by Lakhpreet Kaur
To celebrate Sikh culture and to educate the larger American community on Sikhs, the San Antonio sangat hosted the first ever Sikh Heritage Night at the AT&T Center during a San Antonio Spurs vs Minneota Timberwolves basketball game on December 28, 2015.
“In these troublesome times, let us be vigilant and stand together to combat ignorance and fear,” said a Sikh Dharamsal of San Antonio email. “Let us take advantage of this opportunity by working together to help bring awareness about Sikhs and other minorities to our neighbors and local community.”
The night, organized by Dr. G.P Singh and Winkey Kaur, included a performance by brother/sister duo Gurpreet Singh Sarin (of American Idol) and Soni Kaur Sarin singing the National Anthem prior to tip-off and a half time performance by the San Antonio Bhangra Artists.
“The purpose of the night was to create an awareness about Sikhs and a positive and first impression with the general public,” said sangat members Jaspreet Kaur and Gurpal Singh.
280 Sikhs were given special pre-game access to watch the teams warm up, and then were invited into the fan tunnel to welcome the Spurs players on to the court.
“Overall, it was a great experience and a unique, fun way to create exposure to the broader community, most of which have no familiarity with Sikhs,” said Jaspreet Kaur and Gurpal Singh.
In addition to brining awareness to Sikhi, the event also created a sense of pride in local Sikhs. “It was inspiring to see the citizens of San Antonio experiencing Sikh culture and learn a little more about us,” said 11 year old Pavneet Kaur. “It was pretty cool to see all the people getting so excited about the bhangra. And on the big screen at one point, I just saw all these people with their Sikh turbans and it was so exciting!”
Jaspreet Kaur and Gurpal Singh echoed this sentiment, “This event was a great inspiration to our children, giving them confidence, inspiration, and a sense of security.”
The National Anthem was sung by Soni Kaur Sarin and Gurpreet Singh Sarin. “By having a turbaned Sikh sing the National Anthem our goal was to demonstrate that we share common values,” said Jaspreet Kaur and Gurpal Singh. “Gurpreet Sarin was one of the top twenty finalists in American Idol. He, along with his sister Soni, did a fabulous job in portraying their vocal talent and our community in front of an audience of 20,000 people. They received great applause.”
For Manpreet K. Singh of Houston, the National Anthem was a highlight of the night, “When we stood up for the National Anthem I expected it to be the same rendition of the Anthem but with a Sikh American. I was blown away with Gurpreet and his sister Soni’s version of our Anthem.”
The brother and sister flew from the East Coast to spend time with the San Antonio sangat. “I had an amazing time sining the national anthem at the Spurs game!” Tweeted Gurpreet Saring (@GurpreetSarin).
The half-time bhangra show was a favorite of 7 year old Hargun Kaur. “It was awesome,” she said. “It was cool seeing Bhangra dancers.”
Sukhwinder Kaur of San Antonio, was one of those performing Bhangra and said she “…felt incredibly happy and proud.”
“The fact that we were there to represent and create awareness about Sikhi was amazing,” Sukhwinder Kaur said, “It felt so empowering to see a large sangat come together for such a great cause!”
“Walking onto the court during the halftime show to perform bhangra was the most surreal and memorable part of the night for me. I had so many emotions rushing through my mind. The very fact that at this young age, I received the opportunity to perform on the same court as the amazing Spurs players and in front of thousands of people, is insane.”
Sukhwinder Kaur said that everyone who saw them in their bhangra attire, “…showed their enthusiasm and excitement…To see the love for Sikhi on everyone’s faces, was the best part of the night.”
With a successful event, robust, turnout and positive feedback, the sangat is encouraged and hopes to host the second Sikh Heritage Night in 2016.