UNITED SIKHSWinner of the Sikhs and Charities Award
May 11, 2011
28th Vaisakh (Samvat 543 Nanakshahi)
Press Release
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2011 Sikh Summit Highlights the Need for Ongoing

Community Advocacy for Sikh Civil & Human Rights

HIGHLIGHTS:
  • Over 30 meetings advocating for Sikh civil and human rights with Members of Congress and Government Agencies including: Department of Justice (DOJ Civil Rights Division), DOJ (Community Relations Service), Department of Education (DOE Office of Civil Rights), and Census Bureau.
  • Community comes together at the Sikh Summit Dinner with guest speakers Congresswoman Judy Chu (CA - 32), Congressman John Conyers (MI-14), Paul Monteiro (Associate Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement).
  • What's next? Get involved with policy change going forward in your local community!
Washington, DC: Nearly 50 community members met over 30 members of Congress and government agencies to advocate for Sikh civil and human rights at the 3rd Annual Sikh Summit from May 2nd - May 6th, 2011 in Washington DC.

The annual advocacy week consists of addressing ongoing civil rights issues that most affect the Sikh community nationally to reach meaningful solutions. The Summit is an opportunity for Sikh community members to advocate for policies that protect and honor Sikh civil rights by presenting their personal experiences to lawmakers to effect positive change on a national level. The meetings are the beginning of a dialogue with lawmakers and we seek to strengthen these partnerships going forward.
Sikh Summit   Sikh Summit
Sikh Delegates meet with Senior Counsel Derrick L. Brent from Senator Boxer's office (CA)   TSikh Delegates giving a momento to Congresswoman Judy Chu (CA-32). Delegates include: Rajinder Singh & Gurvinder Singh from Texas, Bhai Ram Singh and Harpreet Singh from California, Gurdeep Singh and Hansdeep Singh from New York, Sahib Kaur from Virginia
Sikh Summit   Sikh Summit
Sikh Delegates from CA, NY, NJ, VA, TX and other states with Senator Barbara Boxer (CA)   Sikh Summit delegates in front of Capitol Hill

The main issues that were addressed at this year’s Sikh Summit were: racial/ religious profiling –specifically at airports and through national security policies; the prevalence of bias based bullying and its impact on the Sikh community; religious accommodations for Sikhs seeking to serve their country (military) and for Sikhs wearing dastaars, kirpans, and karas in other contexts; employment discrimination; hate crimes and international issues of concern such as: the mass graves found in Haryana and Delhi, India; the kirpan ban in the Quebec Parliament; and the forcible turban removal that recently occurred in Mohali, India.

During each meeting, UNITED SIKHS staff and Sikh community members laid out these issues and discussed possible solutions. In the coming weeks, the UNITED SIKHS legal team will be implementing the next steps and actions items that were outlined at these meetings in the hopes of working with government officials to further promote the rights of Sikhs across the nation.
Sikh Summit   Sikh Summit
Delegates Hansdeep Singh, Senior Staff Attorney at UNITED SIKHS with Satinder Singh -CA, Harpreet Singh -CA meeting with Congressman John Garamendi (CA-10)   Sikh Summit Delegates meeting with staff of Senator Patty Murray (Washington): Birmohan Singh-NJ, Rucha Kavathe-NJ, Gurdeep Singh -NY, Hansdeep Singh-NY, Gurvinder Singh-TX, Satinder Singh -CA, Harpreet Singh -CA, Rajinder Singh -TX, Abhijot Kaur-VA, Mansimran Singh -MD, Dr. Tejinder Singh -NJ, Saheb Kaur-VA
Sikh Summit   Sikh Summit
Hope Goins, Counsel from the House Committee on Homeland Security (TSA) with Sikh Summit Delegates: S Bhakshish Singh -MD, Harpreet Singh -CA, Saheb Kaur -VA, Rucha Kavathe-NJ, Birmohan Singh-NJ, Hansdeep Singh-NY, Gurdeep Singh -NY, Abhijot Kaur-VA, Dr Tejinder Singh -NJ   Sikh Summit Delegates with the members of the US Department of Justice Community Relations Service: Becky L. Monroe, Acting Director, Community Relations Service, Ben Lieu, Associate Director and Harpreet Singh, Regional Director of Region III

"As Chairman Emeritus of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, I see UNITED SIKHS' work in preserving cultural heritage, promoting civic engagement and providing humanitarian relief as vital to the broader mission of the Asian American community," said Congressman Mike Honda in a statement. "Our community and our nation need stronger engagement in the political process and better leadership to succeed. It is only through the strength of our diversity and the commitment of organizations such as the UNITED SIKHS that we will be able to meet our challenges head on."

The Sikh Summit dinner, held midweek, was another opportunity for community members from all over the country to bring up relevant issues. Attendees were able to hear comments from the White House Office of Public Engagements Associate Director Paul Monteiro, Congressman John Conyers, and Congresswoman Judy Chu. Renowned social justice rap artist GNE had a special surprise in store, and after dinner, the crowd was able to enjoy a program entitled, “Rapping for Human Rights.”

Congresswoman Judy Chu (CA-32), a champion of Sikh rights said, “I was honored to be a part of the Sikh Summit in Washington that raised awareness of the civil rights challenges facing the community.” Congresswoman Chu continues, “Racial profiling has become rampant in the Sikh community and that is why earlier this week I called a meeting with the head of the TSA and made sure he knew that we were not going to stand for prejudicial policies at airports or anywhere else. I will continue to stand by the Sikh community as we fight for fairness and justice here at home and around the world.”

Becky L. Monroe, Acting Director, Community Relations Service at the Department of Justice said, "The Community Relations Service welcomes the opportunity to meet with the UNITED SIKHS to talk about how we can continue to work together to empower local community leaders, law enforcement officials, and government leaders to address discrimination and prevent hate crimes against Sikhs and people of all faiths and backgrounds. CRS has had the opportunity to work with volunteer leaders from UNITED SIKHS who helped lead cultural professionalism programs for local, state and federal law enforcement agencies as well as assisted in development of sustainable mechanisms to improve dialogue between community members and law enforcement officials. CRS looks forward to working with UNITED SIKHS to supprt students, teachers, parents and administrators develop safe school environments that foster understanding and respect for people of all religions and ethnic backgrounds."
 
UNITED SIKHS would like to thank all of those who came out to participate this week and who took the time to share their personal perspective on these very important issues. Mankanwal Singh, on of UNITED SIKHS' directors, had this to say to the participants, “Your involvement was invaluable. Advocacy organizations like UNITED SIKHS play a vital role in protecting our civil rights, but without community members who are willing to raise their voices to promote social justice, we could not do the work that we do successfully.”

UNITED SIKHS would like to thank all of the members of Congress and government officials who took the time to meet with our delegations during the Sikh Summit.

What’s next? How can you get involved? First, make sure you sign up for UNITED SIKHS e-mail list to be up to date on our current social justice initiatives. Also, we are always looking for volunteers so contact us if you want to get involved!

The Sikh Summit is only once a year, but civil rights advocacy is year round –we need to raise our voices all the time! Contact UNITED SIKHS to begin a dialogue about local issues with your representative by emailing us at law-usa@unitedsikhs.org or calling us at 646-688-3525.

Make sure your local representative knows that you care about civil rights issues affecting Sikhs, be an advocate every day! You can use Write Your Rep to find out the name of your local officials and tell them you care about issues such as Bullying prevention, hate crimes, and racial/ religious profiling.

Issued by:
Ilana Ofgang
Legal Fellow
law-usa@unitedsikhs.org

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Community members and UNITED SIKHS staff met with:

Offices of Members of the House:
  • Rep. Albio Sires (NJ-13)
  • Rep. Gary Ackerman (NY-5)
  • Rep. George Miller (CA – 7)
  • Rep. Gerald Connolly (VA-11)
  • Rep. John Culberson (TX – 07)
  • Rep. John Garamendi (CA-10)
  • Rep. Judy Chu (CA – 32)
  • Rep. Mike Honda (CA – 15)
  • Rep. Robert Scott (VA – 3)
  • Rep. Sam Johnson (TX – 3)
  • Rep. Scott Garrett (NJ-5)
  • Rep. Steve Rothman (NJ-9)

Offices of Members of the Senate:
  • Sen. Barbara Boxer (CA)
  • Sen. Barbara Mikulski (MD)
  • Sen. Ben Cardin (MD)
  • Sen. Charles Schumer (NY)
  • Sen. Dianne Feinstein (CA)
  • Sen. Dick Durbin (IL)
  • Sen. Harry Reid (NV)
  • Sen. Jim Webb (VA)
  • Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (NY)
  • Sen. Patty Murray (WA)
  • Sen. Robert Casey (PA)
  • Sen. Robert Menendez (NJ)
  • Sen. Tom Carper (DE)

Agencies:
  • Census Bureau
  • Department of Education/ Office of Civil Rights
  • Department of Justice/ Civil Rights Division
  • Department of Justice/ Community Relations Service
  • House Committee on TSA
  • United States Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF)

Civil rights advocacy is year round –we need to raise our voices all the time, not only once a year! Get involved today!

UNITED SIKHS is currently looking for enthusiastic volunteers who are willing to spread the message of the campaign within their own communities. To join or contribute to the campaign, or donate to UNITED SIKHS.

Contact Us

You can help those affected by countless crises around the world each year by making a financial gift to the UNITED SIKHS, which will provide immediate relief and support to those in need. You may donate online at www.unitedsikhs.org/donate  or send your donations to a UNITED SIKHS office nearest to you, whose details can be found at http://unitedsikhs.org/contact.php .

Ordinarily only 10 percent of your donation is spent on admin costs.

OUR MISSION

To transform underprivileged and minority communities and individuals into informed and vibrant members of society through civic, educational and personal development programs, by fostering active participation in social and economic activity.

UNITED SIKHS is also an avenue for networking between like-minded organisations to establish and nurture meaningful projects and dialogues - whether social, cultural or political- to promote harmony, understanding and reciprocity in our villages, towns and cities.

UNITED SIKHS is a coalition of organisations and individuals, who share a common vision based on the belief that there is no greater endeavour than to serve, empower and uplift fellow beings. The core of our philosophy is an unwavering commitment to civic service and social progress on behalf of the common good.

Accordingly, UNITED SIKHS has sought to fulfil its mission not only by informing, educating and uplifting fellow beings but also by participating in cross-cultural and political exchanges to ensure that the promises and benefits of democracy are realized by all.

We at UNITED SIKHS believe that the development of enlightened and progressive societies can be made possible by socially conscious groups of people who make a commitment to develop and direct human potential. Our work, efforts and achievements stand as a testament to our faith in this vision.