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Saturday, October 20, 2007

SALDEF (Sikh) Struggle paid off......









SALDEF Celebrates Achievements of Sikh Americans and Civil Rights Leaders at 2007 Civil Rights Awards Banquet

SALDEF receives Congressional Citation from Congressman Chris Van Hollen
Washington, D.C.: October 19, 2007 - On October 11, 2007, Sikh Americans and civil rights leaders from across the nation gathered to join the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund (SALDEF), the nation’s oldest and largest Sikh American civil rights and advocacy organization, to recognize individuals who have helped in the empowerment and development of the Sikh American Community.

The Reverand Dr. C. Welton Gaddy, President of the Interfaith Alliance, set the tone of the evening with his keynote address, “When the next chapter of the Civil Rights struggle is written, not only will there be the names of King and Height, Bond and Parks, there will be the names Singh and Kaur.” Rev. Gaddy reflected on the recent controversy over the turban screening policy, “Your current struggle in the Sikh community, your current struggle with the TSA, highlights the sad challenge that stems from ignorance about religion, and the fear that is eroding the foundation of our Constitution.” Rev. Gaddy praised the efforts of the Sikh community, “Of all of the religious traditions that I know of in this nation, the Sikh community has done a better job identifying itself to the American public than any other religious group.” View Rev. Gaddy's remarks here.

Congressman Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) presented a Congressional Citation to SALDEF for “working to guarantee civil rights…and encourage[ing] our community to embrace and appreciate its diversity.”

Sardar Ujagar Singh was honored with the Bhagat Singh Thind Community Empowerment Award for his decades of sewa (selfless-service) and dedication to Sikh American youth. Through Camp Chardi Kala, Sardar Ujagar Singh has educated and inspired countless Sikh American youth and filled them with the pride in their faith. Sardar Singh noted the success of his campers and the work SALDEF is doing for the community. Watch Sardar Ujagar Singh's remarks here.

Julian Bond, Chairman of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, received the Dorothy Height Coalition Building Award for his lifetime dedication to advancing the civil rights of all Americans. Rev. Gaddy praised Julian Bond as “a living example of a reason not to lose hope.” Mr. Bond shared, “You couldn’t help but sit through this evening and not recognize the commonality between us. If you are a human being you have equal rights, and those equal rights must be respected not only by your fellow humans, but by the states in which you live. It is encouraging to see others struggling for this common cause.” Watch Julian Bond's remarks here.

SALDEF Public Service Award recipient, Daniel Sutherland, Officer for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, Department of Homeland Security, said, “SALDEF has really been at the forefront of so many civil rights issues…[not] just in Washington, but…around the country.” Mr. Sutherland has been a dedicated government leader working to protect the nation and the civil rights of all Americans. Instrumental in educating the government about the Sikh American community, Mr. Sutherland provided his personal leadership and guidance for the creation of the poster, Sikh Americans and the Kirpan. View Daniel Sutherland's remarks here.

Sukhman Singh Dhami and Jaskaran Kaur received the SALDEF Youth Leadership Award for their work with ENSAAF, an international human rights organization working to end impunity and find justice for human rights victims in Punjab. Mr. Dhami and Ms. Kaur are examples of the inspiring dedication in ensuring that “injustices are never issues of the past” and “survivors of human rights abuses [see] justice and reparations.”

The Dalip Singh Saund Legislative Leadership Award was awarded to Congressman John Lewis (D-GA) for his dedication to championing the civil and human rights of all Americans.

Commissioner Stuart Ishimaru of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission shared his desire to continue to work with SALDEF and the Sikh American community to combat employment discrimination and ensure civil rights. “I am truly impressed at all of the work that has been done… but there is a lot of work to do. Keep it up.” View the Commissioner's remarks.

SALDEF thanks Sardar Ujagar Singh, Daniel Sutherland and the staff of the Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties at the Department Homeland Security, Sukhman Dhami, Jaskaran Kaur, Julian Bond, Reverend C. Welton Gaddy, Congressman John Lewis, Congressman Chris Van Hollen, Commissioner Stuart Ishimaru, and all of our friends and colleagues for their support of the Sikh American community.

SALDEF thanks our many sponsors and supporters, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Chardhi Kaala Sikh Community Center, R-Systems Inc, the Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties at the Department of Homeland Security, the Sikh Education and Charitable Trust, Discover Help, and the Sikh Center of the San Francisco Bay Area, and our many community sponsors and volunteers for their support for making this a memorable event.

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