Across the country, members of the Sikh community are discriminated against because they wear turbans. Avaaz, the St. John’s Sikh organization, aims to get rid of the stigma by educating students at their next Turban Day.
President of Avaaz, Karan Sarpal has been a member of the organization for four years. He hopes students continue to get involved, as it provides valuable lessons in addition to free food, henna, and turban tying demonstrations. Last semester, more than 250 students were involved on the Queens campus.
“We did Turban Day to promote diversity while tackling misconceptions on turbans,” Sarpal said.
Turbans are known as headdresses, usually made of cotton or silk worn for religious purposes. Members of the Sikh community face discrimination for wearing them. Despite that, it means so much more.
“In the United States are Sikhs…wear turbans…and we wanted people to know what the significance of a turban is and why we wear it,” Sarpal said. “A turban in the Sikh faith represents a lot of things…equality, sovereignty, courage…it’s a part of a uniform.”
Prabhjit Kaur is a member of both the Sikh community and the cultural organization. She plays an active role , plays an active role in Avaaz as an advocate for the Sikh community.
“Sikh’s are a minority India,” Kaur said. “Not a lot of people know about us so we started our group because of that.”
Turban Day ties in their usual practices at temple, throughout the day. In addition to henna, the free food is based on Lungar.
“At temple there’s a free meal to every visitor,” Kaur said. “It promotes equality among religion castes, gender, class…”
The organization appreciates diversity, as they have two students who aren’t Sikh on the e-board. Treasurer, Connor Cox, values the importance this day brings to the community.
“It’s the day during the semester where Avaaz can share its culture with the University,” Cox said. “People from all cultures, ethnicities, and races come and participate in learning about SIkh culture and heritage.”
The Indian Subcontinent Student Organizations (ISSO) has been around longer than Avaaz. They promote South Asian culture, according to their website. Avaaz was created five years ago and as an organization students can learn about Sikhism including history, beliefs and the culture behind it.
Avaaz is hoping to have Turban Day take place again in the spring.