Two weeks ago, nine innocent African-American lives were taken by a white supremacist inside the iconic Charleston, South Carolina Emanuel A.M.E. Church. The tragedy, mourned by Americans of all faiths, was yet another horrific reminder of the hate and bigotry we still face together as a nation.
For every Sikh American, it was also impossible to ignore the tragic parallels between the Charleston violence and the grief our community experienced nearly three years ago in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. In my own moments of prayer, I found myself grieving for everybody impacted in South Carolina, but also for the Oak Creek sangat, who courageously continue to inspire all of us with the Sikh spirit of Chardi Kala (eternal optimism).
Within hours of the Charleston shooting we engaged the American media with the very clear message of solidarity with our African-American brothers and sisters, while also emphasizing that the tragedy should be viewed as an act of domestic terrorism. It’s crucial that these threats are recognized and addressed in the same way that we handle other national security concerns.
We also quickly partnered with Valarie Kaur and Groundswell to promote messages of Sikh American solidarity to the families of Charleston and collaborated with the One Nation Fund to promote charitable donations back to the impacted community. We further mobilized with Sikh Academy Advocates and Ambassadors to effectively share the appeal for charitable giving in Gurdwaras across the country.
Finally, we moved to work with Sikh Coalition colleagues, allies, and Sikh Academy Advocates to draft, edit, and successfully place nine Op-Eds in American news outlets, which reached nearly five million Americans. The Sikh voice matters on this issue and we worked to ensure that our collective voice was heard.
Next month will mark the third anniversary of the Oak Creek mass shooting and we urge everybody who can make it to Oak Creek to join the annual Chardhi Kala 6k Memorial Walk & Run on August 1st. For those who can’t make it to Wisconsin, we look forward to working with you to stand in solidarity through our National Day of Seva events across America. If you haven’t signed up yet, please email Harjit@sikhcoalition.org.
In the wake of Charleston, our fortitude to combat hate in America remains as strong as ever. The work is hard, the challenges are obvious, but our relentless pursuit of a better America for you and all of our children drives our resilience every single day.
In Chardi Kala,
The Sikh Coalition