June 25, 2013 (Washington, DC) - Jakaras were heard in the White House this past Friday during a briefing on Sikh civil rights issues in the heart of the federal government. This briefing, the second of its kind, was organized in collaboration with the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and the White House Office of Public Engagement at the request of the Sikh Coalition.
Over 100 activists from around the United States attended the briefing. Leaders from New York, California, New Jersey, Texas, Ohio, Georgia, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Virginia, and Indiana, traveled to Washington DC for the event. The assembled group included Advocates from the 2011, 2012 and 2013 classes of the Sikh Coalition's Sikh Advocate Academy. The group also included members from the Junior Sikh Coalition, a youth group of emerging activists based in New York City.
The leaders and activists participated in the briefing in the Indian Treaty Room in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. Commissioner Chai Feldblum of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission; Kimberly Walton, Assistant Administrator of the Transportation Security Administration; Anurima Bhargava, Chief of the Educational Opportunities Section, of the U.S. Department of Justice; and Grande Lum, Director of the Community Relations Service of the U.S. Department of Justice talked about the federal government's efforts to combat employment discrimination, airport profiling, and school bullying respectively. In addition, Audrey Buehring, Deputy Director of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders spoke about the work of the Initiative to address Sikh and broader Asian American and Pacific Islander concerns. Finally, Gautam Raghavan and Paul Monteiro of the White House Office of Public Engagement addressed the participants.
In addition to the scheduled speakers, attendees were grateful for the words of Major Kamaljeet Singh Kalsi and Harpreet Singh Mokha, Mid-Atlantic Regional Director of the Community Relations Service at the briefing.
The assembled community members enthusiastically questioned federal agency officials after each of their presentations. They shared critical feedback and ideas on how the federal government can better connect with and serve the Sikh community.
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Feeling of Momentum
The genuine excitement and feeling of momentum among the attendees was inspiring. The assembled Sikhs were grateful to have shared their ideas with top-level officials and participated in a historic event. The White House and assembled federal agency officials all expressed the hope that this second briefing would continue to build momentum so that Sikhs can be better connected to the White House and their government.
As always, the Sikh Coalition urges all Sikhs to fearlessly practice their faith.