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


Bringing Sikhi to the Superbowl!

February 7, 2011

Guest blog by Amit Guleria

Amit and his father being interviewed by the Journal Sentinel. Click the picture to watch the video.

My father and I are two die-hard Packers fans who love being Sikhs. On Super Bowl Sunday, we wanted to display our Packers pride and our Sikh articles of faith.

Normally, a Packer fan wears a jersey and a cheesehead. In place of a cheesehead, my father and I wore yellow turbans.

We didn’t think much of our outfits or the reactions we would receive, but much to our surprise everyone loved it! Groups of people by the dozens approached us, praised our turbans and asked to have a photo with us. Some even stood in line and patiently waited to be photographed with two Sikhs at the Super Bowl.

A photographer from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Mike De Sisti, witnessed some of these interactions and asked to interview us about it.

Moral of the story: take pride in being a Sikh.

And if you’re still not convinced, wear a yellow turban to a Packers game. Oh, and cheer for the Super Bowl Champion Green Bay Packers.

– Amit Guleria

Marketing Sikhi?

October 14, 2010

Imagine reading your local paper, and seeing the advertisement below.


Advertisement in the Orange County Register


Sikhs…celebrating Thanksgiving?  But as you read further, you find that they’re not just wishing you a happy holiday, but they’re telling you a little bit about their faith in a simple and accessible way.  Among the countless advertisements selling one product or another, this ad wishing you a happy Thanksgiving is a nice change.

What an excellent way to tell your fellow neighbors about Sikhs – especially on a national holiday that today in its current incarnation is  built on gratitude, love, and respect.  Isn’t that what Sikhi is all about?

We would like to thank Dr. and Mrs. Chadha for their vision and spreading the message of Sikhi in such a unique way.  If you would like more information about creating an ad for your local newspaper OR if you have another idea to spread awareness about Sikhi, please send an email to education@sikhcoalition.org.  We’d love to hear from you!

An Intern’s Reflection

August 19, 2010

Sikh Coalition Staff and Interns at South Street Seaport

Written by Navjot Kaur, Summer Education Intern 2010

After years of following the Sikh Coalition’s work to dissolve ignorance surrounding Sikhism, it was a privilege to take part in their summer internship program. As an individual who was raised in the state of New York by two Sikh parents, I cultivated a deep connection and love for both the Sikh and American way of life, as well as the intersections between both.

Over the course of my internship, I was deeply inspired by fellow interns and staff, who worked and continue to display their faith in Sikhi – as a philosophy that teaches its disciples to treat all of humanity with the most basic level of love, respect, and compassion. Reaching out to others, both Sikhs and non-Sikhs in both the American and global community, was an empowering feeling that fuelled my desire to come to work, everyday, with the determination to bring results and as much of a difference as I could.

As I corresponded with numerous members of the community for education-related projects, many members of the sangat shared poignant, heartbreaking, and inspirational stories as to their experiences as Sikhs. These stories shed light on their struggles to maintain their faith and identity in a constantly evolving but bias-marked world. Having experienced constant bullying, harassment, and the discomforting feeling of “being different” throughout my grade school years, as someone who carries the distinct physical identity of a Sikh, I had always aspired to, one day, take part in an effort to spread awareness about a faith that teaches the beauty of and conviction in being different. Through their work to teach, and open up dialogue – I saw and took part and in ongoing effort to do just this.

There is a diligent, confident, and compassionate spirit that catalyzes all work done at the Coalition, and I am proud to have helped carry the torch for its extraordinarily executed and incredibly altruistic cause as a summer intern.

For more information about the Sikh Coalition’s Internship Program, please click here.

Blogging from the SPC

July 28, 2010

– By Anoop Singh, Education Program Intern, Summer 2010
From the moment my internship with the Sikh Coalition began, to the day after participant evaluations, my top priority was the Sikh Presenter’s Course (which I will, at times, affectionately refer to as the SPC).  After four weeks of planning and three days of execution, I can safely say that the Sikh Presenter’s Course was an experience I won’t soon forget.  My first day as an intern, I compiled a list of restaurants in the area, thinking that it would be a fairly easy task to figure out from where we could get breakfast and lunch catered.

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  However, being a naïve Midwesterner (I hail from small town Ohio), I didn’t account for non-English speaking workers; the first phone call I made was answered by a guy who told me to call back the next day because he couldn’t speak English and the manager wasn’t in.  Similar episodes were repeated throughout the day, leaving me wondering how best to go forward.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not anti-diversity (that would be ironic).  In fact, I’m a big fan.  I would “Like” it on Facebook.  But it wears on you when every other phone call requires questions to be phrased in three different ways to get the gist across. It was truly a New York City experience for me. Needless to say, the process was more difficult than I expected and, when the first day of the SPC came around, I was a little nervous that I might get squid stew instead of Subway sandwiches. Read the rest of this entry »

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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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:

Read the rest of this entry »