The community of Oak Creek, Wisconsin recently came together to remember the lives lost on Aug 05, 2012 at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin. More than 2,000 people attended the Chardhi Kala 6K run/walk at Oak Creek High school. On Sunday, there was a tribute to the departed souls, with speakers including Speaker of the House of Representatives Paul Ryan and family members of the victims. We caught up with Navi Gill, who is featured in Off the Menu: Asian America.
Gill was a college student when director Grace Lee filmed him at the temple, talking about how food played a role in healing the community after the tragic shooting, which killed six people and injured four more.
“The Kitchen is the heart of the temple…” Grace Lee visits the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin in “Off the Menu: Asian America.”
In Off the Menu: Asian America, we see the role of food in healing the community — within the Sikh community and beyond. Does food continue to play a strong role in the healing process?
Food continues to always play a strong role in bringing the community together. Even as we encouraged people to come join us as we celebrated the lives of those lost on Aug 05, 2012 we kept telling people about the free food at the temple and at the 6K.
We’ve seen an uptick in violence since the elections and since the Muslim ban. Has your local Sikh community been impacted?
Our local Sikh community is disappointed to see a divisive and hateful rhetoric from our country’s leaders. We continue to realize that there is much work yet to be done and for all those that know about Sikhism there are many that still do not.
It has been five years now since the tragic shooting at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin. What message would you want to send to the rest of America about that shooting?
After five years, we still feel the pain of Aug 05, 2012 as the families who lost their loved ones still miss them dearly. But our motto has been and continues to be “Turning Tragedy into Triumph.” The goal of the attacker was to divide us by taking the lives of those we loved, but instead we have come closer together. We have come closer together with the local community and the national Sikh community. As others learn about who Sikhs are we learn about those around us as well.
After the shooting, have individuals and communities outside of the local Sikh community attended memorials or tributes or reached out? If so, how?
Since the day of the shooting on Aug 05, 2012 there has been an outpouring of support and love to an overwhelming extent on the local, regional, and national level. Local churches, mosques, and temples have been at our side in teaching others about who Sikhs are. Local businesses have helped us make events possible like the Chardhi Kala 6K Run/Walk at the Oak Creek High School where we provide free food, free run/walk, free t-shirts, free games and activities, all at absolutely no cost to those who want to join us and create a positive dialogue.
Is there anything else you’d like to add about the tragedy, five years later?
We still miss the loved ones that were lost: Prakash Singh, Paramjit Kaur, Sita Singh, Ranjit Singh, Satwant Singh Kaleka, and Suveg Singh Khattra. We also continue to pray for the well-being of Punjab Singh who still to this day remains in a paralyzed state from the injuries he suffered on Aug 05, 2012.
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