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Supporting Sikh Arts

Last weekend I attended the Sikh Lens Sikh Art and Film Festival in Hollywood. I have attended film festivals all over North America and strongly believe in their need and presence in our community. Many times, however, the events get overshadowed by the glitz and glamour the red carpet, the photographers, the eccentric outfits I was therefore grateful that my experience at the Sikh Arts and Film Festival was a fulfilling one I left knowing that Sikh Arts and Films bring value to our community and need to be supported. In addition, I felt the organizers made a special effort to keep the event focused on the directors, artists, musicians, actors, authors and organizations who were present. They recognized the fact that we are all in this together. Sikh Arts and Films are only beginning to be acknowledged, there is so much potential and growth that will still occur. However, this isnt going to magically happen overnight, and it most definitely wont happen without the communitys support.

golden_temple.jpgI was recently told that Sikhs in the UK spend 7 times more on license plates than they do on books (yes, 7 times!). While Im not sure of the statistic in the US, the point is clear perhaps were not investing in the right places? I think as a community we have begun to establish the need to support non-profit organizations that are working to address human rights, legal, education and activism issues (although we still have a long way to go to enhance our support). However, what goes hand in hand with this is the support and advancement of Sikh Art and Media. Without a doubt, events such as Sikh Lens are helping to pave the path however, we as a community need to ask ourselves why we are so hesitant to spend money on independent films, childrens books, on historical references and on paintings. When I think about other immigrant communities, I notice that their advancement as a community comes from their support of one another. Whether we like to admit it or not, our community is extremely frugal and competitive with each other, and unless we start to move away from those stereotypes we will not be creating a better world for our children.


1984 Remembrance Marches in California

jak6.jpgThrough Sukhmani Sahibs, conferences, scholarships, film festivals, floats, and even ongoing camps, the Jakara Movement adds the next event to its on-going Remember 1984″ campaign.

This November they begin their Remembrance Marches.

25 years ago there was a government-sponsored pogrom in Delhi and throughout many parts of India that left tens of thousands dead. Orchestrated by the Indian Government, the perpetrators of these pogroms roam free today. Join us and connect in solemn remembrance with Sikhs and non-Sikhs alike as we commemorate the events of 1984 and call for justice and bear witness to the genocide. We will not be silenced.[link]

The Event will consist of a series of silent marches in the various regions, followed by video screenings, speeches, and a candlelight vigil.

Attend one at a city near you:

  • BAKERSFIELD Silver Creek Park Saturday, November 7th, 2009, 5-7pm
  • FRESNO Woodward Park Monday, November 16th, 2009, 6-8pm
  • RIVERSIDE Glen Avon Heritage Park Wednesday, November 18th, 2009, 6:30-8:30pm

For those in Bakersfield, this week (date to be updated) watch ABC affiliate KERO, Channel 23, to see members of the Jakara Movement talk about this weekend’s Remembrance March in Bakersfield.

For more information on the march visit the Jakara Movement blog, website, or Facebook page. See you there!

Sikhs remember 1984 this November

In keeping with a spirit of Remembrance and quest for Justice as the 25th anniversary of the Nov. 3, 1984 pogrom in Delhi nears, don’t miss out on these East Coast events! Many events have been held nationwide this past year- educating and inspiring young generations of Sikhs. We are getting better acquainted with our history, connecting with the Sikh spirit of activism, and becoming inspired to be agents of change.

One event that has been a particular pathbreaker has been Lahir. [1, 2] Not only has it created an avenue for artists to express themselves, it has done so around an event in our community’s history that is a catalyst for many, and thus become a catalyst itself. If you missed it in DC, don’t miss it in NY!

Lahir-NY: Saturday, Nov. 21, 2009

From the artists who brought you the original Lahir, together with additional national and local talent, get ready for Lahir – New York… [details below the fold]

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Night of the Demons – Sikhs Remembering the Delhi Pogroms of 1984

20,000 Butchered in Delhi
25,000 Made “Disappeared” in Punjab
A Community Bruised
A Diaspora Tarnished
A Nation Never Forgets
Remember 1984

On The Langar Hall, the fight for justice is rarely far from our minds. While justice remains elusive and mass-murderers promoted, the community suffers, but not in silence. In this 25th year of the Indian Government-sponsored pogroms, we bear witness to that genocide. We remember not only the lives lost, but call for accountability so that events such as Delhi 1984, Gujarat 2002, and the numerous human rights abuses that occur everyday in the territory that is India are not forgotten. The Indian elite may see the country as a rising economic star, but without political rights, freedoms, and a genuine commitment to justice, slogans such as “Indian Shining” fall on deaf ears.

Here is one such event that inspires us to remember:

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Below the fold, see a list of upcoming events in your community. Participate, contribute, stand in solidarity – Remember 1984.


~Happy International Day of Peace~

Today is a global cease-fire day. Since 2001, every September 21st is declared an International Day of Peace- a day of peace_one_day.jpgcease-fire and non-violence by the UN. The unanimous declaration from the UN General Assembly was brought about by the non-profit organization, Peace One Day.

What is the point of a day of peace, and can it even be realized? The video at the end of the post responds to these questions. Plus, if Valentine’s Day can be the monstrosity it’s become, then surely a day of peace is less trivial.

… to have a UN resolution calling for a day of non-violence and to have an actual day where no violence occurs are two radically different things. And when the initial celebrations of Peace Day came and went without any cease-fires or other official humanitarian action, Jeremy’s [founder of Peace One Day] elation began to wane and he grew concerned that the UN resolution might prove itself a Pyrrhic victory. “I could hear the cynics getting louder,” said Jeremy. “Peace Day will never work,’ they said. Nobody will ever stop fighting.'” [POD]


SIKHOLARS: First Sikh Graduate Student Conference

bgurdas.jpgSikh scholars have a long and proud history from Bhai Gurdas to Giani Ditt Singh and Sardar Kapoor Singh with too many to name in between. Although in more recent times some academics have been seen as controversial in the community, a confident community celebrates academic conferences that provide a valuable forum for those interested to exchange thoughts, discussions, and ideas. This past weekend, one such conference occurred in Berkeley, titled After 1984 and was an example of the critical importance of scholarly exchange, bringing together such luminaries as Gurharpal Singh, Pal Singh Ahluwalia, Arvindpal Singh Mandair, and many others.

Despite the intellectual brilliance, the meeting point between activism and the academy has always been somewhat uneasy. This weekend allowed such an exchange to occur, but was hardly the focus of the conference. The Jakara Movement is aiming to bridge this gap early next year with its first annual Sikholars: Sikh Graduate Student Conference.

To be held at Stanford University on February 20th, 2010, the organizers are soliciting the communitys help in broadcasting the news of this first conference and calling for proposals. The deadline for abstract submission is NOVEMBER 15, 2009.


Sikh Heritage Film Festival in NY

East coasters and others with expendable income: the Sikh Art & Film Foundation is bringing you the 2009 International Film Festival to be held at the Asia Society and Museum.sikh_art_and_film_foundation.jpg

The Festival will kick off on Friday September 18th with 3 films (My Mother India, Flying Sikhs – A History of Sikh Fighter Pilots, and Nineteen Eighty-Four and the Via Dolorosa Project). The night ends with a party at Asia Society’s Garden Court. The Festival continues on Saturday with 4 documentaries (A Warrior’s Religion
Not Every Time, Turbanology, Who Do You Think You Are – Meera Syal) and 6 short films (Battle of Chillianwala – The Waterloo of India, Bhangra Generation, Prisoner’s Song, Street Smarts, turBAN, and
Unravelling). Saturday concludes with the Heritage Gala After Party at Leela Lounge. Mira Nair will be honored and $15,000 in cash will be awarded to filmmakers.

A pass to all above events is only $45. Buy your tickets before they sell out!

Moving The Movement…Lahir 2009

TLH_Lahir.jpgNever doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
(Margaret Mead)

Last Summer, a small group of thoughtful, committedSikh youth from the DC Metropolitan area came together to form “Lahir” (movement) – a conference organized and run by high school and college students to promote human rights awareness. There were three themes to the event. Educate, Inspire, and Act. The “Educate” segment consisted of a series of short presentations outlining the history of post-1984 human rights violations in Punjab, based on published documentation from Ensaaf. These presentations interspersed with videos of the victim’s families told the story of grave violations that occurred between 1984-1995 during the counter-insurgency movement – including torture, disappearances, and illegal cremations. The “Inspire” segment consisted of poetry, spoken word, and musical performances along the same theme. In the final portion, titled “Act”, participants broke out in to discussion groups and brainstormed ideas on how the Punjab case can be raised to a mainstream audience and reviewing what other communities have done to highlight their cause. Overall, the conference was a resounding success and launched several new initiatives.

This Summer, the Lahir team has re-assembled and Sikh youth activists and artists from all over the country will again descend upon the Nation’s Capital for Lahir 2009! This year’s format is an all-out ‘Open Mic’ with musical performances, displayed art, poetry, and spoken word. Trailers have been circulating around the internet, providing a glimpse of what to expect.


Jakara Movement Sikh Conference X – Wrap-Up

Jakara_2009_4.jpg10 years ago the Jakara conference was born;
5 years ago the Jakara Movement was born.

This year was the 10th annual Jakara Movement conference. This year we Remember 1984.

From remembering the past, reflecting on Gurbani, reconnecting with the voices of the people, rethinking the role of the media, and revering our heroes and sheroes it was an eventful Friday! Saturday included recognizing the lessons of 1984, reaffirming our commitment to the Sarbat Khalsa and Gurmata tradition of consensus building, recollecting with our brothers and sisters, reacting to their personal histories, responding to the past, and finally realizing a new reality is possible.

From evenings of recreation to days of reflection, the Jakara Movement Conference 2009 aimed to be inspirational, not only for those participating, but for the greater Sikh Qaum as well.

However, merely increasing one’s knowledge about 1984 is not enough. The Jakara Movement is providing avenues to respond and to engage with your community.


When Lions Roar: The Kids Are Going To Be Alright


It is often said that a revolution begins not with the sword but with the pen. However, last Friday night in a packed banquet hall in the Toronto suburb of Malton, I witnessed a revolution begin with the microphone.

At an event entitled “When Lions Roar”, fantastically organized by the Sikh Activist Network, one young artist after another got on to the mike and paid homage to the lives destroyed in 1984. I was blown away by the talent and passion displayed by the performers. Through the art of spoken word, music, and action, each of the 26 acts put a different face on the impact of June 1984. They were all unique in their perspective, but all shared one common thread: 1984 is just too important to forget.

Over 1000 people gathered to attend the 4+ hour event. They covered the entire spectrum of Sikh life. This was not your typical retreat and kirtan crowd. In fact, the diversity of performers and audience has challenged me to rethink my stereotypes about who cares about 1984 and the future of the Sikh panth. Individuals that I would have never suspected of having even a passing interest in Sikhi or the Sikh community, would come up to the mike and speak with such energy, insight and emotion. They often reduced me to tears. And most amazing was the fact that almost all of them weren’t even alive in June 1984.

For a thirty-something guy like me who has always considered myself part of the “youth”, it was indeed a little bit humbling to realize that, while I’d probably still be the youngest guy at a Youth Akali Dal meeting, I’m now probably a generation or two above the youngest Sikh leaders. Which means me and my fellow Generation X-ers need to spend less time trying to do it all ourselves, and more time using our resources to enable the next wave of younger Sikhs to establish their own voice and institutions. We were the first generation coming through the diaspora, with little support from our elders. However, we can make it easier on our younger brothers and sisters. We can provide them seed funding to start their dreams, connect them those that can help them along the path, and help coach them through their challenges.

As you’ll see from the videos and photos, the next generation has indeed stepped up, their language of change is hip-hop and I think they’re gonna be alright.

Click through for videos and pictures.


Hip-Hop Sikhs on 1984 in Fresno

mandeep.pngI know I have been posting about it much lately, but as full disclosure compels, I have helped with the organization in the past. A few weeks ago I posted about this weekend When Lions Roar in Toronto and Vancouver. It seems in the wake we have something in the making in Central California, Fresno. For regular readers of The Langar Hall, you’ve been introduced to the talents and music of Sikh Knowledge, Humble the Poet, GNEs Saint Soulja, and even Mandeep Sethi. As a side note, Mandeep has the most amazing track I have ever heard by a hip-hop artist on 1984. Make sure to check it out.

This month they will all be attending, participating, and performing at the Jakara Movement’s annual conference. With few seats left and this major addition, you will not want to miss this years conference as we come together to Remember 1984. The dates are June 18-21, 2009. Register TODAY to avoid a late fee. See you in Fresno.

Sikh Events on 1984

1984_sikhs.jpgAs we like to keep our readers updated, I wanted to let you know about some current events that you shouldn’t miss as well as some programs and resources that you can do with your own family and friends in your hometown.

  1. The Jakara Movement conference: “Remember 1984: Reflect. Respond. React.“ With limited days remaining, register BEFORE THURSDAY (June 4th, 2009) to avoid the late fee. I have written about it in the past. You won’t want to miss it.
  2. Last week, I wrote about the “Sukhmani Sahib for the Shaheeds” project. You can participate in your hometown by arranging a Sukhmani Sahib this weekend. Be part of a national group and download the packet from here. The packet contains, instructions, other upcoming events, and a special Benti to be read during the Ardas. Even if you can’t make it to Fresno for the conference, honor the memory of our Shaheeds through Sukhmani Sahib.
  3. Finally Sikh organizations have come together to off for free the Sikhs’ Kristallnacht booklet to educate Sikhs and non-Sikhs alike:


The Sikh Collection Initiative

Mark your calendars- the Kaur Foundation and the Asian Division of the Library of Congress have KF_LOC_conference.jpgteamed up to undertake a unique initiative, to institutionalize knowledge by and about the Sikh community for future generations. The Library of Congress is the oldest federal cultural institution in the US, the largest library in the world, and the research wing of Congress. (LOC). The Sikh Collection Initiative is an effort to ensure that knowledge of and by Sikhs is collected and preserved for future generations. Given the tragic loss of valuable cultural and religious artifacts, manuscripts, and books from the Sikh Reference Library in the Darbar Sahib complex during Operation Bluestar, an initiative such as this begins to ensure that collective knowledge of our community will be preserved somewhere.

As our nation grows and becomes more diverse, it is critical that we appreciate and understand the different backgrounds of all that make this country great. Sikh Americans have significantly contributed to every field of human endeavor from technology, commerce, health, science, agriculture, to the arts further enriching the cultural fabric of this land of immigrants.


When Sikh Lions Roar in Canada

June soon approaches and many in the Sikh community will take the time to remember the events beginning in 1984. While some traditional sites of remembrance, mainly Gurdwaras, will continue to fulfill their duties to celebrate those that gave their lives and remember those families devastated by the Indian states violence, especially encouraging are new Sikh youth initiatives. Last week I discussed the Jakara Movement Sikh Conference and even the initiative Sukhmani Sahib for the Shaheeds. Now in Canada, the Sikh Activists Network is hosting two tremendous events.

The Details:

When Lions Roar: A Night of Music, Poetry, and Performance
Remembering the Sikh Genocide of 1984

Toronto: Friday June 5th, Crown Banquet Hall (Malton), 6pm
Vancouver: Friday July 3rd, Rhizome Caf (Vancouver), 6pm

Admission is FREE, but give a donation so that they can continue this initiative

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Sukhmani Sahibs for the Sikh Shaheeds

sukhmani.jpgIn The Langar Hall, we do our best to keep you up-to-date with the latest 1984 events. From conferences, to concerts, if its happening, well post it.

With the 25th commemoration of the Ghallughara, a great initiative called ‘Sukhmani Sahibs for the Sikh Shaheeds‘ (being held the first week of June, 2009) is being coordinated by the Jakara Movement throughout the United States. Starting in California, facebook groups have sprung up in Michigan, and the numbers of people participating are increasing. Texas and Washington DC have added to the list.

From their Facebook page:

The simplest, yet most powerful, thing one can offer another soul is a prayer.

Many of our parents are involved in Sukhmani Sahib groups in their local Gurdwaras. The Sikh Memorial Center is asking these groups, as well as any others that wish to participate, to come together and remember Guru Arjuns Shahadat and the Memory of the Shaheeds that gave their lives in the third Ghallughara (June 1984). How to we propose this remembrance? We are asking for these groups across the North America to perform Sukhmani Sahib during the first week of June and open the event to their entire local Sangat.

So how can you help? Well if your parents or someone that you know participates within a Sukhmani Sahib group, help us get them on board with this project! This event is not exclusive to parents, if you or your friends would like to put together a Sukhmani Sahib group of your own, contact me.

The coordinators task is difficult. For many of us, our mothers are part of these groups and the organizers are calling males at Gurdwaras to get in touch with these groups. If your mother is part of such a group, help the coordinators leap frog the males and send an email to them. At least help out that much. Better is to join your mother in the Sukhmani Sahib. Best of all, start your own group! Get in touch to get the information packet mailed out to you.

AND, if you live near Fremont Gurdwara:


Nikky Guninder Kaur Singh in DC

If you’re in the DC area on Friday and are free in the afternoon, head over to the Library of Congress at 1:00 pm. Nikky Guninder Kaur Singh, author of “The Feminine Principle in the Sikh Vision” among other works, will be speaking in the nikky_guninder_kaur_singh_in_dc.jpgMary Pickford Theatre on the 3rd floor of the Madison Building.

When: May 8, 1:00 pm-2:00 pm

Where: Mary Pickford Theater, 3rd Floor, James Madison Building,Library of Congress
101 Independence Ave., SE, Washington, DC 20540
(Metro stop: Capitol South on the Blue/Orange Line)

What: “The Feminine Principle in the Sikh Vision”
by Dr. Nikky Guninder Kaur Singh, Crawford Family Professor of Religious Studies at Colby College

Click on flyer to see full-size.

Sikh Youth Conference on Remembering 1984


The topic of 1984 is hardly new in The Langar Hall and despite protestations from some amnesia-desiring commenters, we will not forget the Shaheeds of Darbar Sahib, the pograms in Delhi, the Ghallughara against the Sikhs from 1978-1995, or even the continuing impunity that continues today.

We have highlighted many events in the past and we will contine to do so.

In that spirit, I strongly urge TLH readers to attend this year’s Jakara Movement conference in Fresno, CA from June 18-21st. A number of invited guests’ names will be announced in the upcoming week. The title of the conference is “Remember 1984: reflect. respond. react.

2009 | 1984 | 25 years |No justice | No memory | No history | No people

Despite the fact that many wish to forget the events that befell and have shaped the Sikh Nation, it is vital for the next generation of Sikhs to be aware of our past and understand how it shapes our present and our future. While twenty-five years have passed since the attack on our sacred home, much has changed and much has remained the same. For the Nishan Sahib of our Nation to remain tall, it is for us to study our history, remember the past, and continue the fight for justice.

This year at Jakara, we will Remember 1984 and celebrate those Kaurs and Singhs that made the ultimate sacrifice for our Qaum.

Join us in Fresno as we Remember 1984: Reflect. Respond. React.

Register here TODAY and avoid a late fee. Below the fold you’ll find the agenda. See you there!


Sikh Canadian wins Carnegie Medal
Credit: Ian Lindsay, Vancouver Sun

Tajinder (foreground) and Shalinder (background) Bansra.

Shalinder Kaur Basran is one of 19 recipients of the Carnegie Medal for heroism for intervening in a murderous domestic violence altercation in which a husband stabbed his wife. At the time, it was one of three cases in which desi-Canadian women had been killed by their families.

When Bibi Shalinder and her daughter heard a fight escalating downstairs, accompanied with cries for help, they ran downstairs where they found Jatinder Waraich had stabbed his wife, Navreet. She lay bleeding on the floor, crying for help. When he advanced on her, again, Bibi Shalinder forcibly removed him (while he held his knife) from the apartment while her daughter called 911. While police arrested Jatinder, his wife, unfortunately, did not survive his attack.

Reading about this award was really bittersweet for me. On one hand, I think interjecting yourself in the heat of a fight — with someone who’s already been acting crazy and is actively wielding a weapon — requires tremendous courage and strength. On the other hand, the underlying story of domestic violence and murder is heart-breaking. It made me wonder if others would have rushed to assist Navreet Waraich, or if they would have ignored it, assuming it was a domestic disagreement.

“Sikh Turban Week” at UT Arlington

We’ve definitely covered stories on the trials and tribulations Sikhs have faced recently in Texas. I saw this and thought it would be nice to share what students at the University of Texas – Arlington are doing to help dispel ignorance around our faith community.

The line outside the University of Texas at Arlington’s library this week wasn’t for intramural sign-up, a spring break travel package or even hot dogs sold off the grill for a fraternity fundraiser.

The organizers structured the event to trade off gift cards for a promise to wear a turban for a few hours, and during that time, to refrain from smoking, drinking, etc. It was the SSA at Southern Methodist (SMU) that came over and hosted events at neighboring campuses, relying on donations and outreach to the Dallas/Ft. Worth Sikh community.

Turban-tying throughout the week had two purposes: to raise consciousness around Sikhi as a distinct faith, and to expose non-Sikhs to the lived experience of, and discrimination faced by, Sikhs in the U.S.

It only took Keith Jackson two hours to understand the heft of American bias felt by Sikhs. The 31-year-old heavy equipment operator noticed the crowd in front of the library and decided to don a navy turban and an “Ask Me Why I’m Wearing a Turban” button. Then he went to lunch at Subway.

One man asked Jackson’s colleague, who also wore a turban, if he was part of the Taliban. Another man told them that bin Laden was their big brother. Someone on a bike started screaming at them. Everyone stared.

While the coverage in the article is imperfect, I thought it showed an interesting willingness, and engagement, of members of the UTAr campus community to take on a different experience. Overall, though, it sounds like it was effective in opening the door for changing the discourse/reflection on how non-Sikhs interact with their Sikh neighbors.

Sikhs, Immortal Technique, and 1984

sikh_immortal_technique.jpg2009 marks the 25th year since the events of 1984. Tragedy and the vibrancy of life mark the story that is 1984 and beyond. There will be many activities I assume over the next few months and I will do my best to stay informed and encourage participation by our readers, writers, and beyond.

Last year, I wrote that I was a HUGE fan of Immortal Technique. Although some of the commenters could not move beyond his usage of profanity, I think they are losing out on a phenomenal activist and inspiration. In that post I had mentioned his usage of a Sikh analogy, it seems next month he may be doing much more. The Sikh Students Association at the University of Maryland, College Park is one of the groups playing host to an upcoming performance on March 6th, 2009 at 6pm. The tagline of one of the posters (well one that I am sure the Sikh groups are promoting) is “Remembering 1984: 25 Years Since the Battle of Amritsar and the Sikh Genocide“. For more information visit Techs myspace page that states that free admission will be limited to the first 500 people.

Another great initiative that was recently brought to my attention is the One Million Chaupai Sahibs project. The target: 1,000,000 Chaupai Sahibs by June 2009. Whether individually or collectively, I hope the TLH community actively supports the project.


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