‘Our journey is not complete’
Valarie Kaur is an exceptional social innovator for Sikhs, for women,
and for interfaith activists, says Major Kamaljeet Singh Kalsi.
first met Valarie at a White
House advocacy event organized
by our common friend, Anju
She was a panel speaker talking
passionately about social change
and innovation. She was telling a story,
but not just any story. She spoke about
her own journey towards enlightenment
in the aftermath of 9/11 which took her
all over the country with a video camera
She felt compelled to act, she told the
audience that day. I could see the pain
still echoing from behind her confident
smile. As an ER doc, I have learned to
understand what is often not said. I
could sense that this was a form of healing for a soul filled with empathy for a
community that still had no voice.
Many of us still bear scars from the
unfettered hatred that ensued from that
singular terrorist event. Our country was
angry and in her poignant documentary,
Divided We Fall, she chronicles the hate
crimes suffered by Sikhs and Muslims in
the burning shadows of 9/11.
Valarie did not stop there. She became an exceptional
social innovator for Sikhs, for women and for interfaith
activists. She explains that many young people she meets
across the country are overwhelmed by the world’s problems.
There is pain, suffering, hunger and thousands of desperate needs that are waiting for a solution — which one do
you choose? Valarie shares some of her wisdom with me.
“I have learned that we hear our calling when our own
deepest desire and unique skill set meets the world’s needs.
We cannot force or choose our calling… Everyone of my
films or campaigns has chosen me…”
I remember watching an interview of one of the greatest
pop sensations of all time, MJ. Sorry Elvis, yes, I’m a
Michael Jackson fan and, yes, the Army is okay with that. In
any case, in this interview he states that his music came to
him from somewhere or something greater than him.
Other great artists throughout our history, including
Bach and Leonardo da Vinci, have also echoed similar sentiments about simply being conduits for the greatness that
flowed through them.
Valarie Kaur has become a conduit for greatness, and she
shares the secret to her successes with me:
“I believe each of us can be change makers, in small or big
ways, in our communities and our own homes. We just have
to listen deeply for the moments we are called to act — and
not turn away when they come.”
Valarie Kaur delivers 4,000 letters of support from Groundswell members to the Sikh
community in Wisconsin after the mass shooting.
I am reminded of a story my grandmother used to tell me
when I was young. Guru Gobind Singhji, the Tenth Master
of the Sikh religion, held high a sword dripping of blood,
and asked his congregation of thousands for their heads
one day. It was a challenge to his followers — as the ultimate test of faith.
The five devoted ones or ‘Panj Pyaras’ answered the call of
faith that day and went on to become the founders of the
order of the Khalsa, one of the most significant evolutions
of the Sikh religion.
When I see an employer telling a young Sardar that he
must choose between a job and his turban, I hear Guru
Gobind Singhji asking us for our heads. It’s a challenge,
and Valarie echoes the wisdom from our forefathers in calling upon us to have the courage to act and to stand up for
While she is an exceptional public speaker, I feel her
actions speak louder than her words.
Valarie founded Groundswell at Auburn Seminary in
New York, she says, in order to “equip and connect people
across many faiths and backgrounds in one online net-
work…. (and) If we connected all these people in one net-
work, could we build the political power of a multi-faith
movement for justice?”
She runs campaigns responding to today’s most pressing
social challenges, including hate crimes, LGBT equality,
human trafficking and gun violence. She helped to mobilize
the interfaith network to respond to
the Oak Creek tragedy when members
of all faiths firmly stood together with
tears still fresh in our eyes, wearing T-
shirts that read ‘We are all Sikhs
In her answer to the blind hatred,
ignorance, violence and policies of
exclusion that presumptively ban Sikh
articles of faith, distancing our com-
munity from equal opportunity and
the American dream, Valarie teaches
storytelling as a form of advocacy.
Major Kamaljeet Singh Kalsi, winner of the India Abroad
Special Award for Achievement 2011, has won a Bronze Star
for his service in Afghanistan.
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