Monthly Archives: August 2009

what does immigration reform mean? sikh coalition’s sonny singh bears witness

Dear Readers,

What does it mean to be a South Asian movement organizer pushing for immigration reform in suit and tie meetings while bearing witness to the detention blue button down human casualties of this cold war of words?

Comrade Sonny Singh, artist and activist, speaks on this juxtaposition. He calls his essay: Bringing It Home, Out of the Shadows. It was first published on the Sikh Coalition’s blog.

By Sonny Singh: Bringing It Home, Out of the Shadows

Sonny Singh (Sikh Coalition, Red Baraat)

Sonny Singh (Sikh Coalition, Red Baraat)

Yesterday afternoon I joined several faith leaders from diverse communities for a meeting with Congressman Anthony Weiner (D-NY) in his district office in Kew Gardens, Queens to discuss immigration reform. The Sikh Coalition is a part of growing group of organizations around the country bringing a faith-based voice to the immigration debate, and in particular has been active in the

New York Interfaith Network on Immigration Reform.

In the meeting with Congressman Weiner, we discussed what it’s going to take to realistically fix this broken immigration system that has deemed the lives of 12 million undocumented immigrants in this country worthless. 12 million people living in the shadows, at risk of being torn apart from their families and loved ones at any moment. This is a statistic we hear a lot, but as Sikhs, what does it really mean to us? How does it hit home? What is our responsibility as Guru-oriented people?

Yesterday it hit home for me.

Walking out of a productive meeting towards the bus stop, I felt somewhat hopeful about the progress we might be able to make on this issue in the next year. As I was figuring out which bus to take to get to Richmond Hill, an older desi man with a scruffy beard and short pony tail smiled warmly at me and struck up a conversation in Punjabi. He helped me figure out which bus to get on, and then got on the same bus.

I invited him to sit by me. We made small talk for awhile and transitioned to English once my tutti futti (broken) Punjabi wasn’t cutting it any more. Soon enough, he told me that he had just gotten out of jail. Surprised, I asked him what happened and if everything was okay. He responded matter of factly with a story that began with an NYPD officer asked him for ID one night on the subway several months ago and ended with him spending two and a half months incarcerated in an immigrant detention center in Texas. He just got back home last week. Sitting next to me, he was wearing the same thick blue shirt that was given to him in detention.

His name is Amarjit Singh, and he is a part of our community. He came to New York over 20 years ago and speaks perfect English. He was born and raised in Delhi and survived the anti-Sikh pograms of 1984 and beyond. He makes a living by selling perfume and handbags. He is a Sikh. He is undocumented.

He asked me what he should do. He said he can’t go back to India, that it’s not his home. We talked about the need for an immigration system that recognizes the humanity of all people and provides a path to citizenship. I told him about my work with the Sikh Coalition, which he was excited about. As I was getting off the bus I gave him my card, and he said in Punjabi, “One day, I will call you.” I wish I could have given him a good answer to his question about what he should do, but this immigration system doesn’t have a good answer.

As I walked down 95th Avenue towards the gurdwara, my eyes filled with tears, blurring my vision and my optimism. What is going to happen to Amarjit Singh, who has sadly turned to alcohol to drown out his pain and struggle? He was so glad to be “free again,” as he put it, but has no way to even apply to become a legal resident of the United States. He and millions of others will continue living in fear unless we fundamentally change the immigration system.

This is a South Asian issue. This is a Punjabi issue. This is an American issue. This is a Sikh issue.

What are we going to do about it?


Thank you for bearing witness. Stay tuned for more folks.


Roopa Singh/roopstar

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Throw It In the Bag (Remix): President Obama Walks Into A KKK Meeting Disguised As A “Townhall”

Dear Readers,

A Monday morning peek into news that matters. My father is in town, first thing we both do in the morning is chai and internet. He wants to know who won Sunday’s cricket match between Australia and England. England won. Same diff.

I’m on Youtube first thing, wanting to write to the songs I just can’t get outta my head. Like, “Throw It In The Bag (Remix),” by Fabulous and Drake. A bright song, a crystal top spinning kaleidescopes of light. This would be an all time fav…IF it weren’t for the play by play instructions to approach that register, pull out that credit card, and buy into capitalism’s empty win. Shopping.

In Other News: President Obama Walks Into A KKK Meeting Disguised As A “Townhall”

“So what do you think about the healthcare problem?”

“I think all people deserve good care. I think we have the resources, and we sure need new job creation, so an overhaul is possible. But healthcare, like crime & punishment, is one of those issues that reveals how thoroughly this country is in the hands of a few industries. In this case, insurance companies, the medical industrial complex, and big pharma. Generally America keeps a poker face, but some issues make her bleed. Healthcare is blood and guts America, plain and simple.”

“What about all the racial tension at these town halls?”

I read in the NY Times about an Arizona townhall where President Obama essentially walked into a KKK rally–white men swagger around, proudly, openly armed, multiple guns and ammunition visible on their bodies. I think healthcare is a proxy for the discussion on race that never truly happened during the presidential election. I think it takes a lot to get a citizenry this inept at communication, this under-informed, this prickly, this shoot-ourselves-in-the-foot.”

More in a sec. While your waiting: Get up get out and get something.

Roopa Singh

*New India Day Photos* (Fresh Off Madison Ave, New York City) + Soon to Come: Photos from Purple Rain Sing-A-Long from Prospect Park

Dear Readers,

Thousands of you have viewed this blog and my flickr over the past three days. That lets me know a few things:

1. Desi visibility is on the rise; 2. There is an overwhelming interest in Desi lesbians and gays (LGBTTTSQQ, et al.), what we do, how we do it, and how fabulous we look when we do it; 3. Sepia Mutiny is a cutting edge Desi blog trusted by its readers; 4. Roopa Singh cares about this community and so, her visibility is justly on the rise (that’s me folks).

Another taste of India Parade Photos, 41st and Madison Ave, NY, NY (August 16):

photo: roopa singh (haldiram)

photo: roopa singh (haldiram)

salga one tight slap.3

photo: roopa singh (one tight slap, salga)

photo: roopa singh (gay hind, salga)

photo: roopa singh (gay hind, salga)

Shots and live footage from Purple Rain Sing(h)-A-Long at Prospect Park. Come back Friday my purple princes and princesses.


Roopa Singh

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