On September 15, 2022, the United We Stand Summit at the White House bought together Uniters from all across our country to address the rise of hate-fueled violence in the United States. This haunting date marked by the tragic anniversary hate crime murder of Balbir Singh Sodhi, who was the first person killed post 9-11 due to the hate backlash suffered by many ethnic minorities, including Sikhs and Muslims. September 15 also marks the anniversary of the 1963 Klan bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama that took the lives of Addie Mae Collins, Carole Robertson, Cynthia Williams, and Denise McNair.
The Summit was convened by Ambassador Susan Rice and the Domestic Policy Council, with the full support of the administration, President Biden, Vice President Harris, senior staff, faith based and civil rights leaders who bought together survivors of hate from Birmingham, Pittsburg, El Paso, Poway, Orlando, Charleston, Atlanta, Buffalo, Oak Creek, North Carolina, Washington, Charlottesville, Arizona and everywhere in the U.S. This marked the beginning of a needed bipartisan effort by federal, state, and local officials, civil rights groups, faith communities, law enforcement, and all of us, to address violence from a whole-of-society approach. The central underlying theme is that we must be brave enough to do what must be done to combat the many forms of hate in our country. The East Room of the White House was filled with diverse sector leadership of many races, beliefs, and ethnicities. Many of those gathered warmly embraced one another throughout the day as this convening truly felt like a visual depiction of the beautiful mosaic that God intended: an America worth fighting for!
I was blessed to be amongst the numerous Sikh leaders in attendance who were recognized for our work since 9/11 and 8/5/12. Now, more than ever, I have come to understand how important our work at Not In Our Town (NIOT) is to repairing the fabric of our wounded nation. NIOT’s approach in convening gatherings and bringing together what we call a “matrix of allies throughout the community to help prevent and encourage the reporting of hate” was referenced to in multiple panels by experts at the Summit, including myself.
It was emphasized that building an infrastructure supported by the federal government to prevent and address hate-fueled violence will be the focus of this administration as we move forward. This includes funding programs across sectors and schools, increased access to resources for local organizations, assistance and law enforcement to detect and combat domestic extremism, support for online literacy of online threats, strengthening ties between law enforcement and communities, and the promoting of civic renewal and trust in our government and our democracy.
(l-r) Rais Bhuiyan, President Joe Biden and Pardeep Kaleka.
Following his keynote, I got a chance to meet the President of the United States. On behalf of the Sikh community at large and the Oak Creek community, I put my Kara (steel bracelet Sikhs wear) on his right wrist, and encouraged him to also be brave, as the Kara reminds Sikhs of our sacred oath. The President thanked me and wore it as he warmly embraced those gathered.
Undoubtedly, we have some very challenging years ahead, but we are committed to NIOT’s values to “stop hate, racism, and bullying, and build safe, inclusive communities for all.” The conclusion of the day was marked by Howard University’s performance of “Hold On (Change is Coming).” This was a needed reminder for all of us to remain courageous, faithful, and committed to each other and each other’s wellbeing.
We thank you for your support and we look forward to waging peace with you.
Pardeep S. Kaleka
Co-Director of NIOT
For more on the Summit: UnitedWeStand.gov