Dear Friends,

I’m reaching out with a request from my heart.

Every September, a Sikh family gathers quietly at a gas station in Arizona to mourn. They remember Balbir Singh Sodhi, a kind-hearted and generous man, whom many called Uncle. He was planting flowers in front of his gas station when he was murdered by a man who called himself a patriot. He was the first person killed in thousands of acts of hate violence in the aftermath of 9/11.

For twenty years, I have made a pilgrimage to the gas station where he was killed. Every year, on the day of the murder, his brother Rana and his family transform the gas station into sacred space. While people pump gas behind them, they spread white sheets over the asphalt, set out trays of hot food, and serve cha to a small gathering of family and neighbors. We listen to kirtan and sing Sikh prayers as the sun sets. Then we line up to place roses and candles on the cool marble in the spot where Balbir Uncle died.

This year, on September 15th, the family will gather once again, this time to mark twenty years since Balbir Uncle’s death. Let’s show them they are not alone.

Please write a prayer or message for the Sodhi family.

My team will bind your messages into a book, and I will present the book in person to the Sodhi family at the memorial. In your note, you can share encouragement and gratitude, or the way that their courage inspires you.

Here’s what to know: Rana Sodhi has worked to tell his brother Balbir’s story for twenty years, speaking to high school students and faith groups and elected leaders. Rana has insisted on responding to hate and injustice with love. He even reached out to his brother’s murderer to forgive him and begin the long hard road of reconciliation. Rana refuses to leave anyone outside our circle of care. What if we could do that as a country? It would be revolutionary. Your note will show Rana and family that twenty years later, we are by his side, committing to do our part in Balbir Uncle’s memory.

Write your prayer or message for the Sodhi family. Then save the date for September 15th, 6pm PDT, and  join us for the vigil virtually — for the first time ever, it will be livestreamed. See below for more details on how to help honor Balbir Uncle’s life this year.

The memorial will take place at the gas station where Balbir Uncle was killed. I see this gas station as the “second” ground zero. Balbir Uncle’s murder was followed by two decades of hate violence and state violence on people of color and a “war on terror” that has claimed the lives of countless civilians and soldiers, and has ultimately failed. We will gather at this gas station to reckon with all we have lost — and imagine a different future.

Balbir Uncle wore his turban as part of his faith—his commitment to love all of humanity. What if we took the value that he died for, and made it our North Star? What would the next 20 years look like if we valued human dignity above all? Let’s find out together.

In Chardi Kala — even in darkness, ever-rising spirits,

Three ways you can honor Balbir Sodhi’s life this year


#1 Share a message of love and support to the Sodhi family. The last day to submit messages is September 11th. Your messages will be delivered to the Sodhi family in a bound book at the vigil on September 15th.

#2 Attend the virtual vigil on 9/15. This year the vigil will be livestreamed across social media and all are welcome to attend. Please join us along with the Sodhi family, the Sikh Coalition, and faith leaders and social justice leaders from around the country to honor the life of Balbir Singh Sodhi with story, poetry, music, prayer, and calls to action.

#3 Post Balbir’s story on social media. 9/15 is our day of action, on that day we’ll be flooding social media with Balbir’s image and story. Please use our sample posts to share any time leading up to 9/15. Be sure to use the hashtags #BalbirSodhi and #20YearsSince.