As you may know, last Sunday’s tragic events in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, sent shockwaves throughout the Sikh community. These events deeply affected my family and me. For the first 18 years of my life, I faced immense racism while growing up in America; I thought I had it rough. I never fathomed that I would wake up at 30 and see that the very ignorance and hatred I witnessed over a decade ago could be so deadly. Had these events taken place in my hometown of San Jose, my parents, who pay their respects daily, could have been inside the gurdwara. I immediately knew I needed to do something. This was not the America we all signed up for.
Someone once said, “Simply to dream the dream isn’t enough. You have to work at it to make it happen.” Last week, I founded the BeProud Foundation, a movement designed to inspire awareness and unity by leveraging the power of television and social media.
The current plan is to launch a primetime TV + Social Media integrated campaign simultaneously on August 23rd (date is tentative as we wait network clearance). I’ve personally committed $1 million toward this platform in the hope that it will spur others to get involved.
The purpose of the BeProud Foundation isn’t just to raise awareness of Sikhs; it’s greater than any religion, culture, nationality, or appearance. It’s about embracing humanity. It’s about sharing a message, a vision – the undeniable, unifying truth that we are all a little different and that we should be proud of what makes us unique.
I recently came across this video. At a school in Texas, students were asked for their first impressions of three photographs. The first photograph depicted a Sikh man wearing a turban with his U.S. Army uniform, standing next to other Army officers. You’ll note in the video that most students associated him with a “terrorist.” This was deeply disturbing to watch.
On a positive note, I ran across another video. On April 14th , Norwegians celebrated a National Turban Day, a day where anyone (mostly non-Sikhs) could try on a turban and appreciate one another for being different.
These celebrations of diversity exemplify the ideals to which we Americans should aspire. As Anderson Cooper recently said, simply having CNN cover these vicious hate crimes isn’t enough. Nothing is going to change if we simply forget about what happened. We have to remind ourselves that one of this country’s founding principles is freedom of religion. Let’s never forget that.
Prime-Time TV Spot
I’ve hired EuroRSCG to produce a prime-time TV ad spot. This ad will be filmed in Chicago this week, and we hope to have it complete for airing during the week of August 20th. I’ve attached the script in this email.
Social Media Campaign
Once the TV campaign premieres, it will send everyone to BeProud.org. The social media component will have the following three elements to it.
A BeProud Facebook application will allow Facebook users to change their profile picture with a filter acknowledging their support of #FightHate and BeProud. (See the enclosed screenshot.)
Twitter will also be vital in our social media integration. Once a person has signed up on Facebook, they will be able to “Tweet” the movement (e.g. I just joined the @BeProud movement to #FightHate. Are you with me? Join Now BeProud.org.) The goal here is to transform #FightHate and/or BeProud into trending topics that will attract user attention.
A real-time visual feed powered by Via.me will show everyone joining the movement, accentuating a sense of momentum and togetherness.
On BeProud’s Web site, individuals will be able to donate directly to the cause. One hundred percent of these funds will be used to support the families of hate crime victims. We’ve also partnered with a company to create apparel for the BeProud movement. Special edition items will also be available to help raise funds.
What You Can Do to Help
Prime-time TV spots and social media campaigns can only go so far. With less than 10 days to BeProud’s launch, we need as much exposure to this initiative as possible. Please look through your Rolodex and see who you know who can help grow this movement. The more celebrities and influencers who can communicate our message, the better. If we capture even a fraction of the coverage that the Stop Kony movement achieved a few months ago, we will accomplish a great deal in stopping the kinds of events that we saw in Wisconsin.
We all have a dream. Regardless of where we come from, when we got here, what we look like, or where we live now – it’s the one thing we all share. One dream may be different from another, but our faith in something greater is what ties us together: the understanding that all men are created equal…that we all have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That’s the real dream. We may not always understand each other, what we do, or what we each believe in, but we’re all humans first and the dream must live on.
View the BeProud Final Script.
This campaign is just the beginning!
Gurbaksh Chahal - Founder, BeProud Foundation