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