Education Politics

A Call to All Sikh Organizations: November is Sikh Awareness & Appreciation Month

Although the Sikhs have lived in the United States for over a century, many people are still unaware of who the Sikhs really are and where they originally come from. Following the 9/11 attacks, many Sikhs were targeted in cases of mistakenly identity; Sikh children continue to be harassed and bullied both during and outside of school hours. And the reason is not because of any ill will, but ignorance. People simply don’t know who the Sikhs are. And the reasons appear to be a lack of public education and media awareness in our multiethnic and multicultural society. And even within the Sikh Community, our own self created illusions and pre-occupations with non-issues made to be major issues have all coalesced and resulted in being detrimental to the Sikhs as a community. Because of our internal bickering, there has not even been a mention of Sikhi or Sikhism in the California school books although it is now the 5th largest religion in the world and almost 200,000 Sikhs made California their home by making valuable contributions right from serving in the American Armed forces, farming fields, and everything else in between for over a century now. Having said that, there have been many Sikh organizations who have made strides to educate people about Sikhs, but the point I am making is that we all need to join forces and do what is best for the Sikh Community as a whole.

Along with many other individuals and Sikh organizations, I have been working with the Sikh Council of Central California (SCCC) to set the records straight in the school curriculums and content standards which ensures inclusion in the classrooms. The Yuba city Sikh Community, for example, has been paving the way in getting Punjabi classes started in their school districts and also getting the legislation to pass the resolution to make November 2010 Sikh American Awareness and Appreciation Month starting in California. Under the leadership of some selfless individuals and with the support of the Sikh community, I am delighted to report that this endeavor is bearing fruit on both of these fronts.

While the November 2010 Sikh American Awareness and Appreciation Month is great news for the Sikh Community, November is just around the corner and there is a special message for the American Sikh community: Unite and create awareness of who the Sikhs are in your respective communities. Also, please listen to KBIF 900 AM this Sunday to listen to Dr. Jasbir Singh Kang, M.D.of Yuba city’s interview with Punjab News and Views.

A friend of mine, former professor and alumni of U.C. Berkeley- Dr. Onkar Singh Bindra – just sent me the details of resolution No. 181 (California Sikh American Awareness and Appreciation Month), introduced on August 2, 2010 by Assembly Member Daniel R. Logue, at the request of Marysville-Yuba City Sikhs. Remember to pass along the message of who the Sikhs are through your words and most importantly, through your actions:

November 2010 Has Been Designated Sikh Awareness & Appreciation Month in California.
Written by Dr. Onkar Singh Bindra

California legislature has unanimously approved the Assembly Concurrent Resolution No. 181 (California Sikh American Awareness and Appreciation Month). Introduced on August 2, 2010 by Assembly Member Daniel R. Logue, at the request of Marysville-Yuba City Sikhs, it designates November 2010 as California Sikh American Awareness and Appreciation Month. His press release in appealdemocrat.com states,This is the first time in state history that Sikhs are receiving recognition for their outstanding contributions to California. He added, “month’s designation should serve to honor one of the state’s notable and accomplished communities.”

Resolved by the Assembly of the State of California, the Senate thereof concurring, the resolution reads “ That the Legislature hereby designates the month of November 2010 to be California Sikh American Awareness and Appreciation Month; and be it further Resolved, That the Legislature recognizes and acknowledges the significant contributions made by Californians of Sikh heritage to our state, and by adoption of this resolution, seeks to afford all Californians the opportunity to better understand, recognize, and appreciate the rich history and shared principles of Sikh Americans, their monotheistic religion and the tenets of their faith, and the important role that Sikh Americans play in furthering mutual understanding and respect among all peoples; and be it further Resolved, That the Chief Clerk of the Assembly transmit copies of this resolution to the author for appropriate distribution to the Members of the Legislature, members of the California Sikh American community, and other interested persons.”

The resolution, it is hoped, “would recognize and acknowledge the significant contributions made by Californians of Sikh heritage to California and afford all Californians the opportunity to understand, recognize, and appreciate the rich history, shared principles, religion, faith, and role Sikh Americans play in furthering mutual understanding and respect among all peoples.”

The following provided a justification for the resolution.

  1. California and our nation are at once blessed and enriched by the unparalleled diversity of our residents;
  2. Among this unprecedented diversity in California, there reside an estimated 200,000 Americans of Sikh origin, comprising nearly 40 percent of the nation’s estimated Sikh population;
  3. Sikh immigrants have resided in California for more than a century, with the first Sikh immigrants believed to have labored on railroad construction projects, in lumber mills, and in the agricultural heartlands of the Sacramento, San Joaquin, and Imperial Valleys;
  4. The first Sikh temple (Gurdwara) in California was established in Stockton in 1912, and Sikh temples have since been established in communities throughout California;
  5. While Sikh Americans have distinguished themselves in numerous areas of endeavor, they have demonstrated particular success in the areas of agriculture, trucking, medicine, and in the creation of small, family-owned businesses;
  6. Yuba City, California, boasts the largest population one of the largest confirmed populations of Sikh and Punjabi Americans in the nation;
  7. Dalip Singh Saund was the first Sikh American and Asian American member of the United States Congress;
  8. Dr. Bhagat Singh Thind struggled and fought for Asian Indians to be allowed to become American citizens;
  9. Dr. Narinder Singh Kapany of Palo Alto is acknowledged by many to be the father of fiber optics;
  10. Sikh Americans have served as mayors of California cities, including David Dhillon in El Centro, Gurpal Samra in Livingston, Amarpreet “Ruby” Dhaliwal in San Joaquin, and Kashmir Singh Gill in Yuba City, and numerous Sikh Americans have served as council members of California cities;
  11. The Sikh and Punjabi American communities of California continue to make important contributions to our state and nation;
  12. Sikh Americans City throughout California celebrates the coronation day of Sikh Scripture as Guru Gaddi Divas, along with parades in cities across California, the largest being held in Yuba City on the first Sunday of every November.

There is not much time left before November 2010. I urge all Sikh organizations in California (Gurdwara Managements, Cultural Associations, Sikh Students Associations in California, Jakara, Sikh Foundation, SALDEF, Sikh Coalition, United Sikhs, World Sikh Council – America Region (WSC-AR), Punjabi American Heritage Society (PAHS), Sikh Council of Central California (SCCC), KBIF900AM PunjabNewsandViews other Sikh organizations, and Sikh intellectuals to consider it their duty to arrange functions for awareness and appreciation of Sikhs in November 2010 throughout California. Museums, Libraries, School Districts and Media (TV, radio, print media, internet media – Blogs, twitter, Facebook) can all help. I recommend the use of PBS Sikh videos like “Meet the Sikhs”, “Sikhs in America”, and “A Dream in Doubt” etc., and Kaur Foundation’s “Cultural Safari”. Further, we need to hold open houses, exhibitions, seminars etc. and invite neighbors and teachers, and to hold teacher appreciation functions.  Furthermore, we must participate in Veterans Day Parade on Nov. 11 (Displaying a life-size picture of Bhagat Singh Thind, when he was in the United States army during WWI) and in other neighborhood parades, and distribute a brief leaflet about Sikh identity, religion, culture and history in California.

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