Balbir Sodhi’s widow, Joginder Kaur, stands to the right of the portrait of her husband with her children and grandchildren at the vigil on September 15th.

My loves,

It was a sacred night. A historic night. We gathered at the gas station in Arizona where Balbir Singh Sodhi was killed 20 years ago — and we remembered and grieved and sang and dreamt of our future. I am so proud to share with you this 3 minute video that captures the magic and power of the vigil:


For the last twenty years, Rana Sodhi has held a vigil for his brother on the night he died. But this year was different. After the family sang Sikh prayers Rehraas and Ardaas, we looked up and saw faith leaders and civic leaders and community members pour in from around the nation. Rana Ji had tears in his eyes. He has told his brother’s story for twenty years. But on this night, he knew he was not alone; the story now lives in all of us.

Listen to speeches from the vigil:

At the end of the night, Balbir Ji’s grandchildren stood on stage next to his portrait. They were radiant. It was like witnessing the audacity of new life and joy out of the ash. We placed candles and roses on the ground where Balbir Ji died, and we took seeds to plant just as he did, seeds of love. We sat together to break naan and talk and laugh. Overhead, the moon shone bright.

“Though I did not have the privilege or the benefit of knowing him, I feel like I do, through the memories of all those who loved him so much.” Ashwin Sodhi is Balbir Ji’s eldest grandchild. He was murdered two years before she was born.

We are grateful to the Sikh Coalition for organizing the vigil with the family and local community. Thank you for your steadfast leadership and partnership for the last twenty years.

Thank you to all of YOU who became part of this story! We’ve been getting notes and messages from all around the country, hearing about the many ways you participated in our month-long programming around the 9/11 anniversary —

  • You sent messages and prayers to the Sodhi family
  • You attended Balbir Singh Sodhi’s memorial virtually
  • You visited to learn about the impact of 9/11
  • You watched Divided We Fall & shared it with your people
  • You downloaded our educational guides for your students
  • You digested our media hits, from CNN to NPR to NowThis
  • You posted #BalbirSodhi’s story on social media
  • You joined our conversations with thought leaders
  • You read See No Stranger & helped launch the paperback
  • You sparked new conversations with family & friends

Together we created a cultural intervention. The 20-year anniversary of 9/11 marked two decades of hate violence, state violence, and war. But we reclaimed it as a moment to build beloved community.

If we can create beloved community at a gas station, we can do it anywhere.

We’ve spent the last twenty years organizing around hate. Let’s spend the next twenty years organizing around love —



We presented the bound book of your messages and prayers to Balbir Ji’s wife Joginder Kaur and brother Rana Sodhi at the vigil. Thank you to artist Sunroop Kaur for the portrait at the heart of the event.

Your 1,580+ messages and prayers and poems bound in a book for the Sodhi family.

Balbir Sodhi’s gas station transformed into a sacred space — a container for beloved community.

We lit candles together.

Recitation of the Rehraas and Ardaas, Sikh prayers. Here is the Sodhi family praying together at the place where Balbir Ji died.

Thank you to longtime community leader Dr. Jaswant Singh Sachdev for your words of welcome and wisdom. Our elders are the wind at our back. 


Here are the most powerful stories, conversations, and news we generated in the month of September. WE SHOWED UP on the airwaves, in print, and on screens across the nation, reaching millions of people. This email is a treasure chest. Keep it, star it, save it. Whenever you need inspiration, open this email and dip into the stories below. 


How Islamophobia Has Impacted Sikh Communities (The Takeaway, broadcast on National Public Radio): If you listen to one thing, let this be it. This 15-minute conversation with Melissa Harris-Perry was broadcast on NPR stations nation-wide the weekend of 9/11. Listen for analysis, storytelling, and inspiration.


America After 9/11  (PBS FRONTLINE): This is the epic 2-hour PBS special on the last 20 years that I want everyone to see. It includes my voice on hate crimes after 9/11, visiting Guantanamo, and responding to the Trump era and insurrection. If short on time, read my complete analysis in my published interview here.

The Story of Balbir Singh Sodhi ( If you have 2 minutes, THIS is the video to watch for why everyone should know his name.

The Death and Memory of Balbir Singh Sodhi (NowThis): Watch how NowThis makes you feel this man’s story in 5 minutes. It features Rana Sodhi’s words at his brother’s memorial: “His life, his death has become a beacon of light.”


What the 9/11 Anniversary Means to Us, with Ai-Jen PooListening to legendary activist Ai-Jen Poo always feels like medicine. In the lead-up to the 9/11 anniversary, we talk on Instagram Live about where we were 20 years ago — and all we have learned since.

Live from Ground Zero in NYC Live from the Gas Station in AZ, with Kerri Kelly & Rana Sodhi : Activist Kerri Kelly invites me to Ground Zero to grieve her step-father killed on 9/11. Four days later, I invite her to join Rana Sodhi and me to grieve Balbir Sodhi at the gas station where he died. Both encounters are stunning, magical, raw — and show the power of grieving together. If you missed these live, watch them now.

The Wisdom of Activist Deepa Iyer: On the morning after Balbir Sodhi’s memorial, I talk with veteran activist and my big sister Deepa Iyer on Instagram Live. She reminds us of ancestors and organizers who came before us — and how to find longevity in our labors for justice.

#GoodTalk with Author Mira JacobWe are two South Asian American women who wrote sister books, memoirs about post-9/11 America, around the same time — Good Talk and See No Stranger. Listen in on our virtual tea date on Instagram Live about art and activism and mothering. It’s a really good talk.

#Grievers with adrienne maree brown: adrienne’s debut novel Grievers shares a book birthday with the paperback of See No Stranger! Together we celebrated their visions of the practical magic of love. It’s a soulful hour of sisterhood and reflection. Listen when you are ready for joy.

“Revolutionary Love,” Vox conversations podcast with Jamil Smith: A conversation with acclaimed journalist and dear friend Jamil Smith on what revolutionary love really means in this messy, grief-stricken world. Jamil is brilliant, honest, and earnest, and the conversation goes deep.

The Strand Book Talk with Malkia Devich Cyril: Malkia is a visionary organizer and teacher who inspires me every time. Here we talk about BIPOC struggles for justice, the deep necessity of grieving together, and reclaiming love as a vibrant force. Malkia is magical.

“A Revolutionary Love,” Good Life Project podcast with Jonathan Fields: This conversation took us back into the stories of my childhood, and we lingered there, exploring how early encounters with racism and violence and spirituality shape our whole lives. Listen for a tender and beautiful exchange.

Book Passage Talk with Ari Afsar: Ari is a singer, songwriter, and activist known for her role as Eliza in Chicago’s Hamilton. She also is a sister who saw herself represented in See No Stranger. We share stories from our heart and explore how art can stretch the moral imagination.

“9/11 Remembered,” Work in Progress podcast with Sophia Bush: At one point, I forgot we were recording. That was the magic of the intimate space Sophia Bush created. This is a conversation between friends about how to change the world. It’s like getting the CliffsNotes of See No Stranger. Save this one for a cup of tea.


A Sikh man’s murder at a gas station revealed another tragedy about 9/11 (CNN): The most comprehensive report of Balbir Singh Sodhi’s life and legacy I have ever read in mainstream news. Thank you to reporter Harmeet Kaur for outstanding journalism.

Young Sikhs still struggle with post-Sept. 11 discrimination (Associated Press): Watch the video + read the news story about how a new generation of Sikhs have grown up in a post-9/11 world. It includes the story of Baba Punjab, a Sikh elder who taught us the true meaning of “Chardi Kala” after sustaining fatal injuries in the Oak Creek massacre of 2012.

‘The violence was just beginning when the Twin Towers fell’: The 9/11 families devastated by hate crime (The Independent): An excellent report that lifts our invitation to see the gas station where Balbir Sodhi died as the “second ground zero.”

On Emotional Resilience 20 Years After 9/11 (Bustle): A Q&A on how to find courage, resilience, even joy in our labors. It’s time to retire the word “positive” and instead be brave with our grief, harness our rage, and when things get hard, “breathe and push.”

Hate crime is on the rise. Rana Singh Sodhi, whose brother was killed after 9/11, still believes in peace (AZ Central): Read for an in-depth review of the latest hate crime data. Plus, a beautiful portrait of Rana Sodhi and why he holds fast to his brother’s legacy.

‘He has become a beacon’: Memorial honors Balbir Singh Sodhi, Mesa man killed in first hate crime after 9/11 (AZ Central): I’m so moved by this excerpt about the memorial: “Where one man was gunned down in cold blood, dozens embraced in unity. Where one man planted flowers, a crowd left flowers. Balbir Singh Sodhi was a target because of his turban. For these people, he’s a symbol of peace.”

Marking our history: Like 9/11, COVID pandemic a ‘generation-making event (Providence Journal): COVID and 9/11 were both crises that exposed longstanding racial and economic disparities. How do we compare them and what can we learn? Read for rich commentary from historians, sociologists, and activists.

Valarie Kaur Wants The U.S. to Recognize the Second Ground Zero (Sojourners): The title says it all. I make the case + explain why storytelling is the most powerful medium I have found to shift culture and consciousness.

How 9/11 Impacted America’s Communities of Color (Town & Country): Read for a free excerpt from See No Stranger Chapter 2, Grieve. “If you want to understand the impact of 9/11 on people of color, you have to be able to walk in their shoes. I love that the book is inviting people to go on that journey with me.”

Images from the gas station by Lee Media, courtesy of our friends at the Sikh Coalition.