Fighting Power with Poetry: Sikh Rights Activist Sukhjit Kaur Wins Hearts Across Australia

Melbourne, Australia: Recently, Sukhjit Kaur who was UNITED SIKHS director, Australia made it big on media on “Australia’s Got Talent”. She won the hearts of audience and people across Australia after her smashing performance on national television. She used the power of spoken word poetry to emphasize her identity as a Sikh born and brought up in Australia.

I have a passion for performing arts and my degree is in Political Science and International Relations, so about 2 years ago I merged the two and started doing spoken word poetry. When I saw an opportunity to audition for Australia’s Got Talent (AGT), I thought it would be an awesome way to reach a wider audience. It’s not often you see Sikhs on commercial TV so I thought it would be worth giving it a shot!

My message: Face our fears. Standing up for what we believe in. Standing up for human rights. The right to live in a country and belong to a country. Practising Sikhi in our everyday lives with love and compassion.
Remembering that Guru Nanak Sahib ji was a rebel of his time. He shifted the paradigm. Even when society was against him, he was not afraid to share what he believed in.
In a post 9/11 era, I’ve grown up in a society that can be harmonious and accepting as well as intolerant and discriminatory.
We have the power to educate and sometimes people forget there are different avenues you can do that in. Before they shut down the arts, and the road less travelled – maybe it’s time to open up our minds to a new progressive way of thinking!
A lot of people in our community are proud to be Sikhs and are proud to share that message with society, but they are tested at a point where they get racist comments spat at them. What do they do with that anger? They turn it into hatred for ‘the other’ and shoot fire right back! I don’t think that is the Sikh way to deal with things. We need to spread awareness strategically with love, compassion, and creativity.
My message isn’t about igniting anger in those who have ever received discrimination in the past. My message is about igniting passion to make a positive change. Standing up as a Sikh with Sikh values and a Sikh upbringing and using those tools to help those who are voiceless.
Whether you are Indigenous, an asylum seeker, have a disability, are marginalised for the colour of your skin, religion, gender, sexuality or status in society – you have rights.
The right to live in your country.
The right to be respected by members of society.
The right to be free.
‪#‎Sikhingthetruth‬‬

Where else have you raised your voice for this issue?

Youth Parliament: From the 8th – 13th of July, 2012 I was lucky enough to be selected as the Member for Jandakot, my local electorate, in the annual YMCA Youth Parliament of Western Australia. Here, young people come together to share their views on community issues and develop a piece of youth legislation. On the last day in Parliament House, we were given the opportunity to speak on any issue of our choosing. I chose to give a testimony on courage, drawing on my personal experiences with accepting the hair on my body and my story of overcoming bullying. I felt that these issues were important to explore as it gave the audience a chance to enter my world, feel my emotional and impassioned story, and take that message of courage with them.

Watch the speech here.

What was the response of the audience?

I believe the most courageous act is to be yourself; to be true inside and out. Only when you stand up for who you are, can you stand up for what you believe in. When you speak the truth, the universe is behind you. I got an overwhelming response from the audience. Love and compassion all the way!

How are hate crimes a threat to social justice?

Sikhi teaches us that we are all equal, and should treat others with complete equality. Sadly, this is an uncommon practice today. Inequality begins in our communities, in the simplest of ways. It begins as a tiny seed. It takes root, and quickly flourishes. Why do we argue later about cutting down the tree of inequality, when we could have avoided planting the seed to begin with? Why do we have to wait until a human is killed due to a hate crime to start the conversation of injustice when we could work on strategies to preventing these hate crimes from occurring in the first place.

You can watch Sukhjit Kaur’s spoken word performance on Australia’s got talent here

How, at UNITED SIKHS, did you work against hate crime incidents?

Director of Projects
UNITED SIKHS Inc., Australian Chapter
September 2011 – March 2015
Key role: To increase social awareness and inclusion of the Australian Sikh population in the Australian community

Responsibilities:
· Leading training sessions on the Sikh faith and contemporary scenarios at the Western Australian Police Academy for police recruits;
· Assisting lawyers with discrimination cases and advising clients on religious protocols;
· Conducting Sikh awareness presentations at schools tailored specifically for staff, parents and students;
· Representing the Sikh community and delivering speeches at inaugural events, including, but not limited to, interfaith panels and national conferences;
· Organising community events that foster social inclusion, including an annual blood drive and Sikh commemorative events;
· Managing free turban tying events at schools and community fairs to break down barriers of difference.

Issued by:
Dr. Gurparkash Singh
CEED Director,UNITED SIKHS
E: contact@unitedsikhs.org

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