Sikh Kids Walk In ‘Chardi Kala’ For Oak Creek Victims

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August 12, 2014

By Geeta Goindi

Washington, DC – Remembering and reflecting two years after the tragic shooting at the Oak Creek Gurudwara, young Sikh activists walked in solidarity to spread awareness about their faith, on a pristine Saturday morning, along the National Mall.

August 12, 2014

By Geeta Goindi

Washington, DC – Remembering and reflecting two years after the tragic shooting at the Oak Creek Gurudwara, young Sikh activists walked in solidarity to spread awareness about their faith, on a pristine Saturday morning, along the National Mall.

Gurpreet Singh Sarin (right) of ‘American Idol’ fame addressing participants and onlookers of the ‘Chardi Kala Walk’, at the US Capitol, marking two years since the tragedy at the Oak Creek Gurudwara

The event was appropriately titled ‘Chardi Kala Walk’, denoting eternal optimism. The images were riveting – members of Sikh Kid To Kid walking from the historic Lincoln Memorial to the powerful US Capitol determined to educate and empower.  It was their way of making a difference!

The organizer, Hana Mangat is active, energetic, dedicated and all of 14 years old.  She told the gathering of her peers, their parents and onlookers, “We accept, we reflect and we achieve more!  The Sikh spirit of Chardi Kala is eternal and cannot be broken.  It is this continuing optimism that empowers us”.

On August 5, 2012, a white supremacist, Wade Michael Page, went on a shooting spree at the Gurudwara in Wisconsin killing six worshipers –  Satwant Singh Kaleka, Paramjit Kaur, Sita Singh, Ranjit Singh, Prakash Singh and Suveg Singh – and wounding others, including Lieutenant Brian Murphy, the police officer who responded to the attack, and Punjab Singh, a member of the Sangat (Sikh congregation) who is paralyzed.

Recalling the attack and its aftermath, Hana said, “When the gunman entered the Gurudwara, he could have never thought the Sikh community could bring out positivity from his negative actions”.

Hana Mangat (right) of Sikh Kid To Kid leading the ‘Chardi Kala Walk’ on the National Mall, in remembrance of the victims and all those impacted by the Oak Creek Gurudwara shooting

These kids have actually come a long way – they have struggled to comprehend the shooting which has left an indelible mark on their minds.  Hana admitted, “Two years ago, I learnt one of the most valuable life lessons.  I remember the week of August 5, 2012 so clearly.  It was a time of chaos and confusion for not only me, but also our entire community”, she said.

“I personally was lost.  My happy place (Gurudwara), the place where I felt safest was targeted.  Before the shootings, I never considered myself as an outsider.  I was born and raised in the US, so how much more American could I get?”

There was a feeling of being alone which fortunately dissipated due to the outpouring of support and empathy.  “Almost every day, I attended a different vigil for the victims”, Hana recalled.  “There was a sense of unity among all, Sikhs and non-Sikhs”.

It was during this time that Sikh Kid To Kid was formed.  Hana explained, “The youth at our local Gurudwara had been experiencing similar feelings as me and what used to be a weekly debate club transformed into an organization of kids who wanted to eradicate ignorance with education”.  The children began by making a movie, ‘From Kids To Kids’, which highlighted the basics of Sikhism.

“The first step is to educate those around us about our religious, cultural and ethnic beliefs”, emphasized 16-year-old Jagjot Kaur.  These kids are intelligent, insightful and sensitive for their age.  Jagjot said, “I aspire to live in a world where we aren’t judged by our appearances or backgrounds, but rather appreciated for our uniqueness”.

She conceded that her aspiration “is a work-in-progress” and much needs to be done.  “Though it may seem impossible to completely eradicate ignorance, we must keep trying because we are the future of our world and our humanity”, she said.

Gurpreet Singh Sarin, known as ‘The Turbanator’ with a triumphant run as the first-ever Sikh on the FOX TV super-hit musical reality show, ‘American Idol’, was on hand, encouraging the kids.  Ever-gracious in his support and participation, he lauded Hana for organizing the walk.  Noting that Chardi Kala means perpetual optimism, he pointed out, “It is truly an American value and a Sikh value”.

Gurpreet drew attention to the other shared values of life, liberty, pursuit of happiness, integrity, honesty, kindness, and selfless service.  “After tragedies like 9/11 and the Wisconsin Gurudwara shooting, we will have Chardi Kala, we will keep our heads high in the face of adversity”, he declared.

Participants of the ‘Chardi Kala Walk’ gather at the US Capitol

One of the top contestants on Season 12 of ‘American Idol’, Gurpreet sang Bob Marley’s signature song, ‘One Love’, invoking all to let’s get together as one humanity.

About the organization, Sikh Kid To Kid, Hana said, it “is special because we are kids.  We would rather listen and talk to each other.  We are kids who are making the change.  Aren’t we the future?  We are all here supporting the same cause, so let’s be united.  Our journey as change-makers in this world has just begun and we have a long way to go”.

She quoted author C. Joybell C. who wrote: “We are all equal in the fact that we are all different.  We are all the same in the fact that we will never be the same.  We are all united by the reality that all colors and all cultures are distinct and individual.  We are harmonious in the reality that we are all held to this earth by the same gravity.  We don’t share blood, but we share the air that keeps us alive.  I will not blind myself and say that my brown sister is not different from me.  But my black brother is he as much as I am me.  But my brown sister is she as much as I am me”.


Community Special by MYDOSTI.COM