Becoming American: The story of Punjabi Pioneers and South Asians
|An exhibit showcasing the story of Punjabi immigrants will now be a permanent part of Community Memorial Museum of Sutter County Yuba City. Stories of Sikh pioneers, their narratives though have aroused interest of academicians for several decades, California State school curriculum, however, remained uninformed about Punjabi Americans who have been contributing to the economic, political, social and cultural life of the State for 120 years.
Punjabi American Heritage Society Yuba City, California— established to preserve legacy of the pioneers and enhance community awareness of their rich history— visualized the dream project: “Becoming American: The Story of Pioneer Punjabis and South Asians” in 2005. After years of organizational and community efforts, the project saw the light of the day on March 31, 2012.
California Governor Jerry Brown specially sent his secretary Ms. Elizabeth Ashford to read his message on the occasion: “Showcasing the story of the Punjabi American and South Asian migration to the United States is a valuable and needed resource for current and future generation. I congratulate all the individuals and families along with the Punjabi American Heritage Society of Yuba City for their dedication and hard work for the successful completion of this project.
Assemblyman Don Logue and Assemblyman Jim Wielsen were among the distinguished personalities. Assemblyman Logue is the author of Sikh Appreciation Month in 2010. Assemblyman Wielsen shared his experiences about his visit to India and the time spent in Punjab state.
A book to recognize all those who helped and donated to the project was released at the event. E-version of donors’ book is available on the web site. Dr. Jasbir Singh Kang of PAHS briefed about the coffee table edition of another book to be released in the near future. CNN News and Span Magazine editor did extensive research and interviews to finally send it for publication.
The exhibit is an exquisite display of memorabilia reflecting about 200 years of Punjabi Diasporas’ displacement and quest for freedom and faith. It also includes multimedia record of the challenges and achievements of generations of Punjabi Americans. In the beginning, American society showed more of its aversion than any understanding of their community life. But Punjabis’ hard work not only sustained them in a hostile environment, but also inspired them to raise their voice against institutionalized discrimination and seek equal treatment. As a community they stuck to their value system and succeeded in convincing other Americans about their unrestricted faith in American dream, and determination to exemplify their life for generations to come. Judge Dalip Singh Saund, the First Asian to be elected to the US Congress, had more Firsts appended to his name: he was also the first Indian, the first Punjabi, the first Sikh, and the first Democrat to be elected from 29th US Congressional District.
Davinder Deol of PAHS conducted the stage and divulged details of approximately $250,000 raised over seven years for the project. “This exhibit is our thanks to all those who endured and persevered so that we could be a part of the American dream.” Committee members included Sarbjit Singh Johl, Kulwant Singh Johl,Hitpal Singh Deol and Gurmeet Kaur Sidhu.
Harkiran Kaur Everest, 16, started the program with National Anthem. Her late grandfather Hari Singh Everest was featured in a short documentary illustrating the oral history of Punjabi Americans in the Yuba-Sutter region. Raginder Singh Momi, a noted violinist, created mellifluous notes from his instrument that blended well with nostalgic mood pervading in the atmosphere. Mrs. Manjit Sibia inaugurated the exhibit with a thundering applause from all sides. A special mention was made about the extraordinary contribution of her husband Mr. Ted Sibia to histories of Sikh Pioneers: well preserved on www.sikhpioneers.org Dr. Kang expressed his hope that the exhibit in Yuba City Museum would act as a repository for historical, biographical and genealogical material for succeeding generations. It also chronicles life of Mexican –Punjabis who knew no bounds to express their love and demonstrate their unique life. Punjabi American Heritage Society has also commissioned a website: www.punjabipioneers.com to give free access to the public around the globe.
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