BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month and we here at 23ABC are dedicated to highlighting voices within the AAPI community.
Harveen Kaur said there are more than 20,000 Punjabi and Sikh people in Bakersfield alone, which is why the Jakara movement is so necessary.
“Jakara movement is a grassroots organization working to mobilize and empower the Punjabi Sikh voice here in California. Really to build a new legacy for the next 100 years for our community.”
Harveen Kaur has been organizing since her college days at UC Irvine and said she saw the need to grow her community's civic involvement.
“Whether its housing assistance, rental assistance, trying to connect people with health resources. We also work particularly with the census, so census outreach and voter registration, really just trying to get folks involved.”
Kaur said most recently they got involved with the redistricting process and encouraged their community to use their voice when it came to the new maps being implemented. But she said their bread and butter is working with students.
“These students are actively engaging on what is their religion, what is Sikh power, how can they create a larger impact on the larger community, on their specific Punjabi Sikh community, and how can they get involved, and what kind of power do our youth hold.”
Kaur said they teach the students that there is power in the collective and she is grateful that AAPI month shines a light on their culture.
“This month, it means so much to finally be recognized and seen, as I mentioned before, oftentimes our community does go unseen and does go uncalled on.”
Kaur said she is glad they are receiving more representation, but she can also remember what it was like growing up and feeling different. She says she wants her students to feel confident in who they are.
“Stay true to who you are, don’t conform. Your identity is beautiful, your identity is unique, and we don’t need to conform to western idealist beauty standards, we don't need to fit in. You don’t need to change your accent, you don’t need to pluck and tweeze, and do all this other stuff that is unnecessary. You are just beautiful as is, you are intelligent, and really don’t let anyone diminish your sunshine.”
Kaur said that everyone is welcome to join the Jakara movement and that they are always looking for volunteers.