Ceres native Jaspreet Kaur, the 209 community organizer for the Jakara Movement, the largest nonprofit organization for Sikh youth, spoke to the Ceres City Council last week.
The Jakara Movement is a youth leadership empowerment non-profit organization seeking to enhance educational opportunities, immigration justice and civic engagement. The movement started as a 2000 college conference in Fresno to get Sikh youth talking about issues in their respective communities. In 2009 it became a non-profit organization. Since then the group moved onto college and high school campuses, such as Central Valley, Pitman, Livingston, Manteca, Tracy and Mountain House high school campuses. The Jakara Movement operates a Sikh Service & Honor Society at Ceres and Central Valley high schools.
Approximately 400,000 Sikhs live in California with most living in the Valley.
While most people pronounce Sikh as in “seek” the more accurate pronunciation is “sik.” The word “Sikh” in the Punjabi language means “disciple,” thus Sikhs are the disciples of God who follow the writings and teachings of the Ten Sikh Gurus. Worldwide there are about 25 million Sikhs, making it the fifth largest faith in the world. About 65 percent live in Punjab or neighboring areas, 25 percent live in India and 10 percent outside of India.
“We do a lot of community service work and that can include ‘Know Your Neighbor’ event where we really go door to door and introduce ourselves, who we are in this community and who we are as Sikh Americans, facts about the Sikh religion."Jaspreet Kaur
“We do a lot of community service work and that can include ‘Know Your Neighbor’ event where we really go door to door and introduce ourselves, who we are in this community and who we are as Sikh Americans, facts about the Sikh religion.
Other activities include meal sharing events with the homeless community. Members are engaged with the community in a Modesto town hall meeting. The group focused on the beatings of a Turlock Sikh man and an elderly Manteca man on a walk.
Leadership retreats are held for high school officers, this year at University of the Pacific (UOP) in Stockton. Annual conferences are also held.
Kaur, who was raised in Ceres and graduated from Ceres High School in 2011, was the keynote speaker at the 7th annual Sikh American Awareness held June 7 at the Ceres Community Center. There she focused on preventing school bullying.
She said Jakara Movement has helped create “a space for welcoming schools.” Fresno Unified and Central Unified in Fresno have Punjabi language programs to “make a more inclusive environment for everybody.”
“This is something that I really, really want to create in Ceres Unified being that Punjabi is the third most spoken language here (in the Valley). I would love to see Punjabi being a language option as well as Spanish as well as – when I was in high school we had German.”
The Jakara Movement also has focused on voter registration drives and last fall helped get over 350 new voters registered.
They also lobby for legislation, such as Assembly Bill 1531 which recognizes Punjabi as one of the most spoken languages in California. Kaur said Punjabi is the 11th most spoken language in California.
She also asked the City Council for support on a resolution to stress the importance of counting everyone in the upcoming U.S. Census.
Jakara was given funding by the state of California to help in the Census survey as a subcontractor, Kaur said.
“I really do want to emphasize that it’s not just about Punjabi people being counted. We want to work towards making sure that all communities are being counted, all the hard-to-reach communities are being counted. That way we do have resources that we need in our city.”