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For many Sikh Americans, their experience lies in the rich traditions of storytelling that have been passed down through generations from one to the next. There are various narratives told orally from generations of elders to the written teachings of our scholars that provide that treasure of knowledge, wisdom, and cultural heritage. Central to the sharing of the Sikh American experience is the amplification of diverse voices within the community. From poets and playwrights to filmmakers and activists, Sikh Americans are reclaiming their narrative and challenging stereotypes through the power of storytelling. Storytelling is a way to preserve the memory of our community and religion, ensuring the struggles and triumphs of previous generations are not forgotten.

As our religion is not as old as others, the retelling of sakhis (teachings in the form of stories) with the teachings of our Gurus and ancestral tales with the impacts of personal anecdotes helps Sikh Americans forge that connection to their roots. It helps them anchor down on that sense of identity that is both timeless and ever-evolving. Coming from a history of epic sagas of bravery and sacrifice, Sikhs have passed down their family histories through generations to bridge the gap between the past and present. This is to ensure that the voices of their ancestors can continue to resonate in the hearts and minds of future generations. Now that we live in a digital age, information can be shared more freely, and storytelling can take on a renewed significance to bridge generational divides.

Through the art form of narrative storytelling, elders are imparting lessons learned from their lifetime experience to inspire the younger generations to use that knowledge and grow their innovative ideas. With the newfound abilities of the digital world, content creation has been the best way for the younger generations to grasp knowledge and continue to learn in the short spans of content they are consuming.

While writing this article, I had the pleasure of speaking with Navpreet Singh, also known as Nav the Poet. Nav is a spoken word artist, videographer, video editor, and content creator who has been writing and performing since 2011. He had a bit of a “winding journey to come to the point of a poet and storyteller”. When looking back on his life and how he became a poet, he realized “I always liked to make videos with my friends, and loved movies and television. But I never had an inclination of making this a career until I discovered poetry in college. I was studying engineering actually, and I went to this event in New Jersey that was a showcase for Sikh Youth in the art space featuring various Sikh artists and presenters. It was the first time I had seen Sikhs in a non-stem field, having that stage and platform to express themselves. Shortly after, I explored poetry and it kind of came to me in a class once where I ended up writing pages and pages of my story and felt like this was my calling. So I ended up being able to perform my art at the same event I went to the year before and was super excited because, as I got offstage, I knew this is what I wanted to do with my life.

The more I have explored Sikhi along the way has helped too because our Gurus wrote poetry. It is in our lineage and our blood to do this!” Nav the Poet stands out as one individual who is a beacon for poetic expression and cultural preservation while positively representing the Sikh religion. He uses his platform as a content creator to inform people about Sikhi and educate others about the faith and community they may have never known about. “Literally people have said to me, ‘I had some sort of bias about people who look like you, you know who have these turbans and beards, and now because of your videos I have been able to understand that is just a lot of bias and propaganda that has been perpetuated,’” said Nav. Nav feels humbled and fulfilled to have the ability to inform his audience of different demographics of the Sikh Religion in a positive light. His work resonates with generations past and weaves together traditions and modernity to create a narrative that transcends time. He is grateful that “he can share his narrative, journey, and experience with the Sikh faith.” His poetry is an outlet for him to write out and share his thoughts and life experiences. I just want to be able to “share the Sikh story, at least my Sikh story in some form that tons of people can understand and see and they can hopefully learn and relate. It really is the whole driving force behind my art.” His mission is to ensure that future generations embrace their heritage with pride and never lose sight of where they came from and their history as Sikh Americans.

As a Sikh American, Nav travels across the US sharing his art, stories, and experiences, and uses media to break barriers and build bridges. All of this is done to foster dialogue and develop a deeper understanding of one another so that together we may create a better world. It is important to remember that the stories we share shape the way we see the world and our place within it. One platform for showcasing Sikh American voices is the upcoming "Sikhs in Storytelling" event, presented by SALDEF. SALDEF wants to highlight and celebrate those who take the risk and use the bounds of their role to challenge dominant Sikh American cultural narratives that are one-dimensional; those shaping as well as redefining Sikh American narratives through storytelling. Mark your calendars and join us for an unforgettable evening of engaging discussions, powerful performances, and thoughtful panels. "Sikhs in Storytelling" offers something for everyone, inviting attendees to immerse themselves in the vibrant tapestry of Sikh American culture, one of which will be Nav the Poet. Set to take place on May 11th, 2024, in New York City's Five Angels Theater, this groundbreaking event promises to be a celebration of creativity, resilience, and cultural pride. Don't miss this opportunity to be part of a movement that will redefine how the world sees Sikh Americans.

Tickets are available now at https://saldef.org/sikhsinstorytelling/ – secure yours today and be a part of history in the making. People of all genders, races, religions, and ages are welcome! Together, let us celebrate the beauty and resilience of the Sikh American experience through the transformative power of storytelling

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