The Sikh Coalition was recently asked to present to a group of inmates at San Quentin State Prison in Northern California. Organized by the Asian Prisoner Support Committee, which has a weekly class inside San Quentin State Prison called SQ ROOTS (Restoring Our Original True Selves), the Sikh Coalition was asked to make a presentation about the Sikh community. The class is modeled after Asian American Studies courses, covering topics such as history, culture, personal experiences as well as health and reentry issues. The class is comprised of Vietnamese, Filipino, Cambodian, Hmong, Lao, Chinese, Mexican in addition to Punjabi Sikh men.
The presentation was given by Sikh Coalition Advocate, Winty Singh and Advocacy Manager, Simran Kaur and included a Sikh awareness presentation followed by a discussion on the post-9/11 challenges experienced by the Sikh community, including hate crimes, school bullying, religious profiling and workplace discrimination. It was a unique experience for both the Sikh Coalition as well as the inmates who noted at the end that they were “grateful” and “thankful” to have learned about the Sikh community and the issues that Sikh Americans were experiencing. It was a moving experience and pushed us to think about restorative justice and the role of forgiveness within Sikhi.