May 10, 2024 (Albany, NY) – This past Wednesday, as part of the R.E.A.C.H. (Representing and Empowering AANHPI Community History) Coalition, the Sikh Coalition was honored to join organizations and advocates for the second-ever Advocacy Day at the New York State Capitol in Albany, NY. Organizations, community leaders, advocates, and sangat members came together in celebration of Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) Heritage Month and also in support of Senate Bill 5963/Assembly Bill 6579, a measure that would establish an AANHPI history and civic impact curriculum to be available for use by New York schools.

The bills aim to create safer schools for our students, and would ultimately benefit the broader AANHPI community within New York. Current social studies do not provide sufficient AANHPI history in schools, at times even sharing factually incorrect or misleading information. Bills S5963 and A6579 would require public schools to provide instruction that highlights history, movements, and contributions made by the AANHPI community to government, arts, humanities, sciences, economics, cultural, and political development of the United States.

A press conference and rally featuring organizations, advocates, and sponsors of the bills from both chambers, Senator John Liu and Assemblymember Grace Lee, kicked off the event. The Sikh Coalition was proud to position 12th grade sangat member Mehar Kaur and community leader Gurpal Singh to deliver short speeches in support of the bill, and Harmeet Kaur Kamboj, Sikh Coalition Senior State Policy Manager, shared opening and closing remarks.

“It was heartwarming to see community advocates, volunteers, coalition groups, and elected members come together for a full day of advocacy,” said Savleen Singh, Sikh Coalition Senior Education Manager. “Equitable and well-informed education policies can transform lives and create a brighter future for children in our communities. While AANHPI month serves as a poignant reminder, our commitment to advocating for our community’s rightful place within the education system must transcend this annual observance and persist as an unwavering, ongoing endeavor.”

Following the press conference, community leaders and advocates met with elected officials in the NY legislature to urge support for S5963 and A6579. Multiple sangat members were among the 37 attendees via the R.E.A.C.H. Coalition, which itself includes more than 170 students, parents, educators, and advocates, as well as more than 60 community-based organizations fighting for the inclusion of AANHPI history.

All of our work in New York, however, is an extension of our efforts to include accurate information about Sikhs in public school standards and classrooms nationwide. In January, Minnesota became the 19th in a growing list of states to work with the Sikh Coalition to successfully advocate for Sikh inclusion in its social studies standards. These efforts mean that more than 26 million students from coast to coast have the possibility of a more inclusive and holistic education.

The Sikh Coalition thanks the sevadaars who joined us for Advocacy Day in Albany. We are also grateful to our R.E.A.C.H. Coalition partners—particularly co-leads Brianna Cea, Immediate Past President of OCA-NY, and Kulsoom Tapal, Education Policy Coordinator for CACF—for making this event possible. And lastly, we express our appreciation to not just Senator Liu and Assemblymember Lee for their leadership on this issue, but also to Senator Iwen Chu, Assemblymember Steven Raga, and many other elected officials who joined these events and took time to hear the concerns of their constituents.

As always, the Sikh Coalition urges you to practice your faith fearlessly.