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.


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.


Reflections From a Sikh Coalition Nasher

June 9, 2009

By Cassie Moy

Cassie Moy was a Sikh Coalition intern in the New York office for the 2008-2009 school year. Cassie is a Junior at Stuyvesant High School in Manhattan and lives in Jackson Heights, Queens.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009, marks my last day as a Sikh Coalition intern.

Eight months ago, the start of my junior year in high school, I would not have defined myself as anything in relation to the Sikh Coalition, and today I’m proud to think that I have contributed to this organization that has inspired and taught me so much.

cassienasherEight months ago, I was fresh out of the Summer Institute, a summer program designed by the
Sadie Nash Leadership Project (SNLP) to “promote leadership and activism among young women…. designed to strengthen, empower, and equip young women as agents for change in their world.” (SNLP participants are referred to as “Nashers.”) It was a wonderful experience that really fine-tuned my world view and contributed to my growth. Walking out of the Summer Institute I felt strengthened, empowered, equipped, and ready to be an agent of positive change. There was no question as to whether or not I was going to participate in the second part of SNLP’s program: Community Action Placement, or CAP.

CAP landed me an internship with the Sikh Coalition last October.
It became a gentle barrage of new experiences for a high school student who had never before worked or spent significant time in an office setting – from getting friendly with Microsoft Excel to a run out in the rain to make a last-minute shipment. And networking like I had never networked before in the name of begging my friends and classmates to please, please take this survey and pass it on.

Read the rest of this entry »


The Spirit of Sewa

April 30, 2009

I came across an enthusiastic email in which a community member requested pamphlets to distribute at her Gurdwara for an ‘event’. I was shocked by what unfolded.

Principal Surjeet Singh and the Khalsa School in of Sri Guru Singh Sabha Gurdwara in Glen Rock, New Jersey organized a sewa opportunity for their students. The concept was brilliant and simple – a shoe shine! Youth gathered to shine shoes for Gurdwara attendees. But they didn’t stop with this valuable lesson in giving, labor and humility. Youth asked for donations to give to the Coalition. They also asked that folks sign the petition to allow the Sikh identity in the U.S. Army.

At the end of the day, the group gathered hundreds of dollars from small donations and hundreds of signatures which I added to our total petition count of 8,543 (2,245 were mailed in) to date.

We encourage community members to engage their local sangats!

If you’re interested in fundraising, please download this form. If you would like to help gather signatures for the U.S. Army campaign, please use this form. The rest is up to your creativity and perseverance.


A crowd gathers

April 14, 2009

Sikh Coalition Army Press Conference, Iwo Jima Memorial, Washington, DC

9:45 a.m. est, Monday April 14, 2009

Very soon, we’ll begin the news conference. The stage is set. Curious tourists and students inquire about the event, significance of the turban and more generally about Sikhi.


Amardeep Singh: “Let us all say to our grandchildren…”

April 13, 2009

Sikh Coalition Army Campaign Fundraiser, White Tiger Restaurant, Washington, DC

9:45 p.m., Monday April 13, 2009

“I was there the day that we launched the most significant campaign for Sikhs living in America. I supported the attorneys that fought the case. I proudly signed the petitions with my name and comments. Your life my child is better today because of the work we  did.” Amardeep Singh comments to close fundraiser.

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If you would like to financially support the Coalition’s work this Vaisakhi, go to:   http://www.sikhcoalition.org/donate.asp.


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