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Seva for a Cold Winter

For those of you in the California Central Valley, a small group of folks from the Tracy sangat will be giving out coats, blankets, and socks in Modesto, Stockton, and Tracy . If you’re in the area and would like to donate or know families in need who could benefit from some extra help this season, please head on over to the Larch Community Center this Saturday at 10AM.

WHERE: Larch-Clover Community Center, 11157 W. Larch Road, Tracy, CA
INFO: Dottie Smith, 831-5920

A Look at the Spinning Wheel

I spent the past weekend surrounded by Sikh Art and Film at the annual Spinning Wheel Film Festival in Hollywood. I usually attend these events with high expectations, hoping to be inspired and moved and there are always one or two films that provide that sustenance. The films were creative, such as The Making of Liverpool – an artistic animation inspired by a painting by The Singh Twins which explores 800 years of Liverpool’s history. The films were educational, such as Cultural Safari – directed by Sandeep Singh and produced by the Kaur Foundation – describing the basics of Sikhi for children of all ages [I have to say that this is one of the most impressive educational films I have come across]. The films were also daunting, such as Warrior Boyz – made by Baljit Sangra which touched upon the root causes of gang violence in the Punjabi community of Vancouver. A favorite of the crowd was Kuldip Powar’s Unravelling – a poetic inter-generational dialogue between the film director and his grandfather about the experience of war all posed in Urdu poetry.

There were many other well-made films such as 35, Kabaddi Cops, and Right to Turban which rightfully deserve mention (and have been discussed or will be discussed in future posts), however what I appreciated most about the weekend was the final day of the festival – which was devoted to lectures on Sikh Art and History. Staff from the Anglo Sikh Heritage Trail and other UK-based organizations presented the attendees with a glimpse into the historical legacy of the Sikhs. One of the lectures was titled the Epic of Saragarhi and discussed the 21 soldiers of the Sikh regiment who defended a remote post against an estimated 10,000 hostile tribesmen. Michael O’Keefe from the British Library discussed Sikh artifacts and paintings and detailed an image of Maharani Jindan Kaur’s Gutka of the Sukhmani Sahib (see picture to the left). The day ended with a panel showcasing Sikhs in Theatre and Music, including traditional music and also hip-hop. Mandeep Sethi and Jagmeet Singh, rappers from LA, ended the festival with amazing performances showcasing their incredible talent of telling stories through hip-hop.

While the film festival brought together a plethora of Sikh art mediums – what it did seem to be missing was the representation of women and the voice of women in these films. The films were predominately made by men and the issues discussed were predominately issues affecting men. This brought several issues to mind – do young Sikh women not feel encouraged to enter the field of Film? Do the current male Sikh filmmakers not feel comfortable telling the story of Sikh women? It seems to be of vital importance that as we develop and promote Sikh films, we ensure that the stories we tell are representative of the entire Sikh panth and pay particular attention to the stories of Sikh women.

I will leave with this quote, mentioned by Harbinder Singh of the Anglo Sikh Heritage Trail, but also very pertinent to the theme of this weekend’s film festival.

Until lions tell their own history,
History will always glorify the hunters.
– African Proverb

Voting On California Prop. 8: Protecting Love NOT Marriage

In a recent THL discussion on Prop. 8 we have been addressing the use of Sikh principles in taking a position on homosexual marriage.prop-300x222.jpg At a recent Nagar Keertan in Yuba City, California there were Yes on Prop. 8 fliers along with the really interesting T-shirts. Thus, I think religion is an important part of the discussion on Prop. 8 because there is a reason why this state-related material is at religious events. Religion is a moral compass that guides many people’s decisions in all kinds issues. Thus, I dont condemn those who have used religion as their moral source for voting Yes or No on Prop. 8. However, I do disagree with how Sikh scripture has been misused as rules rather than concepts that guide our decisions. I attribute these actions to a general lack of understanding and education around the Guru Granth Sahib Ji in our community. This education is a fundamental issue we as a Quam need to find practical solutions for rather than blame people for not knowing.

That said, I believe a fundamental part of Sikhi is love the morality of love. Its not the happy happy love or perfect one that excuses all actions, but the one that makes us human enough to see the light of Waheguru in all . even those we detest. What is this love I think Khalil Gibran poignantly explains it in his book The Prophet:

“For even as love crowns you so shall he crucify you. Even as he is for your growth so is he for your pruning. Even as he ascends to your height and caresses your tenderest branches that quiver in the sun, so shall he descend to your roots and shake them in their clinging to the earth.

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