June 24, 2014 (Washington, DC) – For the fourth year in a row, the Sikh Coalition has successfully graduated a new class of professionally-trained community volunteers through the Sikh Advocate Academy, an intensive advocacy training program in our nation’s capital.
After completing a rigorous application process, ten activists from around the country received five days of advocacy training, which included a combination of lectures, panel discussions, case study exercises, visits to Congressional offices, and a policy briefing at the White House. The new Sikh Coalition Advocates will join over 30 alumni around the country in amplifying the Sikh voice through government engagement, media engagement, and alliance building. The 2014 class represents activists from California, Arizona, Delaware, New Jersey, Georgia, Virginia, Massachusetts and North Carolina. Meet the Advocates from the 2014 class below.
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The Sikh Coalition is thankful to its partners in the government and non-profit communities for speaking on panels during the Academy, including Whitney Pellegrino, United States Department of Justice; Akil Vohra, White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders; JJ Singh, Office of Senator Chris Coons; Michael Lieberman, Anti-Defamation League; Nathan Smith, Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network; Lexer Quamie, Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights; and Mark Reading-Smith and Ashley Houghton, Rethink Media.
The Sikh Advocate Academy has been made possible through the generous support of the Security & Rights Collaborative, a Proteus Fund Initiative, Open Society Foundations - National Security and Human Rights Campaign and through individual contributions from the Sikh American community.
Meet Our Advocates
Ameet Singh Birring, Class of 2014 (California)
“I think it’s very important to have the Sikh Advocate Academy because so much change is done at a grassroots level, and the grassroots change that we create leads to bigger change on a national level.”
Aneesa Baboolal, Class of 2014 (Delaware)
“I chose to become a Sikh Coalition volunteer advocate because I lived in Queens, New York for most of my life, which has one of the largest Sikh populations in the US… I witnessed a lot of violence towards Sikh students who were really innocent; they were just trying to get an education. I also saw a lot of community violence on a neighborhood level in terms of people… as an immigrant community ...trying to make it and being violently attacked or even killed in certain circumstances, and that has really personally affected me.”
Gulwant Singh, Class of 2014 (Georgia)
"Our community has given us so much to become the successful and bright people that we are today, and it’s our job to give back to the community and make sure that those younger than us can do the very same.”
Hari Simran Singh Khalsa, Class of 2014 (Virginia)
"The Gurus gave us such a powerful foundation of social justice and action for social justice, and that’s accessible to anyone, but it’s important to have the Sikh Advocate training because it puts that foundation in a context of the modern world. It provides the tools, the training, the skills, the actual real-world applications of how we can achieve that social justice today.”
Kanwar Singh, Class of 2014 (Massachusetts)
“The Sikh Advocate Academy empowers Sikh Americans, especially the youth in this country, to learn more about how our government works and the role Sikh Americans can play in our country.”
Keerat Kaur, Class of 2014 (North Carolina)
“Being bullied and going through the experience of the after effects from 9/11 actually encouraged me to pursue helping other kids and advocating and trying to make a change, which [is why I admired that] the Sikh Coalition’s basis was to prevent bullying and basically [provide] more rights for Sikhs living in America.”
Meher Malik, Class of 2014 (Virginia)
“I believe it is really, really imperative to have the Sikh Advocate Academy to give kids that have been through issues, that have grown up in certain communities, an opportunity to learn how to advocate different issues and really enact change both within their own communities and the community at large.”
Navdeep Kaur Tucker, Class of 2014 (New Jersey)
“I think it’s important to have the Sikh Advocate Academy because our community really needs specialized training in order to be able to continue the Sikh Coalition’s work in their own regions.”
Permpreet Singh Gill, Class of 2014 (Arizona)
“It is important to have the Sikh Advocate Academy because it gives Sikh Americans a chance to get training and knowledge to help impact their community in a positive way, especially with human rights and civil rights.”
Vincent Tran, Class of 2014 (California)
“The stuff that we learn throughout the five days in Washington, D.C. is, I must say, gold because we’re basically learning everything it takes to be a good advocate and a good activist within five days that took many of the members from the Sikh Coalition over thirteen years to learn.”