The turban on the Giants fan was a deep cherry red; on the school dance attendee, it was a cool topaz blue; on the young couple, they were matching daffodil yellow. Featuring models strutting down the red carpet runway to Punjabi and London fashion show music, the Sikh turban fashion show was one of the chief attractions of the Closing Celebration for Sikh Awareness and Appreciation Month in Santa Clara. The event was held at Central Park Library on Dec. 2. Though many Sikhs come from Punjab, Sikhism is not an ethnicity but a religion that stresses service to others.
“We want to celebrate within the community the great values, successes and contributions of the Sikh community; we hope to set a precedent for other states to also celebrate the Sikhs’ impact on the local community,” says Harbir Kaur Bhatia, a lead event organizer who mentions that this is the fourth year California has formally recognized Sikh Awareness and Appreciation Month. “City officials need to get educated and trained on who Sikhs are.”
Other event organizers included community members Raj Chahal, Savinder Singh, Harjit Kaur, and Amarjit Multani.
“Sikh Awareness Month started out of Sacramento,” says Harjit Kaur, the community development manager of The Sikh Coalition. “A few years back, two elderly grandfathers were gunned down when they were taking their evening walk. That prompted the Sikh community in Sacramento to come together to meet with us and go down to the legislature and talk to them about doing something for the community. Not only to recognize Sikh contributions but to also bring awareness to Sikh American. We did a recent study in the Bay Area alone and we found that 97 percent of Sikh students are bullied, both male and female.”
The evening started with Harshaan Singh affectionately singing the Star Spangled Banner while playing the guitar. Simran Kaur oversaw a bookmark-making booth featuring the Sikhs’ five articles of faith. Jaideep Singh, a Sikh scholar and professor of Ethnic Studies, lectured on Sikh American history. Some girls performed a Punjabi folk dance. Guests enjoyed crispy samosas, spicy chow mein noodles, flavorful cauliflower Manchurian and cake.
Santa Clara officials recognized at the celebration included Councilmember Lisa Gillmor, Councilmember Teresa O’Neill, Police Chief Mike Sellers, Fire Chief Bill Kelly and vice-mayor Debi Davis. Davis officially declared November as Sikh Awareness and Appreciation Month in Santa Clara, referencing a proclamation written by Mayor Jamie Matthews.
For many attendees, the turban fashion show was particularly meaningful.
Harshaan Sidhu, 10, modeled his turban and Boy Scout uniform.
“It was fun to be in the fashion show and it felt nice to recognize my religion,” Sidhu says. “I want to recognize my Sikh Troop 600. I’m wearing my uniform now.”
“We came here for our son, Sehaj, who wears a turban and he just started kindergarten,” says Raman Kaur. “We wanted him to see that there are other kids out there who wear turbans and they can be a doctor or basketball player. I want him to know that wearing a turban won’t limit his future.”