Sikhs and Civil Rights: Standing on the Shoulders of Dr. King

Simran Jeet Singh, State of Formation, Jun.22,

This past Friday, the White House hosted the first-ever policy briefing on Sikh civil rights issues.

Amardeep Singh, Director of Programs for the Sikh Coalition and Commissioner for the White House Initiative on Asian American and Pacific Islanders, opened the event with a jakara, a traditional way in which Sikhs announce their presence.

As far as I know, it was also the first-ever jakara to resound in the halls of the White House.

Singh highlighted the historical significance of the briefing, and placed the Sikh efforts for civil rights in the context of other minority communities. He spoke specifically of the long struggle for civil rights endured by African Americans, and my ears perked up as he cited some of my childhood heroes, including Harriet Tubman and Rosa Parks.

As he continued to speak, I suddenly realized that we were sitting about a mile from the Lincoln Memorial, the site where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. led the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom and delivered his now famous speech, “I Have a Dream.”

I thought of Dr. King looking over the policy briefing on Sikh civil rights. I imagined him smiling at our efforts to keep his dream alive.

I also thought about how far we’ve come over the past 50 years.

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