By Razia Kosi
Sunday morning walk
California- joy, smile; ready to vacation
Wisconsin-shots, murder, pain, gasp; shift to action
On the morning of August 5th, 2012, I woke up and went for a long walk after a six hour cross-country plane ride. I had just left a voice message for a friend to say I was in town and wanted to get together. I then went on Facebook and gasped with horror as I began to read several posts about a shooting at a gurdwara. The morning calm of our family vacation had been shattered and jet lag no longer blurred my brain. The pit in my stomach grew, and I desperately tried to find more information on news sites about a shooting in a gurdwara thousands of miles away in Wisconsin.
I made a promise to not bring my laptop on the family vacation to my younger daughter, who claims that I always have my “work” to do. How can I explain that the “work,” that many of us do, is not so much a job, but a life-long passion and determination to challenge the injustices and inequities in this world. Granted the small piece of this world that we address is from the mental health perspective, but the hate, the stigma, the bias and the lack of understanding intersects with so many other realms of social justice work.
In the hours, and immediate days that followed, the threads of humanity came together quickly and with a strength that could not be frayed. The first hour after hearing the news, I reached out to SAALT to see what we could do from the mental health side. Already, the Sikh community was asking for information on how to address this horrible tragedy with their children. They wanted the information immediately and we worked with members of DoSAA to quickly put the information together for parents on how to talk with their children about this. Within a few days CHAI worked with Puni Kalra and joined the Sikh Healing Collective. We continued working with the Sikh Healing Collective over the next several weeks and into the fall months. We were done crying tears; instead we wiped the tears and collectively joined to put our strengths together to help a community that some of us will never personally meet, but in our hearts we were already our fathers, brothers and mothers who were senselessly stolen.
The unbelievable reality that families and children going to worship on a Sunday morning can result in death at the hands of a man filled with hate is wrong, unjust and unacceptable. And yet, here it happened, innocent lives lost, sanctity shattered and the thread of humanity that ties us all together could either wind together in strength or unravel into loose frayed raw pieces. How could we have known that just four months and ten days later a mass shooting in an elementary school would bring the scale of loss to an even greater magnitude and the tiny broken bodies would be cut shorter than any parent should have to bear? Both Oak Creek and Sandy Hook are horrendous acts of murder and terror that could have been prevented. The list of tragedies only continues with the Boston Marathon bombing and earlier last year in a movie theater in Aurora, CO. And these were just in a span of a year?!
As a mother of two daughters, who happens to be Muslim-American and South Asian, I am still grieving for the tragedy that took place at the hands of a White Supremacist on that fateful morning a year ago. Hate crimes perpetuate because of hate – we can’t continue to build a world that does not connect with each other at the core of our humanity. We can be bombarded with toxic media and images that perpetuate hate or we can venture out to meet those who are different from us, to purposely have conversations with people who might have a different perspective and yet still find connections in our stories.
I’ll end with Chardi Kala, which for Sikhs, is the concept of eternal optimism in the face of adversity and Asalaamu Alakaam, which for Muslims is ‘may peace be with you’.