The next few articles on Kaur Life are featuring Sikh women who are combating hate with love through social justice work; women who are fighting for human rights with their Sikh values.
Each of these Sikh women are deeply involved with creating positive change in the world through their actions and continue to strive to be closer to the Divine. Here at Kaur Life, we feel it’s important to highlight Kaurs who are resisting misogyny, bigotry, xenophobia, racism, sexism, alibis or other -isms. This could be through art, music, poetry, protesting, boycotting, writing, careers, jobs, volunteering, raising radical children, and more…the frontlines are everywhere! Today’s article showcases Kaurs of the Resistance: The Artists. Don’t forget to read about The Healers and The Advocates.
Gurleen Kaur is a painter, make-up artist, and designer working in Digital Media. She is a passionate creator hailing from Chicago and living in NYC and a declared feminist.
Her Social Justice
Creating art, staying connected, & being vocal. Technology has made us a global community through means of the internet and social media. Because of this I created a website, Phulkari Women, where women can share their message in a safe and anonymous environment. I also create art and poetry with positive and feminist messages in order to spread love and empower women, making sure to share them on social media.
Sikhi is the fundamental reason I care so deeply about social justice. My inspiration comes entirely from our Sikh history, and was instilled in me as a little girl. Our religion was born on the equality of people and the empowerment of women- I reflect on these things daily. I feel so proud to come from a religion that empowers women, and it makes me want to fight desperately to make sure that this feeling is never lost.
Create something powerful and share your message with the world! Know your voice matters, and that, even as hard or embarrassing as sharing your ideas with the public may sound- it’s what inspires so many others to do the same. It’s hard to feel vulnerable, but if Sikh women let their fears hold them back we wouldn’t have examples like Mhai Bhago and Jind Kaur. Don’t let feminism & activism die with our history, whether it’s sharing your artwork, writing a poem, or marching in the streets- just let your inner lioness free.
Harpreet is a Cultural Consultant/Producer, Writer and speaker. Her work embeds cultural practice into key areas including diversity, gender equality and climate change locally and globally. Her niche is operating within a cultural and international development context to facilitate social and global change.
Her Social Justice
I am currently collecting stories from the South Asian communities across Birmingham demonstrating the value and contribution of people from different generations to the culture and economy of Britain, as part of a British Library project celebrating relations between the UK and India that will be exhibited in the Library of Birmingham this summer. This community engagement role allows me to create a range of events to celebrate diversity in the UK, that is absolutely critical during times of rising xenophobia and fear. I participated in an international Cultural Climate Leadership Programme in March where I developed my ideas to tackle climate issues using culture, bridging the perceived gap between people and planet making the climate story more accessible for diverse audiences with a human touch. I am an advocate for gender equality and women’s empowerment and was selected by the BBC to participate in their Expert Women 2017 event for just 24 women chosen from 100s of applicants across the UK. This will enable me to gain media coverage to promote key stories and campaigns. In April I will join a panel in Bucharest at an International Arts Conference IETM to talk about how gender can be a political tool in the context of art as a driver of social change. When I have the time and budget my passion is to travel to countries to research and promote how arts and culture are practiced to create positive change in society and the environment. My last extensive trip was 6 months in India in 2015.
I was brought up in a Sikh family attending the Gurdwara every Sunday, being reminded by my parents of my role as a member of the community where everyone is equal, that shares with and serves those in need. This has influenced my natural inclination to participate in projects that encourage peace and prosperity for all. I studied Sociology, Gender and International Relations at university to develop my knowledge and potential to serve humanity in whatever way I can. My inspiration comes from Guru Nanak’s free spirit and humble nature to embrace everyone regardless of creed or colour. Nanak’s exploration of places and people encourages me to travel and explore the world to inform my work as a change maker.
Her advice to other Kaurs wanting to get politically and socially engaged
Just do it. Follow your heart, talk to people, find out what is happening in your community and what the needs and gaps are and take action. Join existing movements and groups to increase your knowledge and find out where your skills, knowledge and interests can be useful. There is always going to be a need for volunteers and activists so you can start small if you have limited time to give. Kaurs can be incredibly powerful if they embrace their strengths, be brave and remain compassionate with themselves. We live in a patriarchal society despite what our religion teaches, and often face challenges, often from our own women and families resisting the change we need to move society forward.
Jasleen Singh is an energetic, coffee shop loving 3L at Berkeley Law School. She is the founder and director of Sikh Monologues, an event given to the Sangat to collectively explore issues from domestic abuse to Sikh identity and inclusivity. Her greatest skill is her ability to create warm, inviting spaces for friends and family to explore their creativity and inner selves.
Her Social Justice
I devote myself to improving the environments in which I find myself. I created Sikh Monologues – so there could be a space where Sikhs could take agency over their own stories. I organized Kaur Voices and direct Vagina Monologues – so womyn have space to share themselves. I organize with the Coalition for Diversity and the Women of Color Collective at Berkeley Law so students of color are respected, understood, and given a home in walls that were not built for our black and brown bodies. I recognize that I am but one person in the vastness of our world, but I am also personally responsible for doing what I can to make positive impact.
My ethos is founded on selflessness, empathy, and equality. These values are inextricable from Sikhi. As a Sikh and a budding lawyer, I see no better way to contribute than to advocate for all people, and especially communities that have been systematically marginalized in this country.
Pay attention to your personal capacity and passion. Start small. Know that alone, we cannot change the world, but we can show up, make signs, phone bank, write, or organize events that contribute to progress. Simultaneously, know that your voice – your individual, single voice – has power. You can start a movement. You may sometimes find that you are the only voice representing your identity in a room. Take pride in that singularity, in you.