blatant racism.
“Guys like me, marrying interracially… they ate us alive.”
Though he worries about the ever decreasing amount of available and affordable housing, Burns remains optimistic about the future of Mission Hill.
“What gives me hope is the power of love, peace, prayer, and standing at the corner with my light shining for them to see someone is there to support and help them.”