This past Saturday night, twenty artists from all over the country took to the mic in front of a packed and energetic crowd at the University of Maryland for Lahir 2009. It was a powerful evening of remembrance and reflection to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the 1984 Sikh Holocaust, organized by the DC Sikh Youth.
It was amazing to see teenagers, college students, young professionals, and even a few parents take to the stage and share their thoughts and reflections about 1984, human rights, and justice. Not only did the performers span across generations, but the performances themselves ranged in art form from musical pieces, poetry, and spoken word.
For me, it was fascinating to see how different each of the performers connected with 1984 – early in the show one artist eloquently recited an excerpt from Sirdar Kapur Singh’s 1966 speech to parliament, another tied environmental issues and water rights to 1984, while others shared personal accounts, poetry, dharmik geets, and dhadi vaaran. Regardless of how different each artist connected to 1984…the connection itself was strong…and watching that unfold on stage was absolutely breathtaking!
The evening concluded with G.N.E performing some of their recent tracks in front of their hometown audience. Seeing uncles and aunties “waving from side to side” was definitely a sight to remember.
For much of the last 25 years, Sikhs have been portrayed in a negative light around the events of 1984. We have quietly criticized the media – and while on the defensive – tried to point out inaccuracies about what actually happened…but it seemed we never really had a voice…Saturday night, that voice was heard loud and clear!
This 25th anniversary has produced several projects and initiatives that have helped document the Sikh experience of 1984, and these open mic events have also proved to be a powerful medium to document our story. I hope to see more and more of these events pop up throughout the country and abroad.
As the show came to a close Saturday night…the jakaaray kept going and the audience didn’t want to leave their seats…I kept thinking to myself, the show might be over…but the movement has only begun!
Photos: Courtesy of Japnam Kaur