New York, NY (Sept.14, 2011) — As the Sikh Coalition and America solemnly remembered the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, the Sikh Coalition also marked its ten-year anniversary. The Sikh Coalition has refrained from publishing information about its ten year anniversary until now, out of respect for the victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
A “Baby of 9/11”
The Coalition was born on 9/11 as a response to the backlash violence experienced by Sikhs around the country. It began as a volunteer effort that very night, when an elderly Sikh and two teenagers were violently attacked in Queens, New York in “reprisal” attacks by fellow Americans.
The group that became the Sikh Coalition issued a press release the next day under the organizational title “Coalition of Sikh Organizations of New York,” condemning the terror attacks and calling on police to better protect our community.
Anticipating more bias attacks, the emerging Sikh Coalition began creating press kits the next day to enable Sikhs across America to organize at a grass roots level. With the aid of activists in Chicago, a website was set-up by September 12th to record the occurrence of hate-crimes and report them to police and the federal government. Other activists from various cities across North America joined the initiative, and the Sikh Coalition emerged within a month.
The Coalition Today
Today the Sikh Coalition has the most full-time staff and largest budget of any non-Gurudwara Sikh organization outside of India. It has eight full-time staff members and offices in New York City, the San Francisco Bay Area, and Washington DC.
In its ten years, Sikh Coalition has had notable victories against the United States Army, Transportation Security Administration, and NYPD, breaking barriers for full Sikh participation in American life. It has persuaded the state Boards of Education in Texas and New Jersey to incorporate information on Sikhs into the mandatory school curriculum.
The Sikh Coalition founders are a dynamic group that helped to form the organization and gave it wings when the Sikh community most needed it after 9/11.
Narinder Singh, Founder and Board Chair, said that in the history of America and of the Sikhs, rising from adversity is a core value, and from the tragedy that was 9/11 there was great heroism and caring that revealed itself across the country.
“In the Sikh Coalition we saw a community come together to defend its rights and those of all Americans – honoring the noblest of traditions established by our nation’s founders,” said Narinder Singh. “Ten years later we are proud to be an organization that is positioned to create long term change that helps our nation live up to its potential as the beacon for freedom and opportunity for everyone.”
Prabhjot Singh, Founder, current Board Member, said the entire Sikh American community should be congratulated on this tenth anniversary of the Sikh Coalition’s birth.
“The success of the Coalition shows our community’s resilience and ability to thrive in times of adversity,” said Prabhjot Singh. “It’s due to the tireless effort of volunteers from coast to coast and the Guru’s Grace that the Sikh Coalition has been able to successfully execute its charter of defending and empowering the community.
“As I look back on the last 10 years, we’ve made amazing strides not just for the Sikh community but for civil rights of all Americans,” he added. “If our community continues to bless the Sikh Coalition with its support, I really believe that the magnitude of change that we can create towards Sarbat da Bhalla (well-being for all humanity) is limitless. Let’s take the game to the next level.”
Amandeep Singh Sidhu, Founder and Chair, Legal Advisory Committee and Member, Board of Advisors, said the Sikh Coalition was born out of a need to support the Sikh American community and to educate fellow citizens in response to the unfortunate backlash that followed the September 11th attacks.
“While as Americans we mourned with our fellow citizens after our country was attacked, we also gained strength from the unity, tolerance and fundamental rights that define our nation’s core values,” said Amandeep Singh Sidhu. “Through tireless outreach, education programs, advocacy efforts and impact litigation over the past decade, the Sikh Coalition has made history as the leading non-profit organization protecting the rights of Sikh Americans.
“With offices in three cities and eight full-time staff members, funding from some of the most well-regarded foundations in the industry and global media coverage, we’ve come a long way from working out of our apartments and the trunks of our cars,” he added. “The Sikh Coalition has grown into a true institution that will continue its trajectory independent of the individual personalities that planted the seed of hope in 2001.”
Amardeep Singh, Founder and current Director of Programs, said it has been a long journey, and that people should know that building this organization has truly been a team effort.
“We would not have been able to make it this far without sincere and dedicated volunteers, community funders, founders, and staff members who devoted countless hours seen and unseen so that our identity would be protected and celebrated,” said Amardeep Singh. “Ten years later I’m most pleased to know that the health of this organization does not rely any one particular person or group of persons. We’re slowly but surely becoming an institution with legs to last for years to come.”
Harpreet Singh, Founding Board Member, said the journey began ten years ago with the conviction that every American deserves equal opportunity and inclusion in mainstream society, regardless of his or her religion, race or economic standing.
“While our work has made significant difference in the lives of those whose civil liberties were being violated by the state and the private sector, much remains to be done in the next ten years,” said Harpreet Singh. “Our success depends on our ability to educate mainstream America that religious pluralism can lead to a much richer social experience that is worth pursuing and celebrating.”
Jasmit Singh, founder former Board Member and current Member, Board of Advisors said that liberty and justice for all are great ideals — but to ensure that we live up to these as a society requires persistence, patience and concerted effort.
“Sikh Coalition was formed to defend the rights of communities that were the targets of hate, discrimination and prejudice though legal action, advocacy and education,” said Jasmit Singh. “It has been ten years since we sowed the seeds of this organization but the journey has only yet begun. The objective is to mobilize, inspire and empower communities to become proactive in defending their rights, and we are thankful for the support that we have received.”
Ajeet Kaur, founding former Board member and current Member, Board of Advisors, said the Sikh Coalition is more than an organization — it is a voice for Sikhs in America.
“When the organization was founded ten years ago we never imagined the work was just beginning,” said Ajeet Kaur. “Today, we can see a future for our community, but just like the decade behind us, it will take the efforts and dedication of not only the organization but also our country and our community.”
For a history of the Sikh Coalition visit www.sikhcoalition.org/documents/10YearHistory.doc.