The Turlock City Council recognized the city’s diversity on Tuesday, proclaiming November as Sikh Awareness and Appreciation Month.
The proclamation recognizes the contributions Sikh Americans have made throughout the country and in California, where an estimated 250,000 Americans of Sikh origin call home.
“…today, the City of Turlock seeks to further the diversity of its community and afford all residents the opportunity to better understand, recognize and appreciate the rich history and shared experiences of Sikh Americans,” reads the proclamation.
Jaydeep Singh, advocate for the Sikh Coalition, was one of three Turlockers to accept the proclamation.
Below is an excerpt of the speech Singh gave to the Council:
“…Thank you for recognizing the contributions of the thousands of Sikh-Americans who have called Turlock home for over 70 years now.
“Sikhs-Americans, like those pioneers before them, came to this country with little more than the turbans on their heads and an unshakable resolve in their hearts. They worked in lumber mills, farms and factories, pouring every ounce of sweat and grit into securing a future for subsequent generations.
“But the journey has not always been easy. The Sikh American story would not be complete without telling the unfortunate stories of discrimination, bigotry and violence.
“However, despite the adversity. Despite the mountains we have had to climb. We endured. Ladies and gentlemen, that is what we do as a people – we persist.
“But I am not here today to talk about the struggle. I am not here to play the role of victim. We are Singhs and Kaurs. We are lions and lionesses, unafraid of any challenges we might face.
“Instead, I am here to talk about the people, the ideas and the places who have lent their hands in times of need.
“Places like Turlock, who for many, is just another sleepy agricultural town in the Central Valley.
“But not for me. But not for us.
“I grew up in this town. I spent my childhood, not too far from these chambers, helping my father breakdown cardboard boxes at his gas station. I attended middle school, high school and college right here. All of my formative years were spent within a 10-mile radius of where we stand today — and I can say — with every cell in my body that I am a proud to call this city home.
“Turlock – for me – and the dozens of Sikh families you see standing here today, is the only home we know. It is a place where our children go to school, where our elderly go on their morning walks, where our sons and daughters get married and most importantly, where we are proud to walk, with our chests out and turbans high.
“Turlock has always been – and continues to be -- a place where diversity is not just an afterthought. Instead it is engrained into the ethos of the city. Just walk through one of our schools, and you will Sikhs, Muslims and Christian children, smiling and eating their lunches.
“Take a trip to Costco on a Sunday morning and you will see churchgoers and temple attendees alike, both debating whether or not they should buy that family size pack of paper towels.
“I still remember at this past year’s downtown Fourth of July parade, seeing an elderly Sikh man bend over and hand an ice cream to small child. The child looked at her parents and then back up at the man, and smiled while she took the ice cream. They came from opposite worlds. But in at that moment, they were just two Americans celebrating a cherished holiday.
“What I am trying to say is this – In this town, we understand that there is no greater gift, than the ability to break bread with our neighbors. Will there be growing pains? Yes. Will there be naysayers? Yes.
“But I truly believe our commonalities dwarf our differences. Because in this town, we recognize the importance of family. We recognize the importance of faith. We understand that when people, whomever they may be, need our help, Turlock will be the first to volunteer.
“In the Sikh tradition, there is a concept, called “sarbat da bhalla,” which roughly translates to “blessings for everyone,” irrespective of color, caste, creed or gender.
“It means that as a community, we all do better, when we all do better.
“Turlock is a testament to this idea, and I pray it stays that way for years to come.”