#RememberOakCreek Eight Years After the Shooting
On August 5, 2020, our nation marked the eight-year anniversary of the tragic Oak Creek, WI gurdwara shooting that ultimately took the lives of seven Sikhs and injured several others.
We solemnly remember Paramjit Kaur Saini, Sita Singh, Ranjit Singh, Prakash Singh, Suveg Singh Khattra, Satwant Singh Kaleka, and Baba Punjab Singh--who passed away on March 2, 2020
, after the 2012 shooting left him partially paralyzed for more than seven years. Baba Punjab Singh’s outlook on life will always serve as a reminder that love is stronger than hate, and that we are strongest when we come together. Click here
to view photos from the Akhand Path held in his memory earlier this year.
Hate Crime Charged in #JusticeForLakhwant Case
On July 21, 2020, Mr. Lakhwant Singh and the Sikh Coalition were pleased to learn that the Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office has decided to add a hate crime charge against Eric Breemen
. Moving forward, Breemen will be charged with multiple counts–now including a bias-motivated crime–in the violent April 29 assault of Mr. Singh.
The Sikh Coalition, along with support from local community members–including the leadership of Colorado Singh Sahba and the Colorado Coalition Against Hate–as well as the law firm of WilmerHale, has worked diligently over the past several weeks to push for the addition of this hate crime charge. Through these efforts, more than 2,600 people sent emails to Jefferson County District Attorney Peter Weir urging him to pursue a hate crime charge; in addition, 29 organizations joined a sign-on letter earlier this month urging the same, and many others signed and delivered additional petitions from across the world. We extend our deepest gratitude to all of the allies who came together to demand #JusticeForLakhwant.
Summer Series Playlist Now Available
The Sikh Coalition team would like to thank the thousands of community members who joined us for Summer Series from July 19 through 25! We are incredibly grateful for the support of every single community member who engaged with this programming, and for the 55+ Summer Series speakers who shared their expertise and time with the sangat.
We are excited to make the session recordings available as public resources for the community. Click here
to watch Summer Series on YouTube! In addition, as we plan virtual programming for the rest of the year, we would love to hear your perspective as to what worked best and where we can improve our online engagement. Please fill out a quick survey
that will help us plan our future programming.
Sikh American Policy Priorities Brief
On July 16, the Sikh Coalition unveiled our 2020 policy brief, entitled Combating Bias, Bigotry, and Backlash: Sikh American Civil Rights Policy Priorities
. This document presents a specific series of Sikh civil rights policy prescriptions in several areas of the Sikh Coalition’s programmatic work, including hate crimes, employment discrimination, creating safer schools, protecting religious rights, and reforming immigration and detention policies.
While the Sikh American community obviously cares about a diverse, wide-ranging list of policy issues, we chose to put together this resource specific to our organization’s area of work so that the president and members of Congress are empowered to address civil rights issues that are critically important to the community we serve. In accordance with the Sikh Coalition’s status as a non-profit, non-partisan organization, the document has been shared with both the Biden and Trump presidential campaigns; we will also use it to engage other interested candidates in the lead-up to and after the election in November.
NJ Bullying Case Moves Forward
On July 24, a judge in New Jersey denied
the Gloucester County Special Services School District Board of Education’s ‘motion to dismiss’ our lawsuit on behalf of a bullied Sikh student. This is a significant step forward in ensuring that the school board faces some outside accountability for their failure to help this child and take the harassment they faced seriously.
As a reminder, this student was bullied so severely
that they were pulled out of school; ultimately, we expect restorative justice for this student--as well as meaningful change to help other racial and religious minorities who may still be suffering at the same school. The case will now move towards ‘mediation,’ which is the process under New Jersey law by which these kinds of complaints are first addressed before moving to a civil trial. We will continue to provide updates on this case.
GOTV Efforts Continue; Sevadaars Speak Out
We have less than 90 days to go until the 2020 election! The Sikh Coalition continues to build our nationwide team of voter registration sevadaars in advance of National Sikh Voter Registration Day on September 20, 2020; so far, we already have more than 40 volunteers across 16 states. Three of those volunteers--Komalpreet Kaur of Kansas and Gurbachan Singh and Deep Bella Kaur of Michigan--made videos sharing why they’re excited
to register their friends and family to vote, and you can expect to see more updates from other sevadaars in the weeks to come. If you want to join our team as a voter registration sevadaar, please fill out our survey here
The Sikh Coalition has also released a new resource
to help you understand when and how to request a mail-in ballot in your state if you choose to do so. Voting by mail is widely practiced in the United States, and many states are making it easier to do so this fall due to concerns about the ongoing pandemic. If you need to check your own voter registration or learn more about the broader voting rules and deadlines in your state, click here
. As a reminder, the Sikh Coalition is a non-partisan, non-profit organization; all of our work to Get Out The Vote (GOTV) is being done in support of broader Sikh American civic engagement, and not in conjunction with any candidate, elected official, or political party.
UPDATE: New California Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum Draft Released
On August 1, the California Department of Education (CDE) released the latest draft of its Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum. Like many marginalized groups that were not included, we are extremely disappointed by this revised version, which does not reflect the rich 125 years of Sikh contributions in California and ignores all of the specific recommendations that California Sikhs made during this open review process. Providing a specific curriculum inclusive of underrepresented and marginalized communities is the only way this material gets taught at the classroom level.
The Sikh Coalition and the Jakara Movement--which provided recommendations to the CDE on the Model Curriculum, rallied 52 gurdwaras to sign a letter
in support of those recommendations, and have gathered more than 1,100 petition signatures in favor of the same--are not giving up this fight. We have prepared more than 25 community members to submit public comment at a virtual meeting next week, and you can read more about how you can weigh in on social media here
Free COVID-19 Resources in English and Punjabi
Since the start of the pandemic, the Sikh Coalition has been working to produce and update resources, in English and Punjabi, in response to our community’s needs. These materials range from pointers on applying for federal assistance to guidance for healthcare professionals, and from FAQs on how the pandemic affects immigration questions to information about Sikhi you can share with your doctor. Click here
to access all of our COVID-19 resources for free, including our latest discussing guidance for Khalsa Schools
Amicus Brief Filed with Partners
In July, the Sikh Coalition joined with a law firm, Horvitz & Levy, and Muslim Advocates, another civil rights organization, to file a legal document called an amicus brief in a legal case entitled Small vs. Memphis Light, Gas, and Water. This case deals with the standard of a “de minimis” cost for religious accommodations in the workplace; for a long time, companies have interpreted the “de minimis” standard to mean “almost any cost,” allowing employers to discriminate against Sikhs and other religious minorities with visible articles of faith.
Our amicus brief was featured on the SCOTUSblog
, which tracks important cases that are before the Supreme Court, to read as part of their “Petitions of the Week.” For more information, read our Legal Director Amrith Kaur’s note on why this case is so important here
[TODAY] How to get Sikhi into Southern California classrooms
Join us later today for a virtual hands-on workshop that will provide you with tools to take action to ensure Sikhi is included in classrooms across Southern California.
The training will begin promptly at 1:00 PM PDT today.
This is your absolute last chance to join us! Register for free at www.bit.ly/socal-education
COVID-19: Efforts to Secure PPE for Sikhs Continue
As the COVID-19 pandemic worsens in many states across the nation, the Sikh Coalition continues to ensure that Sikh healthcare providers on the frontlines who maintain their articles of faith have the personal protective equipment (PPE) they need to keep themselves safe. In July, the Sikh Coalition worked with Simranpreet Kainth
, a 3rd year medical student at the City University of New York’s (CUNY) School of Medicine, to secure him a powered air purifying respirator (PAPR) while he completes his rotations. With the invaluable support of CUNY School of Medicine staff, Simranpreet has been trained on how to use his PAPR, which he will wear when interacting with any COVID-positive patients.
If you or someone you know is a healthcare professional, please read this letter
, co-written with the North American Sikh Medical and Dental Association, informing healthcare professionals of their rights regarding articles of faith and PPE restrictions, as well as this memo
offering guidance on how to request a religious accommodation for a PAPR or CAPR. Similarly, if you or someone you know have been told to shave facial hair in response to COVID-19, please contact the Sikh Coalition’s legal team for free legal aid
Engaging with Educators and Students Nationwide
In July, Sikh Coalition Education Director Pritpal Kaur gave a virtual presentation to the Colorado Council for the Social Studies on Breaking through Bias: Using Media and Reporting to Educate about Sikhism. Additionally, on July 17, Sikh Coalition Advocacy and Community Engagement Fellow Winty Singh hosted a webinar with middle and high school students from across the country to teach students about the Sikh faith, traditions, and community.
In this Issue