It is the morning of September 15th, eight years since the hate murder of Balbir Singh Sodhi. I sit with a candle in memory of Uncle Ji — and in honor of untold numbers of people whose names will never be read at Ground Zero, but whose lives were lost or damaged in the ongoing aftermath of terrorist attacks, whether in the name of hate or vengeance or security.
Please join me in this day of memorial. Light a candle. Take a moment of silence. Invite friends or family over to watch Divided We Fall. Join people around the country and world in our campaign for deeper dialogue on hate and healing — in your own school, office, or living room. And tell your own untold story.
Last fall, 80 U.S. cities hosted screenings of Divided We Fall to commemorate Sept 15, 2001 and engage in deep dialogue about race and religion, hate and healing in America. From Idaho to New York, North Dakota to Florida, Texas to California and Alaska and all parts between, the film screened in living rooms, lecture halls, and theaters, sparking dialogue and discussion between people from all walks of life. Read audience responses in their own words here. You can find the film on Amazon and Netflix, and you can join our national dialogue here.
My Own Journey
Today, we enter our third year of touring the world with Divided We Fall. Since our premiere in Phoenix with the Sodhi family three years ago tonight, we have reached tens of thousands of people in 130 cities around the world.
This year alone has brought many stories I have not yet shared with you — stories from University of Michigan in February, University of Notre Dame in March, Drexel University in April, University of Chicago in May, the Library of Congress in June, a tour through England in August, and Florida in September. I have yet to order the chaos of my most recent adventures in the whirlwind. But today I would like to offer you glimpses to begin your day:
Speaking to Corporate America
Each year on Sept 11th, I find myself in New York City, invited by a university or community to commemorate the anniversary. Not this year. On Sept 11th, invited to speak to a corporation for the very first time, I stand before a banquet hall of three hundred managers and executives at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Florida. I see a familiar face in the audience; my mentor Tommy Lee Woon has come to give his support. I take a deep breath, and deliver a one-hour keynote address on terrorism, racism, healing, and health-care. When I’m done, there is a second of stillness — and then a bursting standing ovation, businessmen standing with tears in their eyes, and smiling through the tears. And I realize that the cubicles and conference rooms of corporate America are hungry for humanity and compassion — values that could help executives defend the poor and powerless even before mandates from Congress. Thank you, KheSahn Barker, for helping cultivate these values at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Florida.
Fighting Racism Through UK Football
In London, I find myself in a skybox at the famous Wembley Stadium surrounded by football players and sports reporters who are ready to talk about race. Sharat Raju and I have been invited by the Khalsa Football Academy to help them combat racism through the sport of football — where young men of color often face racial barriers in their career and racial slurs out on the field. Throughout a week of film screenings and workshops, I make groups of boys and men sit in circles to examine the impact of racism on their physiology — and find ways to cultivate healing and build resilience. A first for me. And for them.
Training British Police Officers
In Letchworth, just outside of London, I face a room of 50 white police officers from the Hertfordshire Policy Academy. They have gathered together for a two-hour workshop with me. I have never worked with police officers before. I take a deep breath and ask: “How has terrorism affected your policing?” And then: “How does racism affect your policing?” They identify two major changes: the threat of hate crimes and the need to combat the perception of racial profiling by their own agencies. After leading them through real-life case studies on hate crimes and racial profiling from the film, the officers emerge with a deeper recognition of the need for community engagement. And I emerge with a new appreciation for police officers who are committed to doing their job well. Thank you Bal Singh for arranging our entire England tour!
Kids on the South Side of Chicago
In an elementary school on the south side of Chicago, I watch fifty squirming fourth and fifth graders enter single-file for their special presentation. These kids were two-years old when Sept 11th happened. They are all African-American, looking up at me in absolute curiosity. “What country do you think I’m from?” I ask. “Afghanistan!” “Pakistan!” “Iraq!” “Mexico!” Stumped into silence, finally someone tries, “America?” And so begins magical two hours with these kids, connecting my story to theirs, thanks to our organizer and long-time kindred spirit Currun Singh. Want to know what happened? Read about it here.
In the Halls of Power
As a student at Yale Law School, I find myself in the strange position of passing senators, justices, and former heads of state on my way to class. And since I always carry copies of our little film around, I can now tell you that the following people own Divided We Fall: U.S. Senators Russell Feingold and Dick Durbin, Justice Breyer of the U.S. Supreme Court, and former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, who incidentally says that he heard about the film before. I told him Balbir Singh Sodhi’s story and hoped he would watch the film on 9/15.
Thank you for being part of our growing family. Thank you for your commitment to social change through dialogue and storytelling. And thank you for remembering 9/15.