In recent weeks, the Sikh Coalition has proudly supported the inspiring efforts of Gurwinder Singh to end bullying and harassment in our nation’s public schools. After participating in the White House Conference on Bullying Prevention and speaking at a briefing on Capitol Hill, Gurwinder’s experiences have now been highlighted in the Congressional Record by Senator Tom Harkin (Iowa), who has introduced anti-bullying legislation titled the Successful, Safe and Healthy Students Act in the U.S. Senate. In his remarks, Senator Harkin said:
“We need to have the expectations in all of our schools that all students will be valued and all students will have a safe haven to learn and achieve. In New York City, middle-schooler Gurwinder Singh was targeted by bullies who bashed his head into a metal pole while bystanders watched, because of his Sikh religion. Luckily, Gurwinder survived, and has become an outspoken proponent of bullying prevention. We cannot stand idly by when school becomes a hostile place for kids.”
In a huge win for the Sikh community, starting this summer all law enforcement officers in the state of California will be trained to identify and respect Sikhs and Sikh practices. The training, which is sponsored by California’s The Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST), will be available both online and as part of a required class in all police academies throughout the state. It will cover everything from identifying the 5Ks to how to search someone who is wearing a kirpan.
In this Issue
- Sikh Anti-Bullying Advocate Featured in Congressional Record
- Sikhism Mandated in Statewide Law Enforcement Training
- Sikh Coalition 2011 Diversity Video Competition Launched
- be a STAR Campaign Launched
- Please Sign Our Petition to End Workplace Segregation!
- Sikh Families Invited to Participate in the Annual White House Easter Egg Roll
- Anti-Bullying Forum: Protecting Arab American, American Muslim
& South Asian Students
- The First Annual Sikh Advocate Academy
- Sikh Career Day Promotes Career Advancement
- Coalition Speaks Out About California Shootings
- A Challege for 5,000 Sikhs
“Our goal is to ensure peace officers are trained to interact with various populations in California. By fostering respect for people of all religions, we hope that our officers and deputies will be better able to do their jobs in the field,” said Bob Ziglar, Basic Training Coordinator of POST.
The training is being implemented two years after California’s state legislature unanimously passed a law requiring California’s law enforcement officers to be trained about Sikhs. That law, AB 504, was vetoed by then-Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. However, POST has since been working alongside the Sikh Coalition and other local community members to devise a training plan of their own. It is our hope that training police officers about the Sikh articles of faith will foster religious understanding and decrease the number of arrests of Sikhs for carrying these items.
The Coalition just launched this year's Diversity Video Competition. The purpose of the competition is to engage in an artistic dialogue on civil rights issues, stereotypes and myths surrounding minority groups, with a particular anchor in the Sikh experience. It is through this dialogue that we hope to dissolve ignorance and spread awareness of discriminated minorities. The first prize winner for the competition will receive $1,000, and will have his or her film premiered at the Sikh Art and Film Festival in New York City this October. To read more or apply to the competition, please click here.
The Sikh Coalition is proud to be a part of the be a STAR (which stands for “Show Tolerance And Respect”) Campaign, founded by World Wresting Entertainment, Inc. and the Creative Coalition. The campaign aims to eradicate bullying through education and advocacy. With the help of the National Education Association Health Information Network (NEA HIN), be a STAR has created an anti-bullying Teacher's Aide, which consists of nine lesson plans for teachers which focus on recognizing and preventing bullying, and educating students about equality. In addition to the Sikh Coalition, the campaign has partnered with groups as diverse as GLAAD, the National Black Justice Coalition and the Girl Scouts of the USA. To read more about be a STAR, you can visit their site by clicking here.
According to some interpretations of federal law, employers with corporate image policies are allowed to segregate Sikhs and other religious minorities from customers by forcing them to work out of public view. The Sikh Coalition finds this offensive and contrary to the integrative purpose of our nation's most cherished civil rights laws. We are trying to put an end to this modern-day version of the 'separate but equal' doctrine by calling upon the Sikh community and its allies to make their voices heard by the White House. Please sign our petition to President Obama, and be sure to forward it to as many friends and family members as you can!
The problem of employment discrimination is gaining national attention. Recently, the Sikh Coalition spearheaded letters from 30 national organizations and 3 Congressional Caucuses in support of our ongoing effort to address the workplace segregation problem Last week, the ABC television network broadcast an experiment to see how ordinary individuals would respond to employment discrimination against a turbaned job applicant. Click here to watch a clip.
This Easter marked another step forward for Sikh Americans as the next generation of the Khalsa was invited for the second year in a row to attend the annual Easter Egg Roll at the White House. This celebration is the largest annual public event held at the White House, and dates all the way back to 1878.
The Sikh Coalition was honored to provide 25 tickets to Sikh children, their parents and their grandparents, who journeyed to our nation's capital from places all around the country to represent the community. There they participated in a range of activities, including the egg roll, games, storytelling and more. In addition, they were given the rare opportunity to shake President Obama’s hand when he made an impromptu appearance at the event.
This past April, Sikhs across the country invited non-Sikhs to join in Vaisakhi celebrations. The Sikh community and the Coalition greatly appreciated the Obama administration’s invitation to Sikhs to join in Easter festivities. The Coalition encourages community members to reach across to other faiths and continue fostering healthy dialogue in their own communities.
On April 28, Amardeep Singh, the Coalition’s Programs Director, was invited to speak at an Anti-Bullying Forum sponsored by the New Jersey chapter of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee. The event was held in response to the recent passing of New Jersey’s latest anti-bullying law, and featured several community leaders. The focus of their discussion was the bullying of students from Sikh, Arab, Muslim and South Asian backgrounds in the face of anti-Islamic sentiment, and their hopes that this law will begin to change things for the better. Click here to read more about the Forum.
The Sikh Coalition is currently preparing for its inaugural Sikh Advocate Academy, a first-of-its-kind experiential learning course. This coming June, approximately 12 individuals from around the United States will gather in Washington, DC to learn the practical aspects of human rights advocacy, including government engagement, media engagement and community engagement. This training program will be led by Sikh Coalition staff, as well as several guest speakers from government agencies, media outlets and civil rights organizations. Upon returning to their local communities, these graduates will become social justice leaders and work to expand the human rights mission of the Sikh Coalition.
Over time, this initiative will help us create a powerful network of professionally trained Sikh-American activists. Our objective is to ensure that Sikhs everywhere can defend their own rights, and develop the skills they need to stand up for the rights of their fellow Americans. Consistent with our heritage, we want Sikh-Americans to enjoy high self-esteem, achieve their fullest potential as community leaders and develop a reputation for being the most prominent and powerful defenders of human rights in American society.
On March 19, 2011, Sikh youths in Queens, NY, attended a full day of workshops and panel discussions on how to decide upon and find employment within their desired career field(s). The event provided these youths with the opportunity to meet Sikh professionals working in their fields of interest. They attended comprehensive workshops on resume building, interviewing and networking, along with a panel discussion on making career decisions. Volunteer Sikh professionals represented a range of careers including engineering, sales, finance, business, information technology, management, non-profit, strategy, medicine, art, photography, television and law. One-on-one career advice was also available, and the youths were encouraged to keep in touch with the professionals they had met.
Amardeep Singh, co-founder of the Coalition and its current Programs Director, was interviewed on the April 25th episode of the progressive pan-Asian radio program Asian Pacific Forum (which airs Mondays from 9-10pm on WBAI 99.5). There he spoke about the recent shooting of Mr. Surinder Singh and Mr. Gurmej Atwal in California, and how this crime fits into a string of violence against Sikhs over the last decade. To listen to the full interview, click here.
Sikhi lives today because our ancestors did everything they could to make sure that our flag kept flying high. They took us to Gurdwara. They taught us keertan. They fought for the Panth when they had to. They imparted upon us the importance of seva.
And today, it is your turn to carry the Panth forward! We are looking for 5,000 Sikhs to donate $16.99 each to help us defend the Sikh way of life. Once you become part of the campaign, please ask all your family and friends to do the same. 5,000 Sikhs donating $16.99 should be possible in a Panth of millions. Please do your part now.