Pictured are the FedEx Shooting victims: Front Row L-R Amarjit Sekhon, Jaswinder Singh, Karli Smith, John Weisert. Bottom Row: L-R Matthew Alexander, Samaria Blackwell, Jaswinder Kaur, Amarjeet Johal
By Shruti Rajkumar, AsAmNews Intern
People from all over the world gathered on Thursday night for a virtual multiracial interfaith vigil to stand in solidarity with the Sikh community and honor those who were killed in the Indianapolis shooting one week ago.
“No one person, no one community can bear this much trauma alone. That is why we are gathering now, to breathe together, to commit to one another, to deepen the ties that bind us, to embody our love and solidarity to turn this virtual space into a sacred space,” founder of the Revolutionary Love Project Valarie Kaur said.
The two hour event, co-hosted by Kaur and Reverend Michael Ray-Mathews of Faith in Action, featured a night of testimony, music, and prayer led by faith leaders, artists and Sikh community members.
AsAmNews joined 120 community organizations nationwide in supporting the event.
Kaur and Ray-Mathews opened with an introduction about the recent shooting in Indianapolis that killed eight people, four of whom were Sikh. They also acknowledged recent events including the spa shooting in Atlanta, the trial of Derek Chauvin, and the killing of Ma’Khia Bryant.
“I am here to stand in solidarity with my Sikh family. I am here to bring visibility to my Asian kindred, because I know as a product of the Black church tradition that our well-being, our flourishing, and indeed our liberation are tied together. Those of us who have targets on our backs, those of us who know the experience of racial trauma and violence must stand both in our shared destiny,” said Ray-Mathews.
Among the speakers were Rana Sodhi, who’s brother was one of the first people killed in a hate crime after 9/11, and Komal Chohan, the granddaughter of Amarjeet Kaur Johal who was killed in the shooting at the FedEx office in Indianapolis. The gunman killed her as she walked to her car with her paycheck in her hand to selflessly heat up the vehicle for others in her car pool, Chohan said.
“It appears that their security system was more focused on protecting their replaceable merchandise than it was on protecting the irreplaceable lives that work there. Due to their lack of effort, many families lost their loved ones and many people will never be the same, all due to an incident that could have been easily prevented,” said Chohan.
Sodhi recalls how his brother was planting a flower at the front of his gas station when he was shot five times in the back. The man who killed him showed that he had wanted to kill all the “towel heads” and their children, Sodhi said. Ten months later, his other brother was killed in San Francisco while driving a cab.
“I lost my [second] brother in 10 months after 9/11 and that’s the first time I knew about America, how much people have ignorance and how much people have hate. Before 9/11 I never [thought] about [how much] hate exists in this country. But now, everyday those things happen with the Black community, Asian community, Latino community. I witnessed those things. And it shaped me,” Sodhi said.
Faith leaders of various religions from across the country spoke during the second part of the event, providing prayers and words of solidarity for the Sikh community. Associate general minister of the United Church of Christ Reverend Traci Blackmon talked about the connection between communities of color.
“When death visits the Black and Brown communities, death visits us all. Until everyone is fully seen, until this is a place where everyone feels safe, until your children and my children can play together and not have to change anything about themselves to feel fully loved, we will be in this together. White supremacy will not have the last word,” said Blackmon.
Leaders from the Black, Latinx and Asian communities vocalized their solidarity with the Sikh community in the wake of their own pain, grief, and fear.
“I know that all of us have struggled under the burdens of oppression and hate. It is in moments like this that we must lean on each other, on this larger community, that we must work for the freedom of all of us. We cannot win without each other. As you have stood with us, know that we stand with you,” said Judith Browne-Dianis of the Advancement Project.
Dr. Kameelah Rashad talked about the ways in which marginalized communities are connected and the importance of showing up for one another and standing against violence and injustice.
“James Baldwin said, ‘You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read.’ And I would add [that] then you connect with other marginalized people who are actually of the global majority….and you see and you love those who face the trauma of White supremacy and racial violence. And in that seeing, in that connection, we begin to repair all of the damage that is constantly being done,” said Rashad.
Towards the end of night, Satjeet Kaur of the Sikh Coalition made a call to action, encouraging people to find their own place and role in the movement, as well as to directly support the families in Indianapolis. Valarie Kaur followed with closing statements and affirmations to the Sikh community and those who attended the event.
“[In] these moments, I see glimpses of the nation that is longing to be born in America that is truly multiracial, multifaith, multi-gendered, multicultural…where all of us belong. Each of you are midwives to a nation that is in transition. Even if we do not live to see the nation that we are trying to birth…when we show up to the labor for a more just and beautiful world with love, that is the meaning of life…it is enough. You are enough,” said Kaur.
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