Diversity Video Competition Winner Has THIS To Say…

March 30, 2011

When approached to write about my personal experiences with the Sikh Coalition, I was quick to accept the task. It’s pretty simple really: Girl subscribes to the Sikh Coalition e-newsletter. E-newsletter informs Girl of film contest. Girl whimsically enters contest. Sikh Coalition votes Girl as finalist. Girl thinks Sikh Coalition is weird. Girl wins contest on popular vote. Girl thinks greater population is weird. Girl officially becomes Sikh Coalition volunteer. Moral of the story: Don’t enter contests organized by the Sikh Coalition, for if you win, you will wind up indebted for life.

Oh Sikh Coalition, how I kid thee…

It has been great getting to know you. In fact, the process has been an outlet: creative, spiritual, and social.

Watch Chandani’s winning video:

I have always been proud to be Sikh in spite of questioning it like mad. I grew up in Virginia – not Northern Virginia where Indians have infiltrated the scene in droves but Chesterfield where confederate flags soared proudly from pick-up trucks in my high school parking lot and the opening of a new Walmart highlights the town’s chatter. Situationally (and personally) my relationship with Sikhism has been an internal one. With time, however, the need for resolve surrounding the bolstering ambiguity and questions of religion became more evident. This unease coupled with circumstances, placed me in the mix of the North-Eastern tribe of Sikhs. Even after living in Manhattan for 5 years, I revel in the amazement that so many of “us” live in one area. From the glamorous tri-state area Sikhs at the gala that followed the Sikh Arts Film Festival to the vibrant crowd of my generation when filming the Coalition’s Bowl-A-Thon fundraiser and each such subsequent encounter, a new perspective of sangat took shape. This only left me with more questions – an articulation of thoughts perhaps for another post.

Watch Chandani’s video on the Sikh Coalition’s New York City Bowl-a-thon:

My latest and most important project for the Coalition was the Year in Review clip highlighting the organization’s campaigns in 2010. I accepted the task quickly dismissing the uncharacteristic cynicism, however slight, that I felt towards the Sikh Coalition as a non-profit organization. How are donations actually spent and is justice an actual output? Perhaps these pointed questions stem from the luxury I’ve grown up in. That is, the luxury of not having my rights abused. The luxury of not feeling isolated by the way I look. Or the simple luxury of having grown up in our chota Richmond sher di Punjab and in a family that holds education in high regard, that by default, I sincerely believed all Sikhs were established members of society who have reaped the benefits of this supposed land of dreams.

What I learned (besides my need to better voiceover recordings) is that our people are being abused and violated, feel isolated and unsafe…constantly. The time, effort, and money required to bring justice to each case spans over the course of several weeks to several years and if it weren’t for organizations like the Sikh Coalition to devote each of these to our community, then who would hear our voices? Would tolerance be a greater obstacle than it is already? Would you personally reach out to a fellow Sikh in need, see justice through or create awareness? I didn’t. While it exists to bind our community near and far, the Sikh Coalition more importantly gives each of us a voice. Mine, while perhaps different, has begun to crescendo into existence. To you, Sikh Coalition, I thank you for not only loaning me speakers, but for all the work that you do for our Sikh community.

written by Chandani Kaur Kohli


Beyond a lifetime, still inspiring

August 16, 2010

~ By Sally Hartman, Sikh Coalition Legal Fellow

As my legal internship with the Sikh Coalition comes to a close, I have begun to reflect on my experience over the course of the past three months.  I feel fortunate that my time with the Coalition has been characterized by a unique blend of a legal and cultural education.  By getting to know the Coalition staff and hearing stories of victories in the community, I have come to realize the extent to which their lives truly embody the spirit of heartfelt advocacy.

Air Marshal Dr. Puran Singh Bajwa

I am mindful that none of this would have been possible without the generous support of the family of Dr. Puran Singh Bajwa.  Through honoring the memory of Dr. Bajwa, they have opened the door for countless other future attorneys to explore the rewarding and uplifting field of Civil Rights law.  This opportunity is consistent with the essence of Dr. Bajwa’s life.

As an Air Marshal in the Indian Army, Dr. Bajwa was noted throughout his career for his dignity and his proud practice of the Sikh faith, serving as an inspiration to many generations of military personnel who followed him. In his retirement, the advanced study and practice of Sikhism and teaching it to his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren was Dr. Bajwa’s chief pursuit in life. As a physician, highly decorated military officer, and community leader, Dr. Bajwa literally touched and made a lasting impact on tens of thousands of lives.

I am hopeful that my work this summer has, in some small way, been able to mimic the incredible dedication that characterized Dr. Bajwa’s life.  I have been honored to work alongside our staff attorneys to educate both the government and private-sector employers as to the Civil Rights of Sikh men and woman who are being discriminated against.  By familiarizing myself with the relevant legal context, honing my research skills, and drafting advocacy letters, I truly feel that I have taken a step forward in a promising direction.  I hope to continue this journey as I go forward in my education, and make Civil Rights Law a central part of my future practice.

Thank you once again to the family of Dr. Bajwa.  In helping make possible my experience this summer, you have honored his memory, established a meaningful opportunity for future lawyers, and bestowed a wonderful gift on the Sikh community.


Racial Profiling: The Bigger Picture

March 2, 2010

SikhCo Responds to Colbert’s “Terrorist Midget” Image

January 13, 2010

Colbert Report Terrorist MidgetOn January 6, 2010, Sikhs made an appearance on Stephen’s Colbert’s popular daily news spoof, the Colbert Report. Unfortunately, it was not in a good light. In fact, the segment showed a man wearing a beard and full patka while the voiceover describes him as a “terrorist midget.”

Yes, some may consider this funny, but at the same time, it doesn’t do our community any favors. Read the rest of this entry »


Broadening the Circle of Backlash

November 11, 2009

In the aftermath of the Fort Hood tragedy last week, several Sikh organizations (including the Coalition) sent out a joint email warning Sikhs to be alert of possible backlash against our community. The name of the shooter who killed 13 people on the military base – Nadal Hassan – put Sikhs around the country in immediate danger, given the high risk that we would be mistaken for terrorists and become the targets of hatred and violence because of the way we look.

But one of the first reports of a hate-fuelled beating as a supposed result of the For Hood attacks did not involve a Muslim or a Sikh or an Arab or South Asian. In fact, it was of Rev. Alexios Marakis, a Greek Orthodox priest, in Tampa. When he got lost on his way back from a blessing, the priest stopped a young man to ask for directions. That man turned out to be Lance Cpl. Jasen D. Bruce, a Marine Reservist, who proceeded to beat the priest over the head with a tire iron and chased him for three blocks. The Marine believed the Reverend was “an Arab terrorist” because of his limited English proficiency. Read the rest of this entry »


The Veto of California’s Kirpan Education Bill – FAQs

October 20, 2009

As many of you have already heard, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger last week vetoed a proposed law pertaining to Sikhs and Sikh articles of faith, including the kirpan. In the aftermath of the announcement, there has been some confusion about the purpose of the law and the meaning of the Governor’s veto. Below, we have tried to address a few of the main questions we are being asked by community members about the bill and the veto. Read the rest of this entry »


Counting Every Sikh in Census 2010

August 24, 2009
Click Here to read the form for Census 2010.

Click Here to read the form for Census 2010.

Over the past few weeks, the Coalition has received varied requests for our involvement with Census 2010 efforts across the United States. Next year’s census count promises to be one of the largest mobilizing events of this administration. But the Sikh Coalition has decided not to play an active role in the Census next year for the reason described below.

Read the rest of this entry »


New Video: From the Classroom to the Capitol

August 24, 2009

Filmmaker Kevin Lee just finished a new short documentary film entitled From the Classroom to the Capitol: The Sikh Coalition. The film was screened for the first time on August 8, 2009 at the Sikh Coalition’s first ever gala in New York City.

Kevin Lee is a an award-winning, New York-based filmmaker who also directed the films Warrior Saints and Dastaar: Defending Sikh Identity. This new documentary, From the Classroom to the Capitol, includes interviews with community members who have experienced discrimination or hate violence as well as Sikh Coalition staff members and interns who provide a behind the scenes glimpse at the Sikh Civil Rights movement in the United States.

We are grateful for Kevin’s commitment to documenting these stories which are so important to Sikhs in the U.S. and around the world.


Time to Wake Up

August 12, 2009

By Manpreet Kaur, the Sikh Coalition’s Advocacy Intern for Summer 2009.

I attended the Hemkunt Foundation Speech Competition in Los Angeles this past weekend, where I spoke about the Sikh Coalition’s work on the Sikh Right to Serve campaign. My hope was to inspire some of the participants to take action in support of the campaign, as Angad is doing in this video.

Over the summer, I’ve been saddened to see the lack of drive in college age individuals to make a difference. During the Sikh Coalition’s DC grassroots week, I handled a lot of behind the sceens outreach and communication. Read the rest of this entry »


Since when did a haircut make a good soldier?

June 16, 2009

By Manpreet Kaur, the Sikh Coalition’s Advocacy Intern for Summer 2009.

Even as Sikh Americans are battling to keep their right to serve in the U.S. Armed Forces, our president went on national television last week and told the entire nation that the mark of a true soldier is his crew cut. While the episode was intended to bring a few laughs to the heroes fighting for our nation in Iraq, the statement reminds us how long a road we must travel to ensure that our military reflects our country’s great diversity.

Read the rest of this entry »


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