For many progressives and people that become seriously committed to global justice there is a moment where everything clicks. I remember when I had my “ah-ha” moment. I was at my grandfather’s Detroit Townhouse when he presented a large, blue binder to me across the dining room table. I was sixteen years old.
The binder contained the stenograph documents of my great-grandfather’s deportation trial. There was an attempt made between around the 1920s by the U.S. Justice Department to kick out well over 10,000 immigrants mostly from Eastern Europe for “radical activity.” My great-grandfather, Peter, was just one of those immigrants taken during what became known as the Palmer Raids.
He traveled to the State’s from after deserting the Bulgarian Army during the Balkan Wars as a pacifist and anti-royalist. He came to the US in New York as a fur worker. He was politicized through his travels and the people he met at his workplace and in his churches. After settling in Detroit, he became very active in union organizing and socialist activity. After the failed attempt by the US Attorney General to deport him, he had toned down his radicalism, but stayed active with unions.
I reflect on this part of my life often. I feel like it’s important for me as an organizer to understand where my politics come from and at what points they developed.
I took a lesson from hearing this story.