Simran Kaur is an editorial board member of the Sikh Love Stories Project. She currently serves as the Western Region Director of the Sikh Coalition – a national civil rights advocacy organization. Simran’s graduate work and professional background is in the field of Public Health where she has worked with underserved, immigrant and refugee communities. Simran was born and raised in the UK and currently resides in California. She loves to travel, is an avid reader and an active member of the community. She is a daughter, sister, fiancé and friend.
What community activities do you engage in and why?
It has always been important for me to be involved with projects that are meaningful and impactful, especially ones that fill a gap that exists within our community. When we started The Langar Hall blog, we recognized the need to create a space where we could collectively discuss issues affecting the diasporic Sikh Community. Being a part of The Sikh Coalition was motivated by a desire to contribute to efforts towards civil rights and social justice issues of Sikhs in America. Recognizing how incredibly important it is to document the often untold stories of Sikh women is what encouraged me to become involved in the Sikh Love Stories Project.
Additionally, the concept of sarbat da bhala reminds me that it is just as important that we involved ourselves in community work that goes beyond the Sikh community and it’s what led me to volunteer with the global health organization, Medical Missions for Children. I do this work because it is part of who I am. For me, it’s a simple way for me to practice the teachings of my faith.
Where does your inspiration come from to do this work?
My inspiration has always stemmed from my parents and Sikhi. They showed me, through their political and community engagement, the importance of having a voice. This was particularly significant in the days and months after the events of 1984. Stories also helped – and there were many in our home about Sikh history and issues occurring in Punjab. These stories reminded me that I am inextricably linked to the world around me. As an activist, I couldn’t do this work without a support network. I am grateful to my partner, my family and my close friends who continue to uplift, support and inspire me.
Can you tell us about how you helped pass the California Workplace Religious Freedom Act?
The California Workplace Religious Freedom Act was passed in 2012 and is now the nation’s strongest protection against religious discrimination in the workplace, a historical win for many religious communities. This project was incredibly rewarding because it allowed us to work closely with and engage the grassroots community. Many Sikhs shared their experiences about workplace discrimination – and for many this was the first time they had ever engaged with the government. It was such an exciting thing to witness knowing that every person who took the time to share his or her story was making a difference!
How has your involvement as a member of the Editorial Board for the Sikh Love Stories Project inspired your community work?
As a young girl, I always looked for examples of women’s contributions to Sikh history and contemporary society; I knew they existed but these stories were not well documented and therefore were not shared. This was why I knew the Sikh Love Stories Project was an incredible asset to our community because it’s a reminder of how important and authentic it is for a community to tell its own stories.
The project is also a reminder that as we continue to do community work, it’s important to be inclusive and representative of the voices within the community – women and men, intergenerational and Punjabi speakers (and even this list is not comprehensive enough). This is our gift to the next generation of Sikhs who may look at these examples and experiences as their own inspiration.
What do you want to see for the Sikh American community in 10 years?
I hope we can continue to create a society that represents what our Gurus had envisioned for us: a community that is not afraid to stand up against any type of injustice, even if it’s within our own community or if we are the sole voice to do so. I have seen firsthand how this type of community work can be incredibly challenging, but perhaps if we each felt invested in our community’s progress then we’d have more empathy for each other. In the future, I also hope to see our community giving back in an impactful way – towards Sikh and non-Sikh projects, organizations and institutions that are making a real change for the next generation. And while I also hope that in 10 years time Sikhs are much more recognized in the broader American society, I hope we will continue to stand up for the civil and human rights of all people because that is the Sikh spirit.