How Your Campus Can Respond to Oak Creek

You can combat hate and build community through the power of storytelling and service. Organize a film screening and dialogue on your campus, and follow up with a year-long service project with your local Sikh community. Together with our partners at the White House, Interfaith Youth Core, the Sikh Coalition and SALDEF, we believe the tragedy in Oak Creek can catalyze bold new engagement. Here's how:


1. Host a Film Screening and Dialogue on Your Campus

Storytelling is the most powerful way to generate empathy, dialogue and introspection. Host one of these films on your campus.  Organize a panel of Sikh American students on your campus or invite a speaker to lead a Q&A with the audience after the screening. Pass out brochures on the Sikh faith to your audience.  (You can request these brochures, in any quantity and free of charge here: [email protected]).

AMERICAN MADE (25 min narrative film): Stranded in the middle of the desert on their way to the Grand Canyon, a Sikh American family has only one hope – the remote highway and the occasional car that drives by. The father Anant, clad in his traditional turban, sticks out his thumb as a car approaches, hoping someone will stop and help. When car after car fails to stop, Ranjit, the teenage son, says no one will help them because his father looks like a terrorist, forcing the family to deal with issues of tradition, faith, conformity and sacrifice. Click here to purchase a DVD of the film. You can also request a DVD to screen free of charge: [email protected] For teachers, lesson plans for this film are available for grades 6-12.


DIVIDED WE FALL (90 min documentary film): The first award-winning feature film chronicling hate crimes against Sikh Americans after 9/11, told through the story of a young Sikh woman who drives across the country, camera in hand. From the still-shocked streets of Ground Zero to the desert towns of the American west, Groundswell Director Valarie Kaur's epic journey confronts the forces unleashed in a time of national crisis – racism and religion, fear and forgiveness – until she finds the heart of America… halfway around the world. Colleges and congregations have used the film as a powerful dialogue tool in 200 U.S. cities in the last few years. You can buy the DVD of the film and download the dialogue program here.  You can also request a DVD to screen free of charge: [email protected] You can also find Divided We Fall short films and clips here.


A DREAM IN DOUBT (60 min documentary film): An immigrant story in a world in which patriotism has morphed into murder. When Rana Singh Sodhi’s brother is killed in America’s first post-9/11 revenge murder, he begins a journey to reclaim his American dream and fight the hate that continues to threaten his community. This intimate, hour-long documentary of one man’s odyssey from persecution in India to embracing America as his homeland proves that courage and hope have the power to overcome hate. You can find the film for free on Hulu and purchase a DVD of the film for screening here.  You can download PBS's dialogue guide here.

We also encourage you to check out Dastaar: Defending Sikh Identity, a short documentary film available for free on the web.  Peruse our archive for more films, reports, dialogue guides and sample programs, and links to organizations with resources designed to combat hate and build community.


2. Start a Seva (Service) Project With Your Sikh Community

Invite Sikh American students on campus into a leadership role and ask them to steward a relationship between a local Sikh gurdwara (houses of worship) and your campus. Reach out to your local Sikh community and invite them to join you in a year-long seva (service) project. The Sikh community holds seva - or selfless service - as a central practice.  For example, every Sikh gurdwara (house of worship) serves langar, or an open and free community meal.  Brainstorm your seva project together.  Here are some ideas!

  • Organize an Open House at the local Sikh gurdwara, inviting students to attend a service and engage in an interfaith conversation over langar.  Click here for guidelines to share with gurdwaras on how to host an open house. You can project this presentation on Sikh Americans on a loop throughout the event.
  • Serve the Community Together. Invite Sikh congregants to practice seva with college students in traditional programs such as Habitat for Humanity or benefit walks/runs. Volunteering with Sikh families out in the community in new and visible ways helps form close bonds and explore new meanings of seva.

You're not alone! You can lead your campus' response to Oak Creek as part of President Obama's Interfaith Campus Challenge and/or Interfaith Youth Core's Better Together Campaign. We can connect you with your campus coordinator. Just email [email protected] Click here if you're a Sikh college student who wants to lead your campus' response!

If you want to do more, here are some bright ideas from Sikh American college students:

  • Start a student-initiated course or reading group on Sikh Studies on your campus! Already have one? Share your syllabus here! ([email protected])
  • Write op-eds to campus newspapers about why we should remember the lessons of Oak Creek.
  • Organize a rally with different student groups to stand against hate and for the values that make our nation great - equality, freedom, and dignity.

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