Sikh Youth and Expression: Inquilab and Lahir

322108_10150372143327003_8401147002_8832647_1745978292_o.jpgOn December 2nd and 3rd, Sikh youth will have the opportunity to participate in a special workshop that will allow them to learn the power of expression and how it can be used to create change in their life and communities.  Inquilab: Raising our Voices, organized by The Sikh Coalition and Slumgods, will bring together hip-hop artists, Mandeep Sethi and Selena Dhillon, to work with South Asian youth as a way of encouraging their engagement with expression. Through this participation, youth can learn how to effectively use art to inspire positive change within their own communities.

317870_303077699717238_158143770877299_1143375_633730981_n.jpgFollowing the workshop this weekend is Lahir – an event that aims to inspire, educate and awaken the community to rebuild the panth and encourage youth to become activists. The concert will provide a much-needed platform for powerful Sikh artists to express themselves through music, art, film, and poetry.  Some more information from the organizers:

In past years, Lahir’s central theme focused on 1984 and Punjab.  This year, Lahir 2011 will be “Bringing Sikhi Back”. Ten years post 9/11, it’s time to stand up as individuals and as a community to begin to shape the next ten years. Join us for an evening of spoken work, music, poetry and the arts to reflect and reenergize to ensure a future of chardi kala!  This year, all proceeds will go to the Saanjh Sikh Youth Scholarship. We need strong voices in our community and we need diverse voices to help us educate others and ourselves about the historical, political, social, and economic issues that affect our community. Therefore, this event is not just for us, but for our future.

Inquilab will take place on December 2nd and 3rd 2011 at South Asian Youth Action Inc | 5405 Seabury St, Elmhurst, NY.

Lahir will take place on December 3rd 2011 at Rutgers University | Douglass Campus | Trayes Hall, 100 George Street, New Brunswick, NJ.

We encourage you to learn more about these events, and if you are in the area – please attend and let us know how it goes!

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51 Responses to “Sikh Youth and Expression: Inquilab and Lahir”

  1. bikramjit singh says:

    i am so happy becuse i am sikh.and part of sikh kom

  2. CONCERENED says:

    As a longtime contributor to the Sikh Coalition, it is horrible that my hard-earned money is going to promote rappers. It is the SIKH culture they should celebrating not this other stuff that promotes violence and baggy pants. They can have organize dastaar-bandhees for the YOUTH. Why are they wasting my money? THIS IS NOT WHY I HAVE SENT MY CHECKS!

  3. Blighty Singh says:

    As an Englandian I do find these constant Sikhi / Hip hop hybrid events in North America very difficult to understand. Things are very different here. The south Asian youth here are every bit as into things like hip hop ragga etc as their cousins in north america but here, to join a 'Sikh' event they have to leave that stuff at the door and open their minds and souls to things like simran, kirtan etc. I mean I myself grew up on old skool reggae but I would never have dreamed of letting absorbing it into my Sikhi. The two just don't mix. Not here anyway. Here, thesikh yoots dem are a bit more politically active and lively. They wouldn't tolerate such an event. 200 amritdhari youths would turn up at the event and forcefully put a stop to it.
    Its a hip hop night…..plain and simple. Why do the organisers have to pretend there's a sikhi theme to it ?

  4. Tejinder says:

    Blighty Singh — there is a reason in America we have a popular phrase "American Born Confused Desi". These are victims of this confusion. Our own communities ability to not clearly distinguish between Punjabi Culture and Sikh Culture has just been expanded further into this hybrid culture of hip-hop/Sikhi blend. Most challenges faced by our community in America are being challenged in a very naive manner, we see other non-Sikh communities do one thing or another to help their future generations stay focused on religion, education etc.. and we try to copy them rather then investigating and root causing our own community issues and then confronting them, we try to copy these other communities and hope for success. I understand hip-hop in American at one point had its % of hand in changing American social demographics for race relations etc. but today it is a commercialized form of entertainment no different than pop-music.

  5. meatball says:

    I've seen fundraising results from events like "Amritvela Week" and "Charity Kirtan Darbar" in Canada and UK. I was impressed to hear that "Tears and Ashes" is having a kirtan darbar as well. I wonder how well those events would transfer over to USA. Jakara/Sikh Coalition/SALDEF/United Sikhs/SikhLens Arts/SikhRI/etc – DO IT please :)

  6. Jeevan says:

    I question the role modeling ability of Mandeep Sethi and Selena Dhillon for Sikhi-based hip-hop workshops. Undoubtedly they would be wonderful hip-hop instructors, but would they be as adequate incorporating Sikhi into these workshops? Mandeep Sethi smokes weed like crazy – at SikhLens he was known to have been completely high the entire time. What a great influence for the Sikh youth! And I have, for a long time, noticed that Selena Dhillon's outlook on Sikhi might not be very strong – she wears inappropriate and showy clothing and cuts her hair. Although normally I wouldn't care about her own personal path on Sikhi, I wouldn't want the Kaur youth to idolize her as what a Singhni should strive for. I truly do fear for the Sikh youth's influence by these two people, and hope to see some better Sikh role models leading these otherwise well-intentioned initiatives in the future.

  7. Harbhajan says:

    Dear Concerned & Tejinder: I understand that at the onset, hiphop and Sikhi may appear contradictory, but these events were not a celebration of baggy pants and violence. It was actually the contrary – they were about love and acceptance – core values of Sikhi.

    I had the privilege of attending Lahir and hearing the youth from Inquilab recite the poetry that they'd written in the workshops. It was incredibly powerful to see the youth bravely stand in front of a large crowd and recite their poetry, which reflected their feelings and struggles AS SIKHS.

    They brought attention to their experiences in the post-911 era of being targeted as terrorists, they educated us on the violence that has been inflicted on them BECAUSE they are Sikhs.

    These events provide Sikh youth with a tool to articulate and express themselves. Period. Poetry and writing go back to our indigenous roots; Gurbani was written in poetry; imagine if our youth are empowered with this tool! Imagine if they continue to learn public speaking – in an era where no one in the US even knows who Sikhs are, these youth will be the leaders who will educate the world on our existence and history.

    I left Lahir on Saturday feeling inspired by these youth who are on the front lines of violence and abuse, who are bravely finding their voices in order to not be silenced any longer. How can we condemn such a liberation?

  8. Harbhajan says:

    PS – a simple conversation with Mandeep Sethi will illustrate the depth of his love and commitment to youth. He started an organization in India called "tiny drops", where they work with youth in India's slums to teach them positive expression through breakdancing. These types of programs keep youth out of danger and trouble.

    Selena Dhillon has been working with young Sikh girls for a number of years, to help them gain confidence in themselves. While she may not keep kes, I'd love for my daughters to work with her. Her music and style is filled with love – why shouldn't they be leading the youth work? In my humble opinion, it's better than a lot of my kids' experiences at the gurdwaras (we go daily), where they are told off by rude (in full Sikhi saroop) sevadaars and where committee members do not take them seriously because "they're only kids".

    Our Sikh leaders cannot merely be leaders because they are in full bana or Sikhi saroop – they also need to uphold the values of love and respect, which both performers are exemplary in.

  9. Seriously? says:

    I don’t understand how reggae or any other form of music is being INCORPORATED into their sikhi? Music of all of forms is an art so since when is this art form not an appropriate way for EXPRESSION? This is the sole reason art even exists. When the gurus were being oppressed they turned to an art form, poetry, to express themselves and that is Gurbani. It’s extremely easy to sit behind a computer and tell everyone what’s wrong with the world and provide your “opinions” about how to fix them. It’s much more difficult to go outside and actually do something about it. The previous generation of Sikhs primarily sit back and allow people and government to take advantage of them. FINALLY, Sikhs are stepping up and fighting back and becoming activists. Those Sikhs happen to be the youth. So rather than condemning and attacking them for trying to make a difference shouldn’t you be encouraging?

    Everyone is on their own path of Sikhi and thats part of the beauty of gurbani. Its open to interpretation and each person takes their own time to find what many deem to be the “right” path. If you have such a problem with these activists running the workshops then step forward and do something about it other than writing messages on a blog. Its a shame it has to come to this.

  10. Singh says:

    I see a lot of negative comments and unfortunately for those of you in the UK – the english mentality pertains to this day. The english did an AMAZING job of making sure that any form of art is wiped out from the Sikh Panth completely.

    If you attend the event which post of you did not – you would have experienced amazing poetic expression of the struggles of Sikhs in high school and what it felt like being a turbaned Sikh.

    you would have experienced amazing violin and tabla by young gursikhs.

    you would have experienced death to bollywood song at the end.

    you would have experienced a college youth live dhadhi rendition similar to those on immortal shaheedi guys from UK.

    you would have experienced so much more BUT BUT all you see is Selena Dhillions cut hair and Mandeep Sethi's habits?

    and ps: Kirtan is amazing in raag its beyond beautiful gurbani is nothing but divine BUT today it has become a mere sing a long on popular bollywood tunes which is directly a result of a loss of artistic appreciation within our community. Wake up my people out of 20 artists not all 20 will be gursikhs or even sikhs – when you go to gurdwara why dont you kick everyone you feel that is not Sikh out of there?

    We are all learning – Kid's, Youth, Adults and some you haters alike.

  11. Blighty Singh says:

    No. Not well put at all. The + points one finds on the langar hall these days is more indicative of the bollywood portrayal of the stupidity of Sikhs than the reality. The reality, despite what 'singh; just said about englandian sikhs is this : Lets take David Hinds as an example. He grew up in and amongst the the heart if the UK's Sikh community in the Handsworth district of Birmingham, and later became the lead singer of the legendary reggae band 'Steel Pulse'. In all their albums and singles they gave thanks and salutations, on their record covers, to Mr and Mrs Singh etc…….partly because the success of reggae in the early 1970's outside the small Jamaica island was the uk perspective ( it is worth remembering that the 2 most famous and universally criticaly aclaimed reggae acts from the 70's were both from the heart of the sikh communities : Misty in roots (southall) and Steel Pulser (handsorth, birmingham). With universal success, they spent alot of time in New York. In New York david Hinds suffered first hand experience of the difficulty of black folk hailing a taxi cab in new york. He took it to the federal court. This Birmingham fella won a landmark case in us history. He changed the playing field forever. And herein lies the difference. The American system (the canadian system…as per cand in general….is irrelevent)) is based on social change…i.e…..when an individual has a complaint of racial discrimination he / she has to first file that complaint with the EEOC, who sit on it for 3/4 of a year before saying one has the right to spend a quarter of a million on a court law suit. In England, because us sikhs have the right to free, quick, discrimination claims…and us sikhs have a very priveiedged position in equality law (i.e….only sikhs, jews and gypsies have the ultimate protection) we tend to articulate our position more than others. Thus…..even though we grow up on reggae….Leonard Cohen…etc….we keep it all separate from our sikhi…for sikhi is far more important than all that social / culture stuff. So there we are…..We come to the crux of the matter regarding the difference between englandian sikhs and north american sikhs re; articulating their sikhi. I mentioned a few sentences ago how north american discrimination law is about discrimination and how the individual (unless he has unlimited financial recources) ain;t gonna be able to enforce his rights. Well…..we need to remember how our each individual personalities is shaped by the rights that we have…and how we each individualy interpret those rights. But its all different……which is why most of the + and – marks on this blog don't mean jack. I'll give you an example ; most of us englandian and canadian sikhs would probably communicate with a singaporean sikh with a feeling of superiroity, money wise…partly because we drive around in a nice car whilst they wait at the bust stop. But what is the reality ? The reality is that the canadian sikh drives around with the type of car that isn't even condidered road worthy in europe. The average eneglandian sikh drives around in his bmw but he never gives a thought of how the Singapoream sikh doesn 't drive because to put a car on the road there would cost the equivalent to a quater of a million dollars per year. So……Have we gone back in time ? Are we back in hipppy pot smoking times ? Is Leoanards's meaningfull poems the way to get through to our youths ? Should Bob Dylans's move to the electric guitar be the inspiration for a sikhi workshop ? Duran Duran or Spanadau ballet ?…..Should we have a sikhi workshop to decide ?

    Popular culture v truth. Thats what this cryptic message is about, my friends. I geew up listened to 2 tone ska thinking this was the soundtrack of my life as a sikh. If there was a blog such as this back then they would have sung my praises.How silly would they look now given that the fashion, at the moment is to rap ? So how silly is this workshop in question gonna look when the fashion of the day is back to spiritual potery from our gurus?
    The moral of this story ? The moral of this message? Just like wet look permed hair…………Your children will look back with embarassment how you tried ti incporporate the popular culture of the day into sikhi.
    Tip ? Start another thread. This time call it number '2'. This way you can give legitimacy to your stupidity.

  12. I just missed the said event. I hope I'd be able to join next time. Will lahir happen again in the near future? I'll anticipate that.

  13. thank you for sharing great content.