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The day of Vaisakhi 2010 brought me many blessings. I hope all of you were able to remember Vaisakhi in your own way, use it to strengthen your connection with Waheguru, and enjoy it with the Khalsa Panth.

Two major announcements on activities occurring within the Sikh sangat this May:

Sikh Youth Alliance of North America Gurmat Retreat – Detroit, MI – Memorial Day Weekend, May 28-31

Over the last 16 years, our sevadaars in the Midwest have been running a fantastic gurmat camp and this year’s retreat will no doubt be just as outstanding. The theme of this year’s retreat is “Putting the Guru’s Word into Action.” Through Keertan Divaans, various workshops, Gurbanee discussions, and healthy debate, participants will explore several aspects of Gurmat practice and together open a dialogue for how these principles are integrated into daily life. Speakers include Sardar Ajmel Singh, author of Gurbaannee’s Significance and Pronunciation and Understanding Gurbaannee, Sardar Kuldeep Singh, author, speaker and leader within North America on Sikh and Gurmat topics, and Cynthia Keppley Mahmood, Professor and author of “Fighting for Faith and Nation: Dialogues with Sikh, Militants.” Check it out and sign up here.

The Hermeneutics of Sikh Music (rāg) and Word (shabad) – Hofstra University, Long Island, NY – May 21-23

A variety of lectures and discussions about the musical expression of the shabad will be given by an international group of scholars and performers. The full and colorful schedule can be found here. Think you might be able to attend? Register here.

The Sardar and Sardarni (yup, Sardarnis too) Rockers and Metalheads Group on Facebook sent a sweet message earlier this afternoon giving the heads up on Fatbook, a great band out of Appleton, Wisconsin with guitarist/vocalist Harjinder Singh Bedi. Listened to a few of their samples on their myspace page and already dig ’em. Wonder when they’ll be touring the east coast…

You can hear more of Manpreet Singh here. Even better: listen to his entire album “Take It All.”

Ensaaf and Human Rights Watch released a damning joint report against the Indian government titled “Protecting the Killers: A Policy of Impunity in Punjab, India” along with a slideshow and video testimonials.

Lots of links to click on above, but definitely worth taking a look at each carefully.

As much as I love my Armenian brothers in System of a Down (SOAD), please don’t think like me and conjure up images of rock stars when you hear the word Armenian. Rather, I’d like you to consider this: Interesting how Armenians have creatively switched gears from directly confronting their Turkish-government-in-denial to instead lobbying their US Congressman to declare that the Ottoman Empire authorized and committed genocide against their ancestors. Yes, it may have taken twenty years for Armenian-Americans to get the attention of their legislators and draft a bill. And yes, the chances of the bill being passed by the House are slim to none in our current geopolitical climate. Yet our community may want to take note of this as an example of how powerful we can be if we organized ourselves as one voice with specific and unified goals and employed our collective votes and lobby machines in the same manner. And we shouldn’t forget the role of rock stars: the guys in SOAD have held demonstrations in Washington, D.C. to fight for recognition of their history. Perhaps a Sikh band similar to SOAD could get together to remind people of our “forgotten” history as well.

What can you do right now to be part of the movement? If you’re downright lazy, register to vote. Have a bit more energy? Register to vote and join a rock band.

Don’t put your air guitar down just yet. Singing shabads and playing tabla and harmonium may lead you to realize your dream of becoming a rock star and playing side by side with bands like Rage Against the Machine and Ozomatli. Sonny Suchdev of Outernational proves it’s possible.

Suchdev is not only a musician, but a writer as well. His intimate short essay “The Day My Skin Came Off” details his experience of being harassed as a young Sikh traveling on a Brooklyn train.

Each of us has faced times where our beliefs have been challenged; Sonny is an example of how “staying up” can keep one afloat from unwarranted criticism and how terrible experiences can inspire one to become an activist and promote tolerance and social justice for all.