Join UNITED SIKHS to Celebrate California Sikh Awareness and Appreciation Month!

UNITED SIKHS congratulates its volunteers and supporters on the fourth annual Sikh Awareness month in California, USA. In 2012, California State Legislature declared November as Sikh Awareness and Appreciation month-a month to recognize American Sikhs, and honor the contribution of Sikhs to American society.

This November, join us to help teach our fellow Americans about Sikhi:

“Be Your Own Superhero”

Join us at Milpitas Gurudwara, California on November 8 for a four hour workshop starting at twelve in the afternoon, Pacific Standard Time, with special guest artist Joti Dhanjal, creator of Dhanjalart.

 

Joti Dhanjal is a young Sikh artist from the UK. Click here to view more of his work.

UNITED SIKHS is committed to continuing the fight against bullying, and to providing knowledge and resources to students and parents who face bullying. To attend the workshop, please email contact@unitedsikhs.org. Click here to view images of previous anti-bullying workshops.

“Tie a Turban Day”

In collaboration with the San Jose State University Sikh Student Association, UNITED SIKHS aims to fight the stigma and stereotypes against turbans, and humanize individuals who wear them. This event will take place at San Jose State University, California on November 18, beginning at 11:00 AM Pacific Standard Time and lasting until 2:00 PM.

This year, we encourage all California residents to do their part to spread awareness about Sikhism and its followers. If you would like to organize a UNITED SIKHS Turban Tying Day or an Anti-Bullying Workshop, email contact@unitedsikhs.org.

It is through your support that we are able to spread awareness about Sikhism. Join our effort to spread awareness of minority faiths by donating today to help us expand these programs.

Follow our social media accounts to learn more about our organization: Facebook Twitter 

USA: Have You Signed the Petition to Protect Sikh Drivers’ Civil Rights?

UNITED SIKHS helped the sangat of Gurdwaras in California and New York sign the UNITED SIKHS hair sampling petition to ensure the protection of commercial drivers of the Sikh faith. Similar events were hosted at Gurudwaras in Virginia, in the Washington, D.C. area, and across the United States.

Hair Sampling Collage

On September 28, you signed the petition to write to your Senators about the detrimental effects bill S.806: Drug Free Commercial Driver Act will have on the Sikh community if passed without a religious accommodation amendment. In the past four weeks, we have received 1,200 signatures, but our work is far from over. The bill is still in the Senate and continues to pose a threat to Sikh commercial drivers across the country. If you haven’t done so already, we ask you to sign the petition to your Senators asking them support the civil rights of the Sikh community, and share it with your friends and family.

Civil Rights Violation

Bill S.806 has the potential to violate the civil rights – the rights of citizens to equality and freedom – of Sikh commercial drivers. It fails to implement the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of the right of every citizen to practice his or her faith without fear of persecution or discrimination.

If this bill is enacted, employers will be able to force a Sikh operator to provide a hair sample without offering an alternate form of testing such as urinalysis, thereby preventing Sikhs from seeking employment as operators due to their inability to cut their hair for any purpose.

Once again, Sikhs would have to choose between employment, and their faith.

The bill will affect operators of all commercial vehicles. By signing the petition, you are contacting your Senators directly, and making your voice heard. Only one Senator must object to the bill and propose the amendment on the Senate floor. We are ensuring Senators across the country are aware of the concerns of the Sikh community.

As a civil rights organization, UNITED SIKHS is dedicated to ensuring the rights of all citizens, regardless of race, religion, or gender.

It is vital that we as a community rally around our senators – these officials should be informed of the detrimental effect of this bill on the Sikh community, and that overall, it stands in stark contrast to the free exercise clause of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. We thank all of our supporters who have already signed the petition, taking a stand for religious freedom in the United States. Please continue to share it with your friends and family, and encourage others to help us make a positive change.

Keep up to date on this issue and other UNTIED SIKHS initiatives by following our social media accounts:Facebook | Twitter |

UNITED SIKHS Launches Food Bank on East Coast, USA

UNITED SIKHS is humbled to announce the initiation of the UNITED SIKHS food bank in New York City, which covers all five boroughs – Brooklyn, the Bronx, Queens, Staten Island, and Manhattan, as well as the counties of Nassau and Suffolk in Long Island. To donate food cans for the bank, write to foodbank@unitedsikhs.org or to sign up as a volunteer, click here.

One of the pillars of the Sikh faith is the concept of Vhand Chakna, or sharing one’s possessions and blessings with others. Walking on the path of service as laid out in Sikhism, we are devoted to battling extreme hunger all over the world:

In Malaysia, UNITED SIKHS launched the Malaysia Foodbank Organization, raising funds with Good Will Walks in 2014 and 2015. Since its inception, the Malaysia Foodbank organization has provided over 150 tonnes of food to those who need it most, including the Orang Asli community, from which seven children went missing in August.

UNITED SIKHS extended its hunger relief efforts in 2010 by launching “Feed the Hungry” to feed the hungry in Canada:

UNITED SIKHS distributing food to the needy in Toronto, Canada in 2014. Click here to view more pictures.

The Guru Nanak Food Bank inaugurated in 2011 in Kenya continues to serve food to the needy.

Her Excellency, Mrs. Pauline Kalonzo signing the pledge for the Sri Guru Nanak Food Bank, a project of UNITED SIKHS.

 

Historically, Guru Angad Dev Ji’s wife, Mata Khiviji, planned and organized langar when people gathered for spiritual darbar during the times of Guru Nanak and continued the tradition through Guru Arjan Dev Ji. Mata Khivi and community members worked as a team to provide fresh, hot, and healthy food for everyone who gathered. This is how the tradition of langar began.

Langar has always been provided to whoever is in need of a meal, regardless of race, religion, caste, or gender. The Sikh faith teaches us to treat all human beings as equal when carrying out acts of selfless service, or seva. It is a blessing to be able to extend this concept internationally, and provide food to thousands of individuals who would otherwise go hungry. It is thanks to your support that we are able to carry out our mission of providing aid and assistance to the needy. Donate today to help support these programs.

Also needed are volunteers in three areas:

  • Logistics: Volunteers are needed for tracking where food goes, when food is needed in an area, how much is needed, where food donations can come from, etc.
  • Physical Distribution: Volunteers are needed to pick up and transfer food.
  • Operations: Volunteers in this group will execute the delivery remotely and report the status back to the project manager.

If you are interested in volunteering for this initiative, please contact foodbank@unitedsikhs.org, and fill out the join form.

We are excited to take this step in our effort to reduce hunger around the world with the addition of a food bank in New York, where 1.7 million individuals live in poverty. The foodbank will be located at the following address:

UNITED SIKHS Food bank
55 Broadway, Suite – D
Hicksville, NY 11801

Keep up to date on this issue and other UNTIED SIKHS initiatives by following our social media accounts:Facebook | Twitter

Sikh Community of Seattle Offers Helping Hand to Washington Wildfire Victims

Seattle, Washington-UNITED SIKHS and the Sikh community of Washington have organized a relief effort in support of victims of the hundreds of wildfires that have devastated the state since July.

Community members gather at the check presentation ceremony in Washington State. Photo courtesy of The Chronicle.

Over the last few weeks, UNITED SIKHS’ United States Northwest region coordinator Balwant Singh worked with the Seattle Sikh sangat, or Sikh congregation, to raise a total of $20,000. Members of the six-family Omak Sikh community raised an additional $6,000. In total, a check of $26,000 was donated to the Community Foundation of North Central Washington, which manages multiple fire relief funds that aim to assist wildfire victims as effectively as possible by assessing specific needs and channeling donations directly to affected individuals. $15,000 of the donation was designated to the families of the three firefighters who have lost their lives since the fires began, with each family receiving $5,000. The rest of the money will be utilized directly for fire victims.

UNITED SIKHS is grateful for your continued support, which allows us to provide assistance victims and their families.

 

“God gave us the same color blood.”

During the check presentation ceremony, which took place at Okanogan Behavioral Healthcare, Harminder Singh, Harbhajan Singh, Kuldip Singh, Balwant Singh, and other members of the local Sikh community were present. Mayors Jon Culp and Cindy Gagne of Okanagan and Omak, respectively, attended the ceremony as well. Not only was this event an opportunity to provide seva, or selfless service, to those in need, but also a chance for the local Sikh population to build common ground with their fellow community members, comprised of Sikhs and non-Sikhs alike, and to present themselves as the supportive, concerned, and active citizens that they are. Balwant Singh addressed the community members in attendance, stating,”We are the Sikh people-different look, different faces. But the almighty God gave us the same color blood. God sent us here to help each other.”

This year, wildfires have burned over 8 million acres of land in the United States. Wildfires have been burning in Washington State since July, forcing hundreds of people to evacuate as numerous homes have been destroyed. Victims, firefighters, and evacuees are still in need of immediate assistance.

UNITED SIKHS is now collecting canned food and clothing for those affected by the wildfires. To donate, please contact

sikhaid-usa@unitedsikhs.org

CRIMINAL CHARGES AGAINST KIRPAN-WEARING TEENAGER DROPPED

Criminal charges against 17-year-old Virender Singh were dismissed by the Criminal Court of the City of New York, County of Queens about a week ago.

Virender, an initiated Sikh, was arrested and charged with two counts of Criminal Possession of a Weapon in the Fourth Degree, while wearing a kirpan, or religious sword, which is one of the five Sikh articles of faith. He was arrested in South Ozone Park, Queens while walking to the gurudwara, or Sikh place of worship, to offer evening prayers as part of his daily routine. He tried his best to convince the officers that what he was carrying was an article of faith, and that he is supposed to carry it on his person at all times-even while showering and sleeping-but to no avail. He was arrested and taken to the local precinct for processing.

The UNITED SIKHS legal team appointed and worked with attorneys Manmeet Singh, Counsel to UNITED SIKHS representing the Law Offices of Manmeet Singh, P.C., and Enrico DeMarco to fight this case. The attorneys appeared in court on behalf of Virender, and subsequently filed a motion to dismiss this Case in the Furtherance of Justice. At a court hearing about a week ago, the prosecution conceded and the judge accepted the Motion to Dismiss. Attorney Manmeet Singh remarked, “We are pleased that Virender, who is currently in high school and aspires to be an engineer, can now pursue his dreams without any fear. By now, there is enough legal precedent, at least in New York City, which acknowledges the kirpan as an article of faith mandated to be worn by initiated Sikhs at all times. We sincerely hope the New City Police Department now accepts this precedent and stops making innocent initiated Sikhs undergo these ordeals.”

“As a non-Sikh, it was enlightening to know how dear a kirpan is to an initiated Sikh, and that it’s an inseparable part of his, or her Sikh identity. My law office is pleased to have played a role in the vindication of Mr. Singh’s civil rights.- stated Enrico DeMarco, Esq., of Law Offices of Enrico DeMarco.

UNITED SIKHS is grateful to all of its supporters, who make it possible for us to continue advocating for the rights of minorities around the world. Earlier this year, we saw a similar victory in the case of Iknoor Singh, who courageously stood up for his right to maintain his articles of faith while undergoing Reserved Officers Training Corps training, in pursuit of his dream to serve in the U.S. Army. We fought his case, and together we saw him emerge victorious.

With every victory for religious freedom, we are one step closer to a tolerant society in which all can practice their faith without fear of discrimination or misunderstanding.

If you have been victim to a hate crime, bullying, profiling, or discrimination, contact Law-usa@unitedsikhs.org, or call 646-315-3909. For media inquiries, please call 1 (857) 222-8180.

Hypertension Awareness Programs Launched to Prevent Cardiovascular Disease Among Sikh Americans

CEED1“Keep on Track” team members: Gurdwara Baba Majha Singh Karamjot Sikh Center volunteers, New York University Staff, and UNITED SIKHS staff.

New Jersey/New York – To increase awareness of high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease in the Sikh American community, UNITED SIKHS organized events at two Gurdwaras, or Sikh places of worship. These awareness events took place in September of this year in partnership with Gurdwara Singh Sabha in Carteret, NJ, and Gurdwara Baba Majha Singh Karamjot Sikh Center in South Ozone Park, NY. The events were organized as part of REACH FAR, a 3-year program funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) through a REACH grant awarded to New York University’s Center for the Study of Asian American Health (NYU CSAAH).

EXPERTS SUGGEST THAT 1 IN 5 ASIAN INDIANS IN THE USA HAS HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE.

REACH FAR stands for Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health for Asian Americans. The goal of the program is to prevent cardiovascular disease in Asian Americans living in New York and New Jersey by increasing access to healthy foods and culturally tailored health coaching to improve high blood pressure management. Core partners include: UNITED SIKHS; Korean Community Services; Kalusugan Coalition; the Diabetes Research, Education, and Action for Minorities (DREAM) Coalition; and the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

CEED2UNITED SIKHS Community Education and Empowerment Directorate (CEED) Project Manager Rucha Kaur and Project Coordinator Gagandeep Kaur engaged community members in discussion and demonstrations

The event at Gurdwara Singh Sabha was organized on September 20, 2015. Sangat members participated in discussions on healthy lifestyles, sodium intake, and food label information, as well as food demonstrations on full fat versus low fat yogurt and a tasty brown rice option. Khalsa Sweet House, a Carteret-based restaurant and REACH FAR partner, provided a brown rice biryani for sangat members to try.

Keep on Track, a hypertension awareness program supported by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, was launched at Gurdwara Baba Majha Singh Karamjot Sikh Center on September 27, 2015. The goal of Keep on Track is to offer blood pressure monitoring at community-based organizations to help community members prevent and control high blood pressure. Sangat members at the Gurdwara sahib participated in a survey, received blood pressure readings from trained community members, and were given information that will assist them in making healthy lifestyle choices.

The Gurdwara committees and local volunteers are taking the lead on encouraging sangat members to make healthy lifestyle choices in their homes and at the Gurdwara. These Gurdwaras and UNITED SIKHS have previously partnered on other community-focused health initiatives including an oral health promotion project, diabetes prevention intervention, and in-language health insurance access services. Committee and community members will continue to work to improve health outcomes by bringing additional aspects of the REACH FAR program to the Gurdwara sahib. With your support, UNITED SIKHS strives to continue promoting health education and nutritious eating habits within local communities.

For more information on REACH FAR, Gurdwara Singh Sabha, Baba Majha Singh Karamjot Sikh Center, UNITED SIKHS or our other health initiatives, please contact us at ceed-usa@unitedsikhs.org.

To volunteer for UNITED SIKHS, click here. Keep up to date on this initiative and other UNTIED SIKHS projects by following our social media accounts: Facebook, Twitter, Blog.

In Solidarity: Umpqua Community College Shooting

UNITED SIKHS‬ extends heartfelt condolences to victims and their families after the shooting at ‪‎Oregon‬‘s Umpqua Community College on October 1, which left 10 individuals dead and 9 injured. Such unfathomable and horrifying acts of violence remind us of the shooting at a Wisconsin Sikh place of worship in 2012, which claimed 6 lives. We are deeply saddened to hear of yet another senseless and tragic occurrence.

UNITED SIKHS Chief Operations Officer Amrita Kaur states, “UNITED SIKHS would like to extend heartfelt condolences to the victims, families, friends, and community members that have been affected by the recent shooting in Oregon. Atrocities such as this highlight the need for all of us to work together as a community to strengthen bonds and heal the wounds created from the loss of innocent lives. Every community has been affected by attacks such as the one in Oregon, and further showcases the need for all of us to stand united. “

HURRICANE JOAQUIN: U.S. East Coast Braces for Heavy Rain, High Winds

 Photo: The Weather Channel

“Extremely dangerous” Category 4 Hurricane Joaquin is moving through the Bahamas, where warnings are in effect for wind, storm surges, rainfall, and surf swells. As of this morning, forecasters do not deem it likely that the storm will make landfall in the United States. However, the U.S. East Coast including New York City is bracing for high winds, heavy rainfall, and flooding, as well as other potential hazards currently being assessed by state officials as the weekend progresses.

 

 Photo: The Weather Channel

In a statement yesterday evening, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio stated, “While it is still early to predict the path and impact of Hurricane Joaquin, New York City is ready to weather the storm. Our emergency preparedness and resiliency plans are much stronger today than they were during Sandy. More than 30 city agencies are working together and at a high state of alert and readiness (…) Now is the time for New Yorkers to review their emergency plans with their families. We want people to find out whether they live or work in a hurricane evacuation zone and stay informed by signing up for Notify NYC.”

The New York City evacuation map can be viewed here.

South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, and New Jersey have declared states of emergencies in preparation for the effects of the storm. While this information includes the most recent updates on Hurricane Joaquin, UNITED SIKHS urges all East Coast residents to be attentive to their local news updates and aware of extreme weather warnings and watches in their areas.

To track Hurricane Joaquin’s location, visit the National Hurricane Center website. Like UNITED SIKHS on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and follow our Disaster Watch blog page to stay updated on the progress of Hurricane Joaquin.

USA: URGENT ACTION NEEDED! Say NO To New Hair Sampling Bill Posing Threat To Sikh Operators!

Remember last year we called on you to take a stand against religious discrimination? We are once again in need of your support. The Drug Free Commercial Driver Act is back in the House of Representatives as well as in the Senate, and poses as serious threat to Sikh truck drivers who are unwilling to cut their hair.

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Hair Sampling Image

If enacted, this bill will allow employers to force a Sikh operator to provide a hair sample without offering an alternate form of testing such as urinalysis, thereby preventing Sikhs from seeking employment as operators due to their inability to cut their hair for any purpose. Once again, Sikhs would have to choose between employment, and their faith. We urge our USA supporters to sign a petition to their senators and inform them of the detrimental effect of this bill on the Sikh community, and that overall, it stands in stark contrast to the free exercise clause of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

 

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On the heels of the introduction of this new bill, UNITED SIKHS drafted amendment language that would require motor carriers to offer an alternate form of testing to employees who cannot cut their hair due to established religious requirements. We have reached out to every Congressperson and Senator on the bills’ sponsoring committees to educate them about the bills, and proposed the inclusion of a religious exemption amendment. We know that there is a dire need for such a clause. In 2013, UNITED SIKHS wrote a legal demand letter to a trucking company in Arizona, which refused to hire an elderly Sikh unless he submitted a freshly cut sample of his hair for drug testing, and the company ignored the letter. If bill S. 806 goes through, it will unfold disastrous consequences for Sikh truck drivers. UNITED SIKHS is now emailing, calling, and meeting every one of eighty five Congresspersons and Senators who are on the bills’ sponsoring committees, asking them to support UNITED SIKHS’ effort to include religious accommodations. Furthermore, 15 Congressmen’s and Senators’ offices met with UNITED SIKHS advocates during the 2015 Youth Summit on Capitol Hill, and were informed about this issue.

Our message: While accommodation language just has to be one sentence, neglecting to include it will essentially give the trucking industry a free hand to impetuously reject Sikh applicants on their refusal to cut their hair. Devout Sikhs should not be forced to choose between employment and their faith. We cannot allow incidents like the one in Arizona to be repeated. For this, we need your support.

Click here to read more about this issue.

Pope Welcomes Sikh Community with Open Arms

UNITED SIKHS was honored to represent the Sikh community at Ground Zero during Pope Francis’ interfaith prayer service on September 25, 2015.

The 266th Catholic pope is the fourth incumbent pope to visit the United States, and further made history by conducting an interfaith prayer service at the former site of the World Trade Center. As part of his 6-day visit to the United States, Pope Francis has also spoken at the White House, the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit, and became the first pope to address the U.S. Congress.

During his speeches, the Pope emphasized the collective social responsibility every citizen has to ensure the safety and acceptance of oppressed and underrepresented communities. Pope Francis has advocated for minority and immigrant rights and representation in the past, and continues to do so during his time in the United States.

 

Pope Francis stands in unity with religious minorities.

 

At Ground Zero, Pope Francis shared the stage with representatives from 10 world religions, including Dr. Satpal Singh and Dr. Gunisha Kaur, who read from the Guru Granth Sahib Ji, or the Sikh holy text during the prayer.

 

“Know that we attain God when we love, and only that victory endures.” Dr. Satpal Singh and Dr. Gunisha Kaur read a shabad, or Sikh prayer.

 

In a memo released by the Office of the Moderator of the Curia, Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn, members of the Sikh community were assured that those wearing a Kirpan would not be prevented from attending the interfaith ceremony. This was not the case previously. UNITED SIKHS worked with other interfaith organizations and directly with the Diocese of Brooklyn to ensure that the Sikh community would not be prevented from entering the ceremony on the basis of wearing a Kirpan, which was initially listed as a prohibited item. Accordingly, the United States Secret Service in conjunction with the Papal Visit Office was briefed on the Kirpan as being an article of faith. Great respect was shown to members of the Sikh community wearing a Kirpan, while passing through customary security procedures at the interfaith ceremony.

Four senior members of UNTIED SIKHS attended the event, including Chief Operations Officer Amrita Kaur, who remarks “UNITED SIKHS’ invitation to join the Pope in an interfaith prayer service at the 9/11 memorial is symbolic of the struggle the Sikh community has faced since the attacks of 9/11. The interfaith prayer service helps advance our goals of promoting peace and prosperity between minority religions all over the world.”

Indeed, the representation of Sikh Americans at the Ground Zero event holds a poignant significance to a community who has faced appalling acts of hate and violence in a post-9/11 world. The inclusion of minority faiths such as Sikh Americans on this groundbreaking day gave us the platform and visibility needed to gain the acceptance and understanding of our fellow Americans. Even after the unthinkable tragedies witnessed on and after September 11, 2001, we may still unite under the banner of religion and recognize the human race as one. In the words of Pope Francis,

“This is the time to live together with love and peace with different religions and differences. This is the time to embrace our differences and we should voice against those who stop us from being together. We should throw away our feelings of hate.”

With your support, UNITED SIKHS pledges to continue advocating for minority faiths around the world, and working towards shaping a more tolerant society.