June 18, 2014 (Washington, DC) - Jakaras were once again heard in the White House this past Friday during a briefing on Sikh civil rights issues. This briefing, held for the third consecutive year, 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, Georgia, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Virginia, and Arizona traveled to Washington, DC for the event. The assembled group included Advocates from the 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014 classes of the Sikh Coalition's Sikh Advocate Academy. The group also included members of the Junior Sikh Coalition, a team of youth activists based in New York City.
Click here for photos from the briefing.
Government representatives—Roy Austin, Deputy Assistant to the President for Urban Affairs, Justice and Opportunity at the Domestic Policy Council; Kimberly Walton, Assistant Administrator of the Transportation Security Administration; and Whitney Pellegrino, Special Legal Counsel, Civil Rights Division, U.S. Department of Justice—spoke about the federal government's efforts to combat discrimination, airport profiling, and school bullying respectively. Kiran Ahuja, Executive Director of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, was the keynote speaker. Her keynote address connected the work of the Sikh American community to promote civil rights to similar efforts throughout history across the American spectrum.
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.
The genuine excitement and feeling of momentum among the attendees was inspiring. At the beginning of the briefing, participants asked the U.S. Department of Justice to translate its key bullying prevention materials into Punjabi. By the end of the briefing, the Department of Justice announced that it would translate these materials into Punjabi and work with the Sikh Coalition to distribute them in the community.
The assembled Sikhs were grateful to have shared their ideas with top-level officials and participate in a historic event. The White House and assembled federal agency officials all expressed the hope that this third briefing would continue to build momentum so that Sikhs can be better connected to the White House and their public servants in the federal government.
As always, the Sikh Coalition urges all Sikhs to fearlessly practice their faith.