Memorial in honour of Sikh community in US for first time

SACRAMENTO, California, USA—On July 27, the Elk Grove City Council voted unanimously to name a new park “Singh and Kaur Park” after over a year of soliciting input from the Elk Grove community. American Sikh Public Affairs Association (ASPAA) submitted the park naming nomination to honor Elk Grove residents Gurmej Singh Atwal and Surinder Singh, who were fatally shot in 2011 during what police investigated as a possible hate crime. While their murderers were not identified, the park will commemorate their lives, families, and the strength of the Elk Grove community during a time of tragedy.

“I am proud to live in Elk Grove because it’s a place that values diversity and refuses to let a horrific crime represent our city,” said Amar Shergill, an Elk Grove resident and board member of American Sikh Public Affairs Association. “I am hopeful that, by keeping alive the memories of Gurmej Singh ji and Surinder Singh ji, we will one day find the criminals responsible for these murders and bring them to justice.”

Construction for the park is scheduled for 2018 and local community leaders believe the effort will help raise awareness about violence against religious minorities like Sikhs, who are often targeted because of their distinctive turbans. Civil Rights groups estimate over three hundred acts of violence targeted toward American Sikhs since the September 11th terrorist attacks, including the mass shooting of a Sikh Temple near Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

“Our family is still in pain,” said Kamaljeet Atwal, son of slain Gurmej Singh Atwal. “My father is missed but we are thankful for all of the support we have received over the years from the Elk Grove community.”

The park’s name alludes to the Sikh cultural tradition of taking the surnames “Singh” for males and “Kaur” for females, a practice developed in India as a reaction against Caste discrimination.

sikhMayor Gary Davis expressed his support of the park’s name citing Elk Grove’s notable diversity: “Our diversity makes us unique. It makes us something special and it is something to be celebrated.”

Reporters from CBS Sacramento and KCRA 3 covered the historic event and interviewed family and community leaders present at the council chambers. When completed “Singh and Kaur Park” will be the first American park honoring sacrifices by the Sikh community since the first Sikh pioneers settled in California over 100 years ago.

ASPAA is also sponsoring a seminar on Sikhism for state lawmakers and a legislative dinner on August 22, 2016. The 11:45 am seminar is hosted by the office of Assemblymember Jim Cooper at the California State Capitol in room 126 and will feature a presentation from the Sikh Coalition. The evening program entitled, “Inaugural Civic Engagement Dinner” will feature Sacramento Mayor-Elect Darrell Steinberg, Republican National Committeewoman Harmeet Kaur Dhillon, Assemblymember Jim Cooper, Assemblymember Susan Eggman, Sacramento Sheriff Scott Jones, and Former Assemblymember Mariko Yamada. Tickets for the dinner start at $50 and can be purchased by contacting Steve Macias at (916) 905-4040, steve@stevemacias.com.

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