So Sarah Palin has met a Sikh, if she hadn’t met one already in Alaska.
While randomly surfing YouTube today, I came across the solution to the fundamental problem facing Sikhs in America: a shocking lack of awareness about who we are. The solution: create a rap about being a Sikh and post it to YouTube. Now it sounds cheesy, I know. But look at this video, produced by a 16-year-old Persian American using nothing more than the software he lists under ‘more info’ for the video!
In this video, Arsha talks about who he is and gets it across with some humor. He says a few things that are a bit weird or off-color, but hey — he puts Persian Americans on the map.
Note that Arsha’s efforts have reached almost 700,000 people worldwide. Do you realize how crazy that is? Once he hits 1M views, he’s reached the equivalent of 1 in 300 Americans.
Who’s going to step up and make the video that puts Sikhs on the map at YouTube? A quick search for Sikh yields a bunch of random, mostly Sikh focused videos, with few near 700,000 views. If you make this video, I want to be in it! The potential here is huge and of course I’m willing to help. And we need to think about the ‘bang for the buck’ here — you don’t need a grant or any special tools or resources, just some smart people!
(And no, this video has nothing to do with Sikhism — it’s just an example of what will be done.)
Another great rap, which I absolutely love, being the huge dork that I am, is the Large Hadron Collider Rap.
Update: 2/12/2010: Note that he now has 1.2 million views. That’s a far bigger audience than any Sikh American group has ever reached, in my estimation. (Or Persian American group for that matter, as Arsha’s video is about his identity as a Persian American.) Do you realize how significant this is? Organizations raise thousands upon thousands of dollars and end up reaching a tiny audience. Arsha made a catchy video and reached 1.2 million people who now know who Persian Americans are.
This is pretty interesting. Friend of Sikh Swim Narinder Singh is featured in the Sept 29, 2009 issue of Newsweek. You can seen the article here.
I enjoy Narinder’s stand-up comedy and I deeply respect him for being excellent at the world’s most difficult art form (comedy, that is). In fact, Narinder, if you are reading, I have a video of you from that recent coalition event if you want to see it!
Articles like this are the best kind of publicity we can get as Sikhs. I especially like Narinder’s commentary that:
Yet religious symbols don’t always serve as a catalyst for truthful living. Wearing one for the sake of wearing it reduces religion to superstition.
Very true. May we all live with purpose and direction in our lives — and may we take daily steps toward a state of higher consciousness through our actions.
From Pritpal Singh’s Facebook posted items:
Two Concerts of Sikh Sacred Music and Song Fall 2008
Bhai Baldeep Singh
Dr. Gurnam Singh
To commemorate the tercentenary of the installation of the Sikh Scripture, Adi Granth (Primordial Book), as the Guru Granth Sahib (Master-Teacher as Book) in 1708, the Bindra Chair in Sikh Studies and co-sponsor the Hakam Singh Endowment for a Chair in Sikh Music in conjunction with the Religion Department in HCLAS, will present two concerts of Sikh sacred music and song at Hofstra University. The first concert will be performed by Bhai Baldeep Singh (Delhi, India), a 13th generation Sikh Kirtan exponent (vocalist, percussionist, string player), Instrument Maker, Lecturer, Archivist, and founder of ANAD Conservatory: An Institute of Sikh Aesthetics and Culture. The second concert will be offered by Dr. Gurnam Singh, a Performer of Gurmat Sangeet, and Chair of Sikh Music at Punjabi University, Patiala, Punjab, India, and author of a series of influential books and articles). Each performer (and their respective groups) will play and sing the sacred hymns of the Guru Granth Sahib, according to traditional string and percussion instruments.These two public concerts are part of two new courses offered in the Fall 2008.
Dates: September 25th and December 9th, 2008
Time: 6.30 - 8.30 pm
Place: Monroe Lecture Center, South Campus, Hofstra University
Reservations: Click here to make reservations
I’m watching this now — it looks like they’re going back and forth about “why” this movie was titled the way it was. Sure sure — I know that this title was chosen to generate “dialog” — but we forget about the untold masses of Americans who will never see the movie, will never think about ‘dialog’, but will just hear of the movie and then have a new word to call the Sikh boy in 4th grade. As Rajdeep clearly says, “it will normalize and legitimize the slur.” Sure, it will spur dialog, but only among the people who want to watch this movie. It’s sort of like the academic elite is like, “look, we’re creating dialog,” but what they’re actually doing is equipping people with a new slur. The author even admits that a lot of people didn’t know what ‘towelhead’ meant.
It is to be noted, however, that the director and author pair, Alan Ball and Alicia Erian, had a dialog with SALDEF and posted it on the official website. That’s something positive.
Dear Production Team,
Ok great, you’ve created a movie with the title “Towelhead” — the same term that I hear being barked at me by teenagers in the next car, as I drive down the highway with my windows down, listening to NPR.
I would much rather let this go, let it slide, not blink an eye and say goodbye. But since movies are the primary form of American education, I owe a response to you out of respect for this great nation. Your film fans the flames of several deep misconceptions that many organizations are trying to fight — let’s see if we can make it right.
The first misconception is that Arab Americans wear turbans. In my entire life — growing up in New Jersey, attending Princeton University, and working in the northwest — I’ve never seen an Arab American wear a turban. I estimate that 98% of people in America who wear turbans are Sikhs like myself with no connection to the Arab world whatsoever.
Just the title of the book and the movie and the words “Arab American” creates this association or reinforces it. I have nothing against Arab Americans and think highly of them — but the association the movie creates “arab-american:turban” is patently false. Maybe Arabs wear turbans. But Arab Americans? If they do, it’s so rare I’ve never witnessed it.
Second, by titling the movie a term that has no use other than hatred and divisiveness, you severely hurt the cause of unity and tolerance. Now those teenagers on the highway are emboldened, they have signoff from the media for their racist choice of words. I would venture to guess that, unlike the equally abhorrent N-word, which everyone knows, the T-word will be a new term for some people. You’ve just added it to their vocabulary of slurs.
Have you seen Inside Man by Spike Lee? Get the DVD, watch the directors commentary (36:00). He says, “Most people don’t know the difference between a Sikh and an Arab…anyone with a turban on their head, or that racist comment towelhead…” Well the difference is Sikh Americans wear turbans, while Arab Americans largely do not, and your film exacerbates this problem.
So what’s there to do? It’s really up to you — certainly you can help educate and stop the hate? Ignorance is the problem in this nation — basic awareness really goes a long way to promoting unity. Unfortunately the title of your film takes us in the wrong direction.
PS - here’s SALDEF’s take on the issue
Last Sunday, I walked in to Gurdwara, and I was surprised to see Sukhwinder Singh, friend and creator of the movie Sundri (I first met him at the Seattle Sikh Retreat). Sundri’s a great animated film about bravery and the equality of women in Sikhism. Watch this great “Making of Sundri” clip below.
Here’s a PDF with the details of the New Jersey showing. I’ll probably make the 3pm show. We need more positive cartoons featuring Sikh storylines. Buy tickets online.
So the idea behind Sikh Social News is simple. If you see a news story you like, just submit it at news.sikhswim.com. If you like a story on the site, you can ‘upvote’ it and then it stays on the front page. This is how sites like Digg and Reddit work. The site automatically grabs posts from a few popular blogs. But try it out — if we get a bunch of people using it, it will take on a life of it’s own.
Many of you have commented that I often just post a link or a one-line message with a link. Well I’m slowly changing that (see some recent posts) and I’m going to start posting the one-liners on Sikh Social News because it’s so easy to do. Give it a shot too!
We just launched news.sikhswim.com. It’s a blog aggregator / voting site similar to digg or reddit — with the caveat that it auto-loads the RSS feeds of popular Sikh-related blogs. Check it.
Fiona Aboud is a first-class professional photographer. Clients of her work include Time, Sports Illustrated, and the New York Times. I had the opportunity to meet her in person, and she’s as cool as she sounds. She’s spent the last year working on a project titled “Sikhs in America,” and needs our help — we need to vote for her project so she can win funding to finish the publication of the book. I’ve seen previews of the book and I think it’s awesome. We need more books like this on America’s shelves.
Here’s how you can help:
Go to this link: Sikhs in America @ Blurb
Click on VOTE (orange box at left). Create a login and register your vote.
Contact Fiona directly (through her website) if you want to get in touch with her about supporting the project. Great stuff Fiona, thank you for it!