How did you become involved with Sikh Awareness and Appreciation Month?
My father actually came up with the idea of Sikh Awareness and Appreciation Month happening in Delaware and worked to get the joint resolution passed that made it happen. I’ve always been an advocate for Sikhism since many in our community don’t know what Sikhism is or who Sikhs are. When my father ran the idea of Sikh Awareness and Appreciation Month past me, I was more than excited to be involved.
What was it like speaking in Dover before the General Assembly?
It was truly amazing to experience the resolution being passed in person on March 16. It is something that I’ve watched happen on the news before, but it was definitely more exciting to see in person. I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to thank the Delaware Senate and then the Delaware House on the same day.
Sen. Bryan Townsend, the primary sponsor of the bill, read the description of the resolution, and the rest of the Senate stated its unanimous support for the bill. After that, Sen. Townsend introduced me and asked permission for the floor so that I could address the Senate. I was somewhat nervous approaching the podium, but Dr. [Dan] Hickey’s speech and communications class prepared me well for the task at hand. After I finished speaking, I received a standing ovation that I was not expecting. I was shocked and so humbled. There were so many senators in the audience who were smiling and nodding.
Once I finished speaking and sat back down, I was asked to sign a form that basically stated that I spoke on the Senate floor that day. It is crazy knowing that I am now a part of Delaware’s history. After I left the Senate to go and address the House, a few senators followed me out with signed copies of the bill. My experience addressing the General Assembly is something that I will always be extremely grateful for and will cherish.
How and why did you plan the peace walk?
The purpose behind the peace walk that happened on April 15 on Main Street in Newark, Delaware, was to send a message of unity through diversity as well as a message of love and peace. Because of many hate crimes that have occurred in our nation in recent months, I felt that it was necessary for me to take some kind of action. I think that the peace walk was a great demonstration of what the Delaware community stands for.
Planning the peace walk in itself was not that difficult since I had many family members and friends willing to help me out. The first step that I took was getting a permit approved by the police department. That was one of the easier parts of the entire process. The more time-consuming task was getting people to come to the walk. I’m not sure how many hours I spent sending numerous emails and texts telling people about the peace walk. With my father’s help, I created fliers and went to many neighborhoods to pass them out. I also distributed them in school. I also created a YouTube video that provided details for the walk, and my father and I created a Sikh Awareness and Appreciation Month Facebook page and posted the fliers and video on there to get more people involved. I emailed many teachers at Tower Hill about the peace walk, and I also did a WHYY-TV interview to promote the event, which was also a pretty amazing experience. The event was successful, and there were more than 100 people who came.
What have you learned from these experiences?
The peace walk was an idea I had at dinner one night. I didn’t really believe it was possible, but I learned that to implement any idea, all one needs is to be willing to work hard for it. It was hard work, but I also had many people in our community supporting me. I think that I learned many essential organizational and communication skills. I think oftentimes many people find excuses as to why they can’t do or achieve certain things, and my experience with the peace walk has taught me that anything is possible if you are willing to put the work in.
I also learned how important public speaking truly is. I have always found it essential, and even as a child, public speaking never scared me. But it is a life skill that is essential for every child to be able to do. Being able to speak publicly allowed me to have success when I addressed the Delaware General Assembly, as well as provide me the confidence I needed in my WHYY interview.
What has the reaction been amongst your peers?
I received a very positive response from my peers and teachers. Many of them came to my peace walk and helped me advertise the walk as well. The Tower Hill community was very supportive of my efforts, and I am very thankful for that.
As of right now, I am working on getting Sikhism to be a mandatory part of the history curriculum taught in Delaware. Besides that, I will continue to advocate for Sikhism in our community in any way possible. I am also hoping that I am able to make the peace walk an annual event. I don’t sit still for too long, so I am sure I will find something else to work on soon.