Executive Director Honored at Auburn Seminary’s Lives of Commitment Awards Benefit
On April 23, 2014, Sapreet Kaur, Executive Director of the Sikh Coalition
, was honored at Auburn Seminary’s 18th Annual Lives of Commitment Awards Benefit
in New York City. The annual benefit
honors resilient leaders of faith and moral courage, who work tirelessly to bridge religious divides, build community, pursue justice, and heal the world. Sapreet, the first Sikh to ever receive this award, was honored alongside notable community and thought leaders Chelsea Clinton, Linda G. Mills, Patricia Fili-Krushel, the Rev. Dr. Jacqueline J. Lewis, and Rabbi Jennie Rosenn.
to see photos from the event.
to read more.
Celebrating Vaisakhi at the Pentagon
On April 25, 2014, for the first time in American history, the Office of the Pentagon Chaplain commemorated Vaisakhi, one of the most religiously significant days in the Sikh tradition. The ceremony took place in the Pentagon’s chapel in front of an interfaith gathering consisting of military leaders, congressional staffers, service members and Pentagon civilian employees. During the program, Sikh community leader Inni Kaur gave a powerful summary of Sikh theology
and community activist Valarie Kaur explained the significance of Ardaas
to view photos from the event.
to read more.
15 U.S. Senators Sign Letter Supporting Sikhs in the U.S. Military
On April 25, 2014, 15 U.S. Senators—led by Virginia Senator Tim Kaine—sent a new letter
to U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel requesting improvements to the Pentagon’s new religious accommodation policy. Under new Pentagon rules adopted this January, current and future Sikh service members may be required to remove their turbans, cut their hair, and shave their beards in violation of their religion while their accommodation requests are pending. The Senate letter builds on earlier letters sent by 105 members of the U.S. House of Representatives
and the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights
requesting protection for Sikh religious rights in the U.S. military. The Sikh Coalition is grateful to supporters nationwide who sent over 2500 petition emails to their U.S. Senators in support of the letter.
to read a blog post by Senator Coons on the issue.
to learn more about our historic campaign to secure equal opportunity for all Sikhs who wish to serve in the U.S. military.
Luncheon Highlights Contributions of Asian American Service Members
On May 6, 2014, representatives of the Sikh Coalition, as well as Major Kamaljeet Singh Kalsi, Colonel Tina Kaur Sodhi, and Mr. Yash Singh Sodhi, attended a luncheon highlighting the contributions of Asian American service members in the United States Armed Forces. The luncheon was organized by the Asian Pacific Institute for Congressional Studies (APAICS) and Pan-Pacific American Leaders and Mentors (PPALM). Guests included Admiral Harry Harris, Jr., Commander of the United States Pacific Fleet, and retired U.S. Army General Tony Taguba. The Sikh Coalition is grateful to the organizers, including Mr. Floyd Mori and General Taguba, for highlighting the importance of diversity in our nation’s military.
Major Kalsi Honored by Association of the United States Army
On April 23, 2014, the New Jersey chapter of the Association of the United States Army honored Sikh Coalition client Major Kamaljeet Singh Kalsi and General Carter Ham. During his remarks, Major Kalsi spoke about his experiences serving on the front lines in Afghanistan as well as the need for diversity within the Armed Services. Major Kalsi's remarks received a standing ovation from the nearly 300 service members in attendance.
Sikhs Represent at AAPI Women's Panel
On April 21, 2014, five Sikh girls attended a panel discussion with Nina Davulri, Miss Ameirca 2014; Julie Chu, four-time Olympic Medalist of the U.S. Women’s Hockey Team; and Tina Tchen, Assistant to the President and Chief of Staff to First Lady Michelle Obama. The panel, hosted by the White House Office of Public Engagement, White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI), and White House Council on Women and Girls, provided an opportunity for those in the audience to hear and learn from the speakers. Our young Sikh representatives actively participated in the dicussion and enjoyed meeting Nina Davulri, Julie Chen, Tina Tchen and Kiran Ahuja, Executive Director of the White House Initiative on AAPIs.
Sikh Families Participate in the Annual White House Easter Egg Roll
On April 21, 2014, Sikh Americans joined Americans from across the country to attend the annual White House Easter Egg Roll. The Easter Egg Roll is the largest annual public event held at the White House and is a tradition dating back over a century, to 1878. This year marks the fifth year Sikh children were specifically invited to join in the festivities.
California Responds to School Bullying Report
Following the launch
of the Sikh Coalition's groundbreaking national report, "Go Home Terrorist," – A Report on Bullying of Sikh American School Children
, communities in California have come together to raise awareness about the issue and take their work to the next step.
An Open Forum Discussion
was held on April 10, 2014 at California State University, Fresno where County Superintendent, Jim Yovino, joined Sikh Coalition Advocacy Manager, Simran Kaur, and community members to discuss how educators and administrators can work together to address the problem.
On May 6, 2014, the City of Fowler, California introduced and voted to pass a city-wide resolution
addressing school bullying of Sikh students. The Sikh Coalition worked closely with community members in Fowler, CA to develop and introduce language for the bullying resolution.
The Sikh Coalition is grateful to the California sangat for raising awareness about this issue. We will continue to work with schools and communities to combat school bullying of Sikh children.
Sikh Coalition on Panel on National Security and Rights Issues
Last month, the Security & Rights Collaborative of the Proteus Fund and Silicon Valley Community Foundation invited the Sikh Coalition to speak on a panel discussing trends in national security and rights issues and how they impact freedom of speech, association and religious expression in Bay Area communities. Representatives from the Security & Rights Collaborative grantee organizations discussed the ways in which post-9/11 national security policies have affected the rights and liberties of Bay Area communities, the successful responses of these communities, and opportunities for further reform.
The Sikh Coalition's Advocacy Manager, Simran Kaur, spoke on the panel and was joined by Hatem Bazian, Professor at UC Berkeley and Author of the ISPU report on Bay Area Muslims, Yaman Salahi, Staff Attorney at Asian Americans Advancing Justice - Asian Law Caucus, and Peter Ferenbach, Co-Founder of ReThink Media.
Sikh Coalition Director of Programs Speaks on CUNY Panel
On May 2, 2014, Amardeep Singh, the Sikh Coalition's Director of Programs spoke on a panel entitled, "Legacies of the Incarceration in Surveillance & Policing of U.S. Communities of Color." The panel was organized by the Asian American Studies Program of Hunter College of the City University of New York.
Amardeep spoke about the over 100 year history of government regulation and federal law impacting people in the United States categorized as belonging to the Asian-American racial group, including South Asian Sikhs. His prepared remarks drew connections between government regulation of the rights of early Chinese American immigrants and Muslims and Sikhs from Asia today.
The Sikh Coalition thanks the Asian American Studies Program of Hunter College of the City University of New York and its Director, Jennifer Hayashida, for the opportunity to participate in the panel.
Sikh Coalition Board Chair Presents at Big Ideas and Innovation Workshop
On April 26, 2014, Narinder Singh, Co-Founder and Board Chair of the Sikh Coalition, spoke at a "Big Ideas and Innovation" workshop hosted by the Sikh Student Association at UC Berkeley. The aim of the workshop was to introduce students to innovative methods to conceptualize community based solutions and have the chance to network and engage with many successful Sikh entrepreneurs. Narinder presented a talk entitled "Think Big - With Purpose" which focused on how technology can transform commercial and philanthropic pursuits.
Sikh Coalition Attends Selma Nagar Kirtan
Sikh Coalition staff members, Simran Kaur and Winty Singh, attended the 20th annual Nagar Kirtan hosted by the Sikh Center of the Pacific Coast in Selma, CA and provided a Sikh Awareness presentation to non-Sikhs who were attending the occasion. A group of about 40 students from Fresno Pacific University attended the presentation and engaged with the community. In addition, the Sikh Coalition team worked closely with the Gurdwara committee in advance of the Nagar Kirtan to provide educational materials and to support media engagement of the community's event. In addition, the Gurdwara committee honored the Sikh Coalition at the Nagar Kirtan for the work being done locally to address school bullying. Approximately 20,000 Sikhs from the Central Valley attended the Nagar Kirtan.
Khoj Gurbani is a new platform that uses innovative tools and crowdsourcing to connect Sikhs from around the world to Gurbani. Khoj Gurbani will be leading weekly discussion on Gurbani. Lean more at www.khojgurbani.org
and follow Khoj Gurbani on Facebook
"Debates in the Neighborhood" Program Concludes with All Day Debate Event
Select Junior Sikh Coalition (JSC) members competed in the "Debate in the Neighborhood" Tournament hosted by the Interfaith Center of New York on April 12, 2014. JSC members joined with youth from other faith-based groups around NYC and engaged in rounds of debate all day long on topics ranging from freedom of speech to religious discrimination. All members of the debate program, both in and out of the Junior Sikh Coalition, deserve praise for the hard work and commitment they put into this project. Congratulations to Simran Kainth, Asma Salem, Muhammad Drammeh and Anushan Alagaratnam for winning the tournament – and to all of the other youth for competing!
Educating Others on Sikhism at NYC Sikh Day Parade
Members of the Junior Sikh Coalition (JSC) attended the Sikh Day Parade in New York City on April 27, 2014. They distributed cards with informative infographics to hundreds of non-Sikhs that were observing or passing by the parade. Through the cards and conversations around Sikhi, youth members helped New Yorkers understand Sikhs and Sikhism. They also shared information on Vaisakhi and its connection to the parade. Along with providing non-Sikhs with information, JSC members wished hundreds of Sikhs a very Happy Vaisakhi and gave them Sikh Coalition magnets to take home.
Sikh Coalition Welcomes New California Community Development Manager
We are excited to welcome Harjit Kaur as our Community Development Manager, based in the California office. As Community Development Manager, Harjit will be charged with leading program development and implementation for Bay Area youth to increase their leadership and advocacy skills, while providing education in social justice. She will also lead community relations efforts and education initiatives to raise greater awareness about Sikhs.
Harjit joined the Sikh Coalition as a volunteer advocate in 2012. As an advocate she worked on the Workplace Discrimination Act (AB 1964), participated in numerous Sikh awareness presentations, and became a member of the Sacramento Area Hate Crimes Task Force at the U.S. Department of Justice. Harjit is an attorney licensed in the State of California and received her law degree in 2011 at the University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law.
In this Issue