On this day, sixteen years ago, a Sikh American father was shot down in front of a gas station in Arizona. Balbir Singh Sodhi was the first person killed in a hate crime in the aftermath of 9/11.
Balbir Uncle’s murder turned a generation of young people like me into activists. My team and I made a film about his murder and began a life helping communities organize against racism and violence.
Today we are still living in the shadow of 9/11. The cycle of violence feels endless: an act of terrorism followed by a wave of hate violence, profiling, surveillance, detentions, deportations, bigoted rhetoric and use of force abroad. Then followed by another terrorist attack and more hate and violence.
So Balbir Uncle’s younger brother Rana and I did something that was previously unthinkable. We asked: who is the one person we have not yet tried to love? We decided to call his murderer.
May this story be a testament to the possibility of Revolutionary Love in this era of rage. In this time when hate crimes are the highest they have been since 9/11, we need your love and solidarity now more than ever.
Tonight, my community will gather at the gas station where Balbir Uncle was killed — we will mourn all who have been killed in white supremacist hate violence this year, including our brother Srinivas Kuchibhotla in Kansas City (February 22nd) and sister and ally Heather Heyer in Charlottesville (August 12th). We will also mourn all those killed in ambiguous circumstances yet whose deaths have shaken our communities, most recently:
- Our Muslim sister Nabra Hassanen in Reston, Virginia (June 18th)
- Our Sikh brother Simranjit Singh in Sacramento, CA (July 25th)
- A Sikh father Subag Singh who I called ¨Baaj Uncle¨ in Fresno, CA (July 23rd)
- And our young Sikh brother Gagandep Singh in Bonner County, Idaho (August 28th)
What can you do? Please watch and share our film DIVIDED WE FALL to learn about our struggle against hate since 9/11 — and our defiant love. The film is available online for free and comes with teacher´s guides and dialogues questions to use in your classroom, house of worship, or even your living room. The first step toward loving us is hearing our story.
Today we mourn. Tomorrow we organize.
In Chardi Kala, ever-rising high spirits, even in the dark —
Valarie & the Revolutionary Love Fellows