California Sikhs Celebrate Community’s Stories in Ethnic Studies Curriculum, Keep Fighting for Those Less Represented
March 18, 2021 (Sacramento, CA) — This afternoon, the California State Board of Education met to discuss and adopt the final draft of the state’s Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum (ESMC).
“After months of advocacy from community members across the state, California Sikhs are pleased that the meaningful representation of our history, stories, and contributions will be part of the ESMC,” said Dr. Pritpal Kaur, Sikh Coalition Education Director. “Having accurate and relevant information about Sikh children in this curriculum and accompanying lesson plans will make their classrooms a safer and more welcoming place for all, while also educating non-Sikh children about an important California community.”
For months, the Sikh community in California–which represents roughly half of the approximately 500,000 Sikhs throughout the United States–has advocated in favor of a robust ESMC. In March of 2020, the Sikh Coalition and the Jakara Movement rallied 52 gurdwaras (Sikh houses of worship) and more than 1,200 petition signers to endorse their recommended additions and lesson plan for the curriculum. Hundreds of Sikh community members have provided written and spoken public comment, and a bipartisan group of 25 California assemblymembers and state senators joined a letter in support of these efforts last October.
“Sikhs and our stories are critical for a robust Ethnic Studies field, and the community’s relentless advocacy over these past several months makes it clear that we are resolute regarding our inclusion in the curriculum,” said Naindeep Singh, the Jakara Movement’s Executive Director. “For any understanding of historical or contemporary California, Sikh stories have been integral in shaping the state for more than 125 years.”
While pushing for positive Sikh representation, the Sikh Coalition and the Jakara Movement fully support the efforts by many other marginalized groups to advance anti-racist education for all. Accordingly, the Sikh Coalition and the Jakara Movement will continue to work with colleagues connected to the Liberated Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum (LESMC) Institute to ensure that legitimate and comprehensive educational materials are created and distributed to support the implementation of Ethnic Studies in classrooms at the school district level.
“We acknowledge that this new ESMC comes with serious and well-documented flaws, and there are several communities that are not represented as they should be,” continued Dr. Kaur. “Accordingly, we maintain a close working relationship with both the California Department of Education and the LESMC Institute, and we will continue to fight for not just the Sikh community, but all groups whose histories should be taught under the discipline of Ethnic Studies.”
For more information about the Sikh Coalition and the Jakara Movement’s advocacy efforts on the ESMC, and to speak with representatives of either organization in California or Sikh parents, educators, and teachers, please contact Graham West and Rajanpreet Kaur.