Deepa Iyer is the Executive Director of SAALT. Learn more about her here.
This past Sunday marked the first full week since the tragic shooting at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin. Ivisited Oak Creek last Friday to pay my respects on behalf of the entire SAALT community. The names of Satwant Kaleka, Paramjit Kaur, Suveg Singh Khattra, Prakash Singh, Ranjit Singh, and Sita Singh, became much more real to me at the memorial service. Seeing their faces, hearing the stories of their hopes and aspirations, and listening to their loved ones was nothing short of heartbreaking.
After the memorial service, I visited the gurudwara, whose doors were again open, welcoming those who sought sanctuary and healing. I brought with me a book of letters from the SAALT staff and board, as well as signatures from over 200 organizations around the country, offering condolences and unwavering support.
Like many of you, my emotions have ranged from anger to pain to hopelessness since we learned of the shooting in Oak Creek. But what buoys my spirit is the sense of community I felt at the memorial service and the gurudwara, and the strength of the family members and community leaders. What gives me hope is the shared bond that we who are South Asian, Sikh and Muslim have built over the past decade since 9/11. What transforms my anger is the knowledge that so many people in this country are with us, hand in hand, regardless of race or faith. What turns my pain into a re-commitment to working towards the country we all want to live in and pass onto our children is the memory of the six who lost their lives in Oak Creek.
While this first week after Oak Creek has ended, our work has just begun. Sadly, at least three mosques have been attacked over the past week. Community members and children in Oak Creek continue to be in need of support. Our government agencies and elected officials will still need to be held accountable to take leadership and address the growing climate of xenophobia in our country. Long after the vigils end and the headlines fade, we need to stand together to demand communities free of hate, xenophobia, anti-immigrant sentiment, and racism.
Here at SAALT, we are committed to continuing our work with all of you. Many of you have asked what you can do about Oak Creek and the climate in our country today. While we posted many ways to help in the initial moments after Oak Creek, over the next few weeks, we will be releasing information and ideas for action. Below are a few of them:
- Come together: Vigils are continuing throughout the week. But beyond the vigils, think about creating community circles that bring people together in homes, campuses, and workplaces. Sharing and talking about Oak Creek and the past decade after 9/11 will ensure that we remember, unite, and heal together. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for ideas and resources to help you have these conversations.
- Write a letter to the children of Oak Creek gurudwara: SAALT will collect and deliver your letters when we return to Oak Creek this year. We encourage you or your children to write these letters to provide support, share personal stories and remind the children of the Oak Creek gurudwara that they are not alone. Send us letters by mail or email by September 30th, 2012.
- Give: We’ve incorporated a list of places to donate in this post.
- Meet with Your Local, State or Federal Elected Officials: Meet with your elected representatives and ask them how they are working with South Asian, Muslim and Sikh communities. Want help to do this? Contact email@example.com and we can help you with materials and resources.
- Sign a Petition to Track anti-Sikh hate crimes: Currently, the FBI does not maintain statistics of anti-Sikh hate crimes. Join the Sikh Coalition’s effort to change this. Please click here to send an automatic petition to your United States Senator, urging him or her to support this important effort.
- Convene a Community/Campus Forum: In a few weeks, we will be marking the 11th anniversary of September 11th. Use this anniversary to convene a conversation at your place of worship, on your campus, or at your workplace to have a dialogue about the history of post 9/11 discrimination and how we can address it in light of Oak Creek. Here are resources to use on your campuses.
Often, in times of darkness, people turn to faith, family, art. I found some solace in a poem by California-based Preeti Kaur, and wanted to share her words with you – to help us remember that we are part of a continuum, from Bellingham to Detroit to Arizona to Oak Creek.
In peace and solidarity,
South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT)