Creating Change in the Colorado Sangat

I remember receiving the news about Oak Creek as if it were yesterday

I remember receiving the news about Oak Creek as if it were yesterday.

It went something like this:

My dad called my sister and I from our bedrooms, asking us to come to sit at the dinner table. We both came downstairs totally unaware of what would come next. The three of us sat in our favorite seats at the dinner table and got comfortable.

My dad then said to us, "There has been a shooting at a gurdwara in Wisconsin. We are having a vigil in our gurdwara [in Commerce City, CO] this Wednesday."
Being twelve years old at the time, the reality of this news did not truly hit me for the first three hours or so after hearing the news. Reality hit me hard before I went to bed that night. I realized that an event like Oak Creek could very well happen in my Colorado community. The days leading up to the vigil, I had a vivid recurring nightmare about a similar event happening at my gurdwara and witnessing the people I love die in a place meant for prayer and Sangat.

The day of the vigil arrived quickly and my father had the opportunity to address the people attending the vigil. At the end of his speech to the attendees, he said, "We will never forget the events that happened in Oak Creek. Now is the time to educate our community about Sikhs and take action."
And change came.

The organization "Colorado Sikhs" was born out of a desire to educate fellow Coloradans about Sikhi. Through this organization, Sikhs in Colorado were, and still are to this day, empowered to create change in our state.

Sikhs in my Sangat testify at the Colorado State Capitol about laws that impact the right for Coloradans to exercise the First Amendment. We feed the homeless in Denver annually, and worked to get the Colorado Department of Education to incorporate Sikhi into curricula across the state. Colorado Sikhs educate students from middle school through university and beyond the walls of traditional classrooms to enlighten everyone about who Sikhs are. Sikhs in my Sangat helped to ensure that turban wearing Sikhs and hijab-wearing Muslim women were able to get a driver's license photograph at any DMV across the country without barriers. To top it off, the Colorado Sikhs worked with the Mile Hi Church in Denver to have a Sikh service inside of a church and then held an interfaith langar at the Civic Center Park.

Members of the Colorado Sangat continue this type of work today and are planning another langar event at the State Capitol for October 27th. This will be the third annual langar to feed all at the State Capitol. In September, the Sikh Student Association at the University of Colorado-Boulder will be holding a langar event on campus to raise awareness about Sikhi. The future looks bright as the Colorado Sangat continues to make connections within and beyond our community and works create change.
Oak Creek changed my Sangat's outlook towards engaging with the community. The Colorado Sangat went from mostly keeping to ourselves and not talking about our identity to being very engaged in our statewide community in a matter of six years. Sure, six years is a relatively long period of time, but it takes time to create a decent amount of change on any level.

Any Sangat can be active in the community they reside in. Any Sikh can stand up for what they believe in, regardless of their age and be civically engaged. Anyone who has a dream to create change can make it happen.

Bhul Chuuk Maaf Ji ~Maigh Kaur Jammu


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