Women Came Together and Marched, Now We Run for Office

women's march

According to the Women’s March website’s mission and value, it reads”

“We stand together, recognizing that defending the most marginalized among us is defending all of us.” 

An estimated three million people participated in the Women’s Marches across the United States this past weekend.

One day after the inauguration of President Trump, gender nonconformists, men, and women, came together and marched in support of not only women’s rights but also LGBTQ, immigrant, civil and other rights that need to be revisited and readdressed.

According to the official Women’s March website, the purpose of the march was to “stand together in solidarity with our partners and children for the protection of our rights, our safety, our health, and our families – recognizing that our vibrant and diverse communities are the strength of our country.”

With efforts to move forward from the fear many communities face nationally and internationally, the march was created to send a message to the new government that injustice will not be tolerated, especially and specifically by those of diverse religious faiths, immigrants of all statuses people identifying as LGBTQIA, Native, black and brown people, those with disabilities and survivors of sexual assault.

[Read Related: What You Need to Know About the Women’s March on Washington]

The website stated “This march is the first step towards unifying our communities, grounded in new relationships, to create change from the grassroots level up. We will not rest until women have parity and equity at all levels of leadership in society. We work peacefully while recognizing there is no true peace without justice and equity for all.”

The movement paved its way not only in major cities like Washington D.C., New York and  Los Angeles, but small towns as well. Within  Washington D.C. activists, advocates, performers and renown figures spoke for the cause.

“A movement is much more than a march. A movement is that different space between our reality and our vision. Our liberation depends on all of us, ” Janet Mock, author and activist, said.

Protestors stood with various signs displaying anti-Trump rhetoric to empowering phrases for women’s rights and intersectionality. Chants were made from “Welcome to your first day – we will not go away” to “Say her name” and “Women’s rights are human rights.”

[Read Related: Non-Black People of Color Owe Immeasurable Debts of Gratitude to Black Americans]

While many voiced their opposition to the new president, it is important not to see this march as a just another movement against Trump, but one for all of us to unite for the rights of both women and our marginalized communities. Seeing the march as just an anti-Trump protest takes away from the meaning, mission, vision and influence it has. In other words, it belittles it.

“We can’t receive justice if we are not able to collaborate with other races, people from different backgrounds, to stand in solidarity,” Women’s March national co-chair, Tamika D. Mallory told, the Huffington Post. “We’re working around the clock to pull together what we believe will be one of the most historic moments of women from different races coming together to make our voices heard on issues pertaining to marginalized communities.”

The Women’s March on Washington, D.C. is a historically uplifting and significant moment, but it cannot be the last of our activism this year, or any year. This march, as stated in the vision, is just the first step towards our unification. It was a call to stand up, fight back and create awareness. It’s important to remember why you marched, for what and most importantly for whom.

[Read Related: Does ‘God Bless America’ Include Muslims?]

What is saddening to hear is how many felt the presence of those who marched solely for “white feminism.” “It’s not feminism if it’s not intersectional.” You standing by my side with your version of feminism that thrives from mine or a marginalized communities oppression does not make you an ally and does not depict your unity with us. It further divides us.

We need to work towards ending the divisions we have amongst ourselves. A woman is not defined by her body parts. A woman is not defined by her race or skin color. A woman is not defined by her age, able-ness or sexual preference. A woman is defined in the way they define themselves.

If we want to fight for equality and justice, we must first see equality and justice within ourselves and with others. Be accepting and understanding. Only then will we succeed in no longer just advocating safety, justice and equality, but achieving it.

“Continue to embrace the things that make you unique even if it makes others uncomfortable. You are enough. And whenever you’re feeling doubt, whenever you want to give up, you must always remember to choose freedom over fear,” singer Janelle Monae said, at the March on Washington.

For more ways to be involved in the movement, visit the Women’s March official page to see 10 Actions for the First 100 Days that you can complete furthering the vision.

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By Aysha Qamar

Aysha Qamar is a writer, poet and advocate based in the tri-state area. She currently serves as BGM’s News and … Read more ›

Oak Creek: A Story of Hate, Hope and Healing

Every year on August 5th, the Sikh American community remembers one of our community’s most devastating tragedies in recent memory — the Oak Creek massacre. On this day in 2012, a white supremacist gunman entered the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin, a gurdwara (Sikh house of worship) in Oak Creek, Wisconsin where he shot and killed six worshippers and severely injured others. This violent attack was the deadliest mass shooting targeting Sikh Americans in U.S. history, and at the time, was one of the worst attacks on a U.S. house of worship in decades. Six worshippers — Paramjit Kaur Saini, Sita Singh, Ranjit Singh, Prakash Singh, Suveg Singh Khattra, and Satwant Singh Kaleka — were killed on that horrific day. An additional community member, Baba Punjab Singh, was severely paralyzed and ultimately passed away from complications related to his injuries in 2020. Others, including Bhai Santokh Singh and responding police officer and hero, Lt. Brian Murphy, were seriously wounded during the shooting. 

[Read Related: Oak Creek Gurdwara Massacre’s 4th Anniversary: Young Sikhs Express Optimism for the Continued Struggle Against Hate and Ignorance]

In 2022, the community came together to demonstrate that we are undaunted. My organization, the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund (SALDEF) joined in supporting the anniversary observance at Oak Creek: a remembrance event centered around the theme of “Heal, Unite, Act.” The Oak Creek Sikh community hosted a series of in-person events, including the 10th Annual Oak Creek Sikh Memorial Anniversary Candlelight Remembrance Vigil on Friday, August 5, 2022. The program included a representative from the White House, Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers, Oak Creek Mayor Dan Bukiewicz, and representatives of the families who lost loved ones. Being there in Oak Creek 10 years after the tragedy was deeply meaningful — both to see the inspiring resilience of this community and to remember how much remains to be done.

In D.C., SALDEF continues to fight for policies that improve the lives of Sikh Americans. I had the honor of chairing the most recent iteration of the Faith-Based Security Advisory Council at the Department of Homeland Security, providing recommendations at the request of Secretary Alejandro N. Mayorkas. Consequently, the three subcommittees published a report that emphasized the importance of greater accessibility, greater equity, and greater transparency in counterterrorism efforts that for too long revolved around surveilling populations like the one that was senselessly attacked at the Oak Creek gurdwara in 2012. Leading the FBSAC as a Sikh woman, and representing a community that was highly targeted alongside Muslims by both white supremacists and in post-9/11 counterterrorism profiling, was an opportunity to push the Council to advocate more fiercely for further information-sharing between communities and law enforcement, extending grant opportunities for security for Gurdwaras and other houses of worship, and building trust between the government and Sikh communities. In addition, I advocated for accountability for the damage needlessly caused to Muslim, Arab, South Asian, and Hindu (MASSAH) communities by federal agencies historically pursuing “counterterrorism” objectives which has resulted in eroded trust rather than the development of strong partnerships. 

Although we have made great strides in this country, there is still more to do. Through our work we have partnered with many across the nation to come together and find solutions through tenets central to Sikhism and America — unity, love, and equality. SALDEF continues to strongly endorse the policy framework articulated across the Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act (H.R. 350 / S. 963); Justice for Victims of Hate Crimes Act; and the Nonprofit Security Grant Program (NSGP) Improvement Act (H.R. 6825). We believe strongly in mandating federal agencies to create dedicated offices to investigate domestic terrorism; allowing prosecutors to feasibly indict perpetrators of hate crimes; and allowing religious nonprofits to access federal funding to enhance their own security.

[Read Related: Anti-Sikh Hate is on the Rise: Here’s What we can Do]

While 11 years have passed, the effects of the Oak Creek shooting are never far from the minds of Sikh American advocates and the community we serve. SALDEF will not stop taking a stand against senseless violence and hate crimes. We continue to work in unity with our community and movement partners, and fight for better policies that will actively keep all of our communities safe. Through tragedy, we find hope. We know there can be a world where people from all backgrounds and cultures can practice their faith freely and, even though it has eluded the Sikh American community in the past, we still believe this world is possible.

Photo Courtesy of Amrita Kular

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By Kiran Kaur Gill

Kiran Kaur Gill is an accomplished professional with exemplary executive experience. In her role as Executive Director, she is responsible … Read more ›