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Be Proud


Aug 17, 2010
World citizen!
As you may know, recent tragic events in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, sent shockwaves throughout the Sikh community. These events deeply affected my family and me. For the first 18 years of my life, I faced immense racism while growing up in America; I thought I had it rough. I never fathomed that I would wake up at 30 and see that the very ignorance and hatred I witnessed over a decade ago could be so deadly. Had these events taken place in my hometown of San Jose, my parents, who pay their respects daily, could have been inside the gurdwara. I immediately knew I needed to do something. This was not the America we all signed up for.

Someone once said, "Simply to dream the dream isn't enough. You have to work at it to make it happen." Last week, I founded the BeProud Foundation, a movement designed to inspire awareness and unity by leveraging the power of television and social media. The current plan is to launch a primetime TV + Social Media integrated campaign in the next two weeks (date is tentative as we wait network clearance). I've personally committed $1 million toward this platform in the hope that it will spur others to get involved.

The purpose of the BeProud Foundation isn't just to raise awareness of Sikhs; it's greater than any religion, culture, nationality, or appearance. It's about embracing humanity. It's about sharing a message, a vision – the undeniable, unifying truth that we are all a little different and that we should be proud of what makes us unique.

Whenever an atrocious act of violence like this occurs, people always isolate it as an anomaly, someone crazy – as if the public doesn't willingly accept and reinforce such prejudice. I recently came across this video. At a school in Texas, students were asked for their first impressions of three photographs. The first photograph depicted a Sikh man wearing a turban with his U.S. Army uniform, standing next to other Army officers. You'll note in the video that most students associated him with a "terrorist." This was deeply disturbing to watch.

On a positive note, I ran across another video. On April 14th , Norwegians celebrated a National Turban Day, a day where anyone (mostly non-Sikhs) could try on a turban and appreciate one another for being different.

These celebrations of diversity exemplify the ideals to which we Americans should aspire. As Anderson Cooper recently said, simply having CNN cover these vicious hate crimes isn't enough. Nothing is going to change if we simply forget about what happened. We have to remind ourselves that one of this country's founding principles is freedom of religion. Let's never forget that.

This movement is just the beginning.
Gurbaksh Chahal
Founder, BeProud Foundation



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