I’m in Oak Creek today to commemorate the four-year anniversary of a mass shooting on Sikh Americans. On August 5, 2012, a white supremacist opened fire in a Sikh gurdwara in this small town in Wisconsin, spilling blood in a place of prayer and peace. He killed six people and wounded many more. The tragedy too quickly fell out of national memory.
But that’s not why I keep coming back.
As a Sikh, all my life I have been taught “chardi kala” – the spirit of optimism and revolutionary love even in suffering.
But I had never witnessed this kind of love in the wake of mass violence – until Oak Creek.
Here, when the blood was still fresh on the ground, young people whose parents and aunts and uncles had just been murdered came together in tears. They sang prayers while they pulled out the blood-soaked carpets and repaired the shattered glass. They gathered to pray for every person who was killed – including the soul of the gunman. And then they rolled up their sleeves and turned the impulse to love into social and political action – joining community leaders to build new initiatives, forge new friendships, even change federal hate crimes policy.
In response, ten thousand of you sent in prayers and messages to show that you stand with them in love and support. When I delivered these books in person, I saw up close how love can make a people resolute and brave.
This story holds the antidote we need.
This is a time of moral and political crisis in America. Hate is on the rise, and every week we are reeling from more news of terrorism and mass violence. How can we respond? This story shows us what revolutionary love looks like – the kind of love that drives courageous action.
This weekend, young Sikh Americans in Oak Creek will stand in solidarity with the Latinx community in Orlando, just as they did with the black community in the wake of the Charleston shooting last year, and the families of the Newtown shooting in the year before that.
Are you ready to stand with them? It’s simple —
Today from 11AM to 2PM ET, please tweet and post with the hashtag #RememberOakCreek and share this video. Here’s an example Tweet or post:
Today is 4 year anniv of mass shooting on Sikhs. WATCH how they turn hate into #revolutionarylove: http://www.upworthy.com/you-might-be-in-tears-after-watching-this-communitys-response-to-fear-terror-and-hatred #RememberOakCreek
Ready to do more?
– Show up this Saturday at the Chardi Kala 6K Run in Oak Creek, WI. Listen to my sister advocate Deepa Iyer (author of We Too Sing America) deliver the keynote. Walk with the community. I’ll see you there! http://www.chardhikala6kwi.org/
– Serve in the National Day of Seva in your city on August 13-14: http://www.sikhcoalition.org/get-involved/act-now/national-day-of-seva
– Become an ambassador for #revolutionary love this election year: http://valariekaur.com/2016/07/apply-now
I remember when four years ago, Mayor Steve Scaffidi declared that his community would not be known as a site of tragedy but a beacon of hope. He was right.
Returning today, this place has become a spiritual home and place of pilgrimage for me and many others. Because it’s here that we see revolutionary love, still in action, even when it’s messy and hard –
I see this love in Pardeep Kaleka, whose father was killed in the shooting, joining forces with a former white supremacist Arno Arr Michaelis IV. Together they teach young people the power of love and friendship to overcome hate.
I see this love in Lt. Brian Murphy, who took 15 bullets trying to stop the gunman, willing to give his life for people who did not look like him and who he did not know, a hero who is now using his voice to stand up to hate.
I see this love in Kamal Saini, who lost his mother Paramjit Kaur in the shooting and has now become a Marine in order to be like Brian, who nearly died trying to protect the people inside the gurdwara, including Kamal’s mother.
And Kamal’s brother Harpreet Saini who because the first Sikh to testify in Congress, thanks to the leadership of the The Sikh Coalition. Many of you joined us to call on the US government to change federal hate crimes policy in his mother’s memory – and we won.
Finally, I see this love in Baba Punjab Singh, the grandfather and Sikh teacher who was shot and now lies in a paralyzed state. He cannot move or speak, only blink. When his wife Mata Kulwant Kaur or his son Raghvinder Ji asks him if he’s in “chardi kala,” he blinks twice – yes.
That’s why I’m here. That’s why I packed my bags, kissed my baby goodbye for a few days, and arrived with my film team today. To continue to tell this story.
Because if Baba Punjab Singh can live in revolutionary love, then so can I.
So can you.
So can we together.
In memory of Sita Singh, Ranjit Singh, Suveg Singh, Paramit Kaur, Prakash Singh, and Satwant Singh Kaleka –
#RememberOakCreek in #RevolutionaryLove