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Photo Essay: Targeted by hate, Sikhs embrace love

“Chardhi Kala” is the spirit of relentless optimism, a philosophy that empowers followers of the Sikh faith to persevere and grow from hardship.

The fourth annual Chardhi Kala 6K Run/Walk was held on August 6 at Oak Creek High School, with each kilometer honoring a victim of the 08.05.12 tragedy. Participation from diverse communities came together to honor the six victims and celebrate the closer ties that have developed as a result of the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin mass shooting.

“I became a marine just to tackle hate, ignorance, and to show people that I love my country. I lost my mother here. The person who took her life doesn’t stand for the entire country. This is my country, and I want to serve the America that my mother passed away believing in.” – Kamaljit Singh Saini

“We are not a proselytizing faith. But we have been proselytized to and we have had to push back against that. Many organizations came at us after 2012 saying the shooting was all our fault, and we really should be converting. We are our own selves and we shouldn’t have to apologize for our faith. Instead of offering comfort or seeking to understand us, they felt it was a time to come in and convert us. We have become more public about who we are and what we do because we cannot afford to have this kind of misunderstanding.” – Shauna Singh Baldwin

About the Turban

The turban, or Dastaar, has a deep connection to the Sikh cultural identity. It is an article of faith that expresses honor, self-respect, courage, spirituality, and piety. The turban, as a symbol of peace, is commonly worn in India. It is designed to partly cover the uncut hair of a person who wears all Five Kakkars, which also includes a wooden brush for the long hair, a metal bracelet, a specific style of cotton undergarments, and a symbolic blade.

“This is a memorable moment for me, to see so many people from different backgrounds join with us here. And I notice a change in me, personally, and in other people as well. It’s a change in the expression of love, from creating new relationships across the community. We stand in solidarity with all those who have suffered losses.” – Rahul Dubey

About Martial Arts

Developed by Sikhs centuries ago, Gatka is a traditional South Asian form of training. Commonly referred to as northwestern Indian martial arts, Gatka can be practiced either as a sport or ritual.

“Even though we are not related by blood, all who lost a parent four years ago at the Sikh gurdwara, you are all my brothers and sisters. And even thought I do not live here, Oak Creek has become a home to me. And even though I am not Sikh, the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin has become a place where I can find a sense of comfort, spiritual connection, and belonging. I don’t say any of this lightly. I say this fully aware that those of use outside of Oak Creek on August 5, 2012, and who did not lose loved ones in the massacre at the gurdwara, can never fully grasp what this community has endured. That is why all of us have a responsibility and obligation to make sure that Americans don’t forget what happened here four years ago. That’s why it is so important that we come together each August. And why it is so critical to keep saying their names again and again.” – Deepa Iyer

Read the article and view the photo essay that were produced as companion features for this news report.

About The Author

Lee Matz

Former Creative Director and Photojournalist for the Milwaukee Business Journal, Lee brings his years of international experience as a foreign correspondent in Asia and Europe. His list of awards include top honors from the Milwaukee Press Club. Lee proudly uses MCTS as the exclusive mode of transportation for covering all his news reports.

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Original images published on this news platform are the editorial content and the exclusive property of the Milwaukee Independent LLC. All usage is forbidden.

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