Mai Bhago Retreat: Sikh American women justice leaders
On Saturday, Feb 25th, we held the inaugural Mai Bhago retreat in Los Angeles! It was the first of its kind — a gathering for Sikh American women justice leaders. Twenty Sikh American women gathered from all corners of the country. Our circle was diverse: We were brown and white, young and old, gay and straight, turban-wearing and not, and of many professions — educators, artists, activists, lawyers, and scholars. We were bound together through Mai Bhago, the first Sikh woman warrior, whose legacy inspired the retreat. I see these women as the Mai Bhagos of our time — women who use their pens, voices, cameras, brushes, and more as swords and shields to fight for those in need. We shared our grief, our pain, our prayers, our joy, and our wisdom. Above all, we shared our sisterhood. We offered support in this time of crisis so that we may embody the care and wellness in our own lives that we want for those we serve.
It’s hard to put into words what this experience means to me. I think I’ve been longing for a space like this my whole life, a way to love and be loved by Sikh sisters who are similarly inspired by their faith and heritage to fight for justice. But such spaces are rare in our community. Every time I’ve seen another Sikh sister doing amazing work, we would catch glimpses of each other in the trenches but never have enough time to sit together, hear one another’s stories, weep, learn, and build bonds of sisterhood. Could we create such a space? My dear friend Lisa Anderson organizes Sojourner Truth leadership circles for black women in social justice. We began dreaming of such a retreat for Sikh women 4 years ago. The dream came true when we joined forces with our powerhouse sisters Sapreet Kaur Saluja and Nirinjan Khalsa. It was a grand experiment. By the end, participants called it life-changing and historic. It was this and more to me. It was #RevolutionaryLove.
We know there are many more Sikh women leaders out there who are breaking new ground and need support. We hope that this experience inspires more gatherings like this. If you are interested in this one, please write my teammate Meha Chiraya at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you to co-hosts The Sikh Coalition Auburn Theological Seminary Loyola Marymount University and my teammates at the Revolutionary Love Ground Team especially Meha Maple Chiraya for logistics mastery and Sim Grewall for photos and film. Most of all, thank you to all the Sikh warriors + sisters who brought their magic to the clearing, including: Nitasha Sawhney Jyotswaroop Kaur Simran Kaur Gurjot Kaur Shanti Kaur Khalsa Schandra Singh Suneet Kaur Nirvair Kaur Khalsa Lakhpreet Dhariwal Kaur Aasees Kaur Puni Kalra Manpreet Kaur Balpreet Kaur Harleen Kaur Tavleen Kaur ਤਵਲੀਨ ਕੌਰ and Jasvir Kaur whose kirtan still sings in my heart.