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Thousands of Americans welcome Sikhs at the Independence Day Parade
Thousands of Americans welcome Sikhs at the US Independence Day parade in Washington
Washington - 60 Sikh men, women and children performing Gatka - Sikh martial art performance- enthralled the spectators at the US Independence Day parade. Young Sikhs, mostly born and brought up in America, took the center stage in the national festivities marking America’s Independence on the streets stretching from Capitol to the White House. Swelling crowd of 300,000 spectators hailed the Sikh group with loud clapping and approving ‘ye’ sound as the group passed through the parade.
Kanwalpreet Singh Gill, Dr. Rajwant Singh, Didar Singh Bains, Dr. Darshan Singh Saluja, Manmeet Kaur and others on the float
Miri Piri Sikh Gatka Dal of Houston, Texas, which has been participating in many public events in Houston and other parts of the country, was instrumental in securing the Sikh participation in this national event. 10 members of Miri Piri Gatka Dal participated along with 10 member group of Sikh Gatka Akhara of the Guru Gobind Singh Foundation (GGSF) of Washington. Both groups had committed young Sikhs, who extensively showed the various acts of Gatka on the beat of the Punjabi Dhol throughout the parade without taking any break. They were followed by 35 Sikh men and women representing various gurdwaras of the Washington area. They were walking in lines and were carrying American flags and waived at the audience as they walked by.
Gursharn Singh waiving to the crowd
Gursharan Singh, leader of the Miri Piri Gatka Group said, “This was a great chance to show that Sikhs are part of the mainstream America and that we are equally joyous in the July 4th celebrations. This provided an opportunity for our youngsters to feel pride in being Sikh Americans.”
Gatka Players in the parade
This was the first time Sikhs participated in this national parade which was witnessed by the enthusiastic audience who traveled long distances to witness this annual ritual in the nation’s capital
A float carrying a heading ‘Sikhs of America’ was certainly drawing the attention of the audience. This float had Rajinder Pal Singh, a tabla Maestro from Guru Gobind Singh Foundation, playing tabla constantly with the beat of the Religious Punjabi songs which certainly had the American audience waiving their bodies. The float also carried the message ‘celebrating 100 years of presence and patriotism in America", reminding the audience that Sikhs had been loyal citizens of America from last 100 years.
Sunmit Singh displaying Chakar
Dr. Rajwant Singh, Chairman of the Sikh Council on Religion and Education, was on the float, greeting the audience with ‘Happy Independence Day’ occasionally on the microphone on behalf of the Sikh group. He was elated with the entire program and said, “Sikhs have been part of America from last 100 years and this is the opportune time that we let all Americans know that we exist and we are equally contributing to make America strong. Many Sikhs are currently serving in Iraq war and also part of the US Armed Forces. We also want to express our gratitude for the freedom that we all enjoy as citizens of this great country. This will also educate many more thousands about the rich heritage of the Sikhs.”
Representatives of the various gurdwaras walk behind the Gatka players
Didar Singh Bains, the famous Sikh businessman from Yuba City and who was on the float greeting audiences, said, “I am so glad that finally Sikhs are part of this large mosaic and our participation is very good for the entire community and it will strengthen our roots.”
Amrit Kaur, Secretary of GGSF, said, "Sikh men and women walking alongside American bands and floats celebrated not only the 4th of July but also displayed their distinct identity that drew hostility after the events of 9/11. This is our way of asserting that we are Americans and we will continue to educate others about ourselves.”
Sikhs waiving to the American Public
Representatives of Guru Nanak Foundation of America, Guru Gobind Singh Foundation, and Singh Sabha Gurdwara participated in the parade and had arranged buses for Sikhs to attend this event. Manpreet Singh, Kanwalpreet Singh Gill of Houston, and Sunmit Singh worked tirelessly to make this event a great success. Harjot Singh, leader of the GGSF gatka group had his group practice for long hours before this event. His group even had a deft female gatka player Navjeet Kaur. Some of the representatives of the Gurdwaras who walked in the parade were: Pardeep Singh Arneja and Tejbir Singh Phool from GNFA, Ranjit Singh and Arvinder Singh of GGSF, Sewa Singh and Sawinder Singh of Singh Sabha gurdwara. Many hundreds of Sikhs from the Washington area had lined up along the route of the parade and cheered the Sikh group.
In the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks, Sikh Americans became targets of hate crimes and prejudice because of their outer appearance. The reprisals prompted America's Sikh organizations to launch an awareness campaign in the US about their distinct identity and religious background as they expressed solidarity with Washington in its fight against global terrorism.
Navjeet Kaur displaying Gatka in the center
A special flyer describing the Gatka and the main Sikh principles behind this art was also distributed along the parade route.
Bhai Rajinderpal Singh playing tabla on the Sikh Float
For more information on Houston Miri Piri Dal
Sikh Gatka Akhara of GGSF:
(240) 398 1514 or
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