Middle Schoolers taking action on (Sikh) civil rights

May 12, 2010

Last Friday, I was invited by the organization Teaching Matters to participate as an “expert” community activist in their annual Civil Rights Student Summit in downtown Manhattan.  I was looking forward to the opportunity to work with such young students of diverse backgrounds on building effective campaigns for civil rights and social justice, but I had no idea how inspiring the experience would be.

The day began at the City Council Chambers at City Hall, where a few hundred students were welcomed by staff at Teaching Matters and a speech by Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who gave the Sikh Coalition a shout out for our organizing and advocacy work on bias-based bullying in NYC schools.

Then the students broke out into groups of a few dozen across the street at Pace University and made 5-7 minute presentations on a civil rights topic they had researched and developed a campaign about.  The “professional” activists in the room then had the opportunity to ask questions, give the students feedback on their campaigns, and share our on-the-ground experience.  With topics ranging from healthcare for all to women’s rights, the presentations were thoughtful and used many forms of media to build awareness campaigns.

What really blew me away was that one of the groups of five non-Sikh middle school students chose Sikh rights as their topic!  Using a great website they created, the students gave an in-depth presentation about the barriers to freedom and equality Sikhs in the U.S. face, from employment discrimination to hate crimes.  The front page of the site states:

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First Sikh Army Grad in Over Two Decades, Photos

March 30, 2010

Check out photos from Captain Tejdeep Singh Rattan’s graduation at Ft. Houston in San Antonio. Click here.

Though the Army’s policy of not allowing Sikhs to serve with their articles of faith intact remains in place, Sikhs can celebrate that Captain Rattan’s accommodation and successful completion of basic training proves Sikhs do not have to sacrifice their religion to serve effectively in the U.S. Army.


All Out for Immigration Reform – March for America

March 10, 2010

On March 21st, hundreds of thousands will gather in Washington, DC for the March for America, demanding “immigration reform for new American families and economic justice for all American families.”  You can see earlier posts on the importance of immigration reform for the Sikh community here and here.  In the spirit of Sikh activism and sarbat da bhala, we encourage community members to join the march in Washington on the 21st.

The March for America’s website states:

Today we are at a pivotal moment in the history of this nation. We are faced with a choice. We can do nothing, and watch as our families and communities continue to be torn apart by the broken immigration system; watch as profiteers continue to take advantage of people desperate for work; watch as due process is taken away from our understanding of justice; and watch as our leaders work on economic solutions that simply aren’t bold enough to turn this country around. Or we can stand up for our families and our communities. Join thousands from across the country at the March For America in Washington DC on March 21st. It is up to us.

Please click here for more information about the march, including transportation.  Buses will be making one-day trips from New York City and other East Coast cities.  Contact sonny@sikhcoalition.org if you want to get on a bus in New York.

See you in DC!


Respect For All Week: Bring Sikh awareness to NYC schools!

February 24, 2010

This March 8th-12th is the first ever “Respect For All Week” in New York City public schools.  During this week, schools are being encouraged to hold awareness-raising programs to combat bullying based on race, religion, gender and more.

The Sikh Coalition is partnering with the Department of Education (DOE) to make the first ever Respect For All Week a success.  But we need your help. We are offering schools free Sikh Awareness Presentations where Sikh Coalition-trained educators will come into schools and conduct presentations and trainings for students and teachers about Sikhism.  Raising awareness about Sikhi is necessary to reduce the bullying and harassment that youth in our community face.  We are also working with the DOE to make lesson plans about Sikh awareness available to all teachers in New York City so they can teach accurate information about Sikhi in their classes during Respect For All Week and beyond.

What we’re asking parents AND Sikh students in NYC public schools to do:

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Congress introduces immigration reform bill

December 16, 2009

This week, Representative Luis Gutierrez introduced a bill entitled “CIR A.S.A.P.” which lays out many real solutions that would get us closer to comprehensive immigration reform (CIR). As previously discussed, The Sikh Coalition fully supports comprehensive immigration reform. This issue is of great importance to Punjabi Sikh immigrants in the United States and is in line with the Sikhi principle of sarbat da bhala.

Click here to tell Congress you support comprehensive immigration reform, and see the Interfaith Immigration Coalition’s press release about the new bill below.

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Getting in touch with our roots (& wings) in Richmond Hill

September 14, 2009

This past Saturday evening, the Sikh Coalition along with the Guru Gobind Singh Study Circle hosted a screening of teenage filmmaker Angad Singh’s documentary, Roots and Wings, at Gurdwara Baba Makhan Shah Lobana in Richmond Hill, Queens.

Angad Singh (right) with Jagmohan Singh Premi

Angad Singh (right) with Jagmohan Singh Premi

Angad Singh, a high school sophomore from Atlanta, GA, was in town for the weekend to screen his work-in-progress film about the struggles of Sikh youth in the US at the Sikh Art & Film Foundation’s Children’s Film Festival at Hofstra University. We decided to show the film in Richmond Hill as well to make it more accessible to youth in the community. Read the rest of this entry »


Bringing it Home, Out of the Shadows

August 26, 2009

Yesterday afternoon I joined several faith leaders from diverse communities for a meeting with Congressman Anthony Weiner (D-NY) in his district office in Kew Gardens, Queens to discuss immigration reform. The Sikh Coalition is a part of growing group of organizations around the country bringing a faith-based voice to the immigration debate, and in particular has been active in the New York Interfaith Network on Immigration Reform.

In the meeting with Congressman Weiner, we discussed what it’s going to take to realistically fix this broken immigration system that has deemed the lives of 12 million undocumented immigrants in this country worthless. 12 million people living in the shadows, at risk of being torn apart from their families and loved ones at any moment. This is a statistic we hear a lot, but as Sikhs, what does it really mean to us? How does it hit home? What is our responsibility as Guru-oriented people?

Yesterday it hit home for me.

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