Bridging the Gap Between Tradition and Radical

May 14, 2010

I recently watched Kavita Ramdas’ engaging TED talk on Radical Women, Embracing Tradition and haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since.  Ramdas, the president & CEO of the Global Fund for Women, explains how the concept of ‘tradition’ can be brought into radical thought and be used as a tool to create social change.

She calls this solution a ‘third-way raga’ that challenges some of the most commonand accepted polarities in society (ie. modernity vs. tradition, first world & third world, etc).  We can understand how an extreme relationship between ‘tradition’ and ‘radical’ can be ineffective in our organizing and it is inspiring to hear how we can bridge the gap in order to further mobilize us as agents of change.

The best part of her talk is the way in which she communicates her message; she uses colorful and inspiring stories of women from around the globe who have used traditional approaches to resist war and other oppressive practices.

I’ll let you see for yourself and hope Ramdas’ message will provide some insight on how we can use her methodology in our day-to-day practices and communities.


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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Sikh Coalition Advocacy Projects

May 5, 2010

On April 18, 2010, the Sikh Coalition was privileged to receive recognition for its work from the Guru Gobind Singh Foundation Gurdwara in Rockville, Maryland.  As detailed in the following video clip, although the Sikh community has definitely made progress in the post-9/11 environment, much work remains to be done.