As I typed the subject line on this blog post, I could hardly believe what I was typing. Is it really almost the end of the pro bono journey that began when I left Oakland on July 1, 2015? And just like that -- it's nearly over. Holy moly.
This week is my last week in New York City. And I am saddened to leave (as I typically am to some degree whenever I leave a project stop and head to the next destination). I've been riding the wave of varying emotions over the last couple days -- a sentiment I expect to continue until I leave this Friday.
As for what's next, I'm heading out of NYC and making my way to Philly -- where I will be on the ground working at the Berks Family Detention Center for a week. Then, I'll be heading to Montgomery County outside of Philly to do GOTV for Election Day. I am excited to get back to my organizer roots that week -- and do whatever the organizers currently on the ground need me to do! (And help ensure that this other guy doesn't get elected...).
After my time in Philly, I'll continue to make my way south for the final destination of this journey: Lumpkin, Georgia -- where the Stewart Detention Center is. I worked on a case from the Stewart Detention Center while I was doing appellate work up in Chicago.
The Stewart Detention Center is the largest detention center in the United States for adults. And the immigration relief rates at Stewart are well, miserable. Just 1.1% of cases there resulted in some form of relief, and only 5.1% of asylum applicants were granted. As with everywhere else I have been, I feel like I need to be there and experience it for myself.
And that will take me to the end of my journey here in the United States. My last blog post for the domestic leg of my project will be on Tuesday, December 6th. I'll be sure to announce my next steps by then -- and how these mailings will shift and change. :-)
It's been such a different experience living in America's densest city for the last 2 months. And soon, it's back to rural America and isolated detention centers. The diversity of cities, towns, and places in the United States continues to astound me. But just as a friend from law school told me over a year ago in Bakersfield, California -- I am reminded that no matter where I go -- there I am.
A New York State of Mind
Last night, I had met up with another friend -- actually, this friend was also someone I had met during my time in South Texas, this time at the Karnes Detention Center. The topic of where I've been and where I may like to eventually stay came up.
There are still some other projects and things I need and want to do before I feel like I am going to move somewhere for the medium/longer term (again, more on that in the upcoming weeks!).
But I told my friend last night that there is something about being back on the East Coast -- it's part of me. There are many parts of New York (especially in the Bronx) that remind me of back home in Lowell, MA. And it reminds me of where I came from and what some of my values are. Because no matter where one goes, that sense of self is really what is "home" -- as elusive as it can feel at times.
My 10 year run in Southern and Northern California was so instrumental and formative. It was an enormous part of who I am today. But I would notice the hesitance whenever someone asked me where I was from -- saying California never felt like the right thing to say, despite being there for a decade. I'd always say outside of Boston -- even though I hadn't lived in the area since I was 18 years old.
There are large swaths of working class neighborhoods in New York. The Gleason family since immigrating to the United States from County Cork in the 1880s has been firmly planted in working class neighborhoods. My great-great grandfather worked on the Great Lakes barges traveling from Duluth, MN to Cleveland, OH -- where my extended family still lives to this day.
My dad always said that Cleveland was like a bigger Lowell. And to me, the Bronx is a bigger Lowell. There's something it that feels -- just right. And I'm hopeful that if/when the time aligns in the future, I can just as easily come back to this place that ranks among the handful of places that feels like home to me.
In the meantime, it's heading back down south for me at the end of this week! If you or anyone you know is in greater Philly or Atlanta and would like to meet up -- please let me know! The main thing that carries me throughout traveling and working from place to place is knowing that you are there in support and friendship. 'Til next time!