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Building Bridges With the Sikh Community

The Sikh Temple shootings weighed heavy on Christie Kern's mind, so much so that she is partnering with members of the temple to hold a community event for people to learn about Sikh culture.

When the shootings at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin happened in August, the tragedy weighed heavy on Christie Kern's mind.

The Mount Pleasant resident and owner of Racine Community Acupuncture lived in Trinidad in 1990, when a coup claimed the lives on 50 people. Like everyone in the United States, she was horrified by the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

But when Prakash Singh, Sita Singh, Ranjit Singh, Satwant Singh Kaleka, Paramjit Kaur and Suveg Singh were shot to death by white supremacist Wade Michael Page Aug. 5, it felt closer and more personal.

Like many, Kern grappled with understanding how people could come to hate others so much. She felt powerless to do anything to help.

But that has changed. 

Kern and a client of hers, Christine Donalies, with the help of Peace Learning Circles, are sponsoring "One Community, One World: Understanding the Sikh Community."

"I was tired of people taking their anger out on someone else," Kern said.

The program will be held from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 12 at South Shore Cinema, 7261 South 13th St. It will be held again the next night from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Golden Rondelle Theater, 1525 Howe St., in Racine.

Valarie Kaur and Sharat Raju, two filmmakers and civil rights advocates, will present and narrate three short films. Kulwant Dhaliwal, an Oak Creek Sikh gurdwara leader, will share testimony from victims' families. Music will be performed by members of the Sikh community.

Donalies said the event is not focused on the tragedy, but will celebrate the Sikh religion.

"We're saying, yes this is what happened with the stereotype, but we're trying to re-create the story. We're trying to create new bridges,” she said.

After learning about the shootings at the Sikh Temple in Oak Creek, Kern read an editorial by Kaur, who founded Groundswell.

Kraur wrote:

I believe it would not have mattered much to Wade Michael Page if he knew that the people he killed were Sikh rather than Muslim. From what we have gathered so far, Page is just like others who have targeted Sikhs in hate violence: they see people with dark skin, beards, and turbans as the enemy.

After reading the editorial, Kern realized how much she didn't know about the Sikh community. She told Donalies she wanted to sponsor a series of cultural events, and represent one culture at a time to educate people.

She was impressed with groups like Kaur’s Groundswell, which helps build community understanding between people of different faiths and lifestyles, and Peace Learning Circles, which focuses on everything from promoting peace within schools struggling with bullying among their students to doing outreach programs in senior living facilities.

"Some people are shy," Kern said. "This will be a safe place for everyone to come together and learn about the Sikh culture."

Sam Smith December 03, 2012 at 02:32 PM
Wade may have been one of the shooters, but what about the other three? Witnesses said a shooter had a single '9/11' tattoo, yet Page had none like this, but was otherwise fully tattooed on both arms.
Mark Schaaf December 03, 2012 at 04:39 PM
No.
Joe Todor December 12, 2012 at 03:17 PM
The program will be held from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 12 at South Shore Cinema, 7261 South 13th St. It will be held again the next night from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Golden Rondelle Theater, 1525 Howe St., in Racine. cost ? donations ?
Amy Gilgenbach December 12, 2012 at 04:15 PM
The event is free. Not sure if they're collecting donations.

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