A HALF CENTURY OF SUPPORT FOR HOOSIER SIKHS BY STATE AND CITY LEADERS
A Prayerful Reflection: Kanwal Prakash “KP” Singh
The first Sikhs settled in Indiana in the mid-1960’s and witnessed a less than welcome environment for new pioneers with unfamiliar traditions and cultures. The Sikhs immediately started the long journey to work towards a rightful place for their national identity and opportunities to network and serve. Along the way, there have been many Firsts; we discovered many friends and thoughtful Hoosiers to encourage, support, and guide our efforts. I could not have imagined; who could have believed the amazing support and relationships that developed over the years:
* Lt. Governor Bob Orr had a special reception for the visiting Chief Justice of India Y.V. Chandrachud at the Statehouse in mid-1970's.
* Governor Otis Bowen was the honorary Chairman of KP Singh Exhibit at Columbia Club in 1985 and 1988 attended by hundreds of art patrons, officials, and friends.
* Secretary of State Ed Simcox honored KP Singh as the Honorary Secretary of State on July 23, 1985.
* Indiana's distinguished U.S. Senator Richard Lugar twice addressed the national Sikh events organized by the Sikh Council on Religion and Education (SCORE) and a Kaur Foundation Gala in Washington, D.C. in the last 15 years.
* Besides Mayors Peterson (two visits) and Greg Ballard (5 visits) to the Sikh Gurdwara, U.S.
Congresswoman Susan Brooks, Congressman Andre Carson, and the First Lady of Indiana
Judy O'Bannon (among others) have visited the Sikh Gurdwara.
* There have been contacts with Governors Otis Bowen, Robert Orr, Evan Bayh, Frank O’Bannon, Mike Pence, Eric Holcomb; Secretaries of State Ed Simcox and Joe Hogsett and other official over the past 49 Years.
Hoosier Sikhs have participated in many events at the Indiana State House and welcomed many state, local and national dignitaries (Mayors Bart Peterson and Greg Ballard, Governor Mitch Daniels, Representative Susan Brooks) at the Sikh Satsang. Over the past 49 years, I have had the honor of many visits with State leaders including receiving of two Sagamore of the Wabash Awards (Indiana's highest civilian award for distinguished work for the State of Indiana).
* 2010 Sikh Friendship Lunch at the Indiana State House organized by the Sikh Satsang of Indianapolis with cooperation of Indiana Office of Faith Based and Community Initiatives (with support of Executive Director Isaac Randolph). The Friendship Lunch was supported by several organizations in Central Indiana, including Indiana Humanities and the State of Indiana.
* “KP Singh, first Sikh ever to deliver Invocation for opening of the Indiana General Assembly” thanks to Indiana Representative Michael Murphy. (Attachments include the Resolution).
* Sikh participation in Indiana’s Bicentennial Celebration and Statehood Day Festivities thanks to Governor Mike Pence (now Vice President) and Governor-Elect Eric Holcomb. Link: https://www.sikhnet.com/news/sikhs-join-interfaith-leaders-and-dignitaries-indiana-bicentennial-celebrations
Time has substantially reduced problems of job discrimination; challenges at the Department of Motor Vehicles offices when the staff had to call Indiana Governor’s Office to approve photos with turbans for Driver Licenses; and violations of basic civil rights because of the faith-mandated articles and appearance. Thanks to many farsighted Sikh Americans, Sikh advocacy organizations and American friends, and Indiana and ethnic media, landmark breakthroughs have occurred at the City, State, and National levels to assure greater acceptance, inclusion, and robust participation of the rich tapestry of faiths, culture, and nationalities in the life and vision of America as a land of dreams for all people. Hoosier Sikhs had amazing help from the leaders at the City Hall and the Indiana State House in their struggle to make Indiana home for their and future generations.
When I look back at my nearly 50 years in Indiana, I am struck with awe and a sense of deep gratitude to have been welcomed in circles and “…homes not my own.” I understand that a City, State, Nation, and a Civilization are works in progress; there are problems, and they are not perfect. I prefer to focus on the spirit and marvel of the journey and not the destination. We can all find strength in optimism and challenge: “Ask not what your country can do for you; Ask what you can do for your country?”- President John F. Kennedy. I ask myself: what can we do individually and collectively for our faiths, cultures, communities, cherished dreams, sacred responsibility to worthy causes and serve God and Man. We have been invited by a Providential Decree, “To Make a More Perfect Union” and provided with the greatest land on this side of Heaven to cultivate imaginations, innovations, and goodwill and reap unimagined rewards. I need to take this time as the greatest of blessing, remembering my own journey and all those who made it possible. ~ KP Singh – “In search of Culture, the Arts, Spirit, Learning, and Discovery” - May 12, 2017 - Indianapolis, Indiana USA.