DENVER | The Sikh Community of Denver celebrated Viasakhi by bringing awareness to the community through the second annual Denver Sikh Parade May 28 in Denver’s City Park and Capitol Hill neighborhoods along East Colfax Avenue.
“An event like this gives us a platform to communicate boldly and respectfully that we are just like any other countrymen but with a different appearance,” President of Colorado Singh Sabha, Dalbara Singh Sandhu, said in his address to the congregation.
The local event May 28 coincided with celebration by Sikhs around the globe for the 312th anniversary of Vaisakhi, a religious holiday commemorating the first blessing of Sikhs. In Denver, festivities started at East High School and proceeded down Colfax Avenue, with more than 1,500 attending.
This year’s program included kirtan (spiritual music) in addition to a colorful parade (nagar kirtan) through east Denver neighborhoods. In addition to the program, vegetarian Indian food (langer) was served throughout the day to participants and visitors.
Officials from all levels of government attended the celebration, including Aurora’s Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman and State Rep. Mike Weissman, as well as gubernatorial candidate and Democratic U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter, Westminster Mayor Herb Atchison, Adams County commissioners Chaz Tedesco and Steve O’Dorisio, Colorado Democratic Party Chair Morgan Carroll, Democratic State Rep. Dominick Moreno and Assistant District Attorney Hetal Doshi.
The Denver Sikh Day Parade started last year with the goal of bringing awareness regarding Sikhism, including details of the faith, the values and appearance, according to organizer and member of the Denver Sikh community, Jessie Singh. He said the parade is meant to share love and compassion for humanity with fellow citizens.
The event also gives the opportunity for Sikhs to celebrate their identity as an American citizens who take pride in being called an American Sikh, he said, adding that Sikhs currently own more than 800 businesses in Colorado and employ over 10,000 individuals.
Although it is a peace loving religion, Singh said Sikhs are often victims of hate crimes in the U.S., as many followers wear turbans and beards.
“Since the attacks of Sept. 11, Sikhs have experienced a lot of backlash throughout the country and as each year goes by, it seems to get worse,” Singh said. “The goal is to increase awareness and help Colorado communities better understand the Sikh culture and local impact.”
Singh shared a story from this spring, when he said one of the members of the Sikh community, Davinder Singh Sandhu took his kids to a Rockies game. They sat in box seats and had a great time but things took a turn when they emerged onto 20th Street into a crowd of post-game fans. Sandhu had is long hair covered with a turban, a symbol of his religion that became a target in a rowdy crowd. A couple of guys tried to yank it off his head, causing an awkward situation in front of his little kids.
“Kids have a thousand questions, but it’s hard to explain why we are being treated like that,” Singh said.
More than 30 million Sikhs around the world celebrate Vaisakhi every year. California, New York and Canada have hosted the Sikh Parade for decades and Sikhs are proud to host a second event in Colorado.
“We hope the event to be a great educational opportunity for the Colorado community to better understand the Sikh culture and its people,” Singh said.