El Sobrante Gurdwara hosts community forum to battle hate crimes

El Sobrante Gurdwara hosts community forum to battle hate crimes

by Mike Kinney

Several hundred community members gathered at the El Sobrante Gurdwara on Wednesday night in response to recent hate crimes.

The event was a partnership between the Gurdwara and the relatively new group Not in Our Town, El Sobrante, which formed following the murder of Will Sims by three white men on Nov. 12 of last year at an El Sobrante pool hall.

The group also formed in response to the September, 2016 attack in Richmond targeting Maan Singh Khalsa, whose turban was knocked off and hair partly cut amid a vicious, unprovoked assault by two contract workers from Texas. Last week, the attackers — Colton Leblanc and Chase Little — were sentenced to three years in prison on charges that included hate-crime enhancements.

Wednesday’s forum was part of an ongoing discussion meant to increase familiarity and respect for the many diverse cultures in the community.

“We wanted to make sure the Sikh community understood that we stand together to make sure we are an inclusive community,” said Sarah Dunham, an organizer for Not in our Town, El Sobrante.

The message was also about rising above hate — a sentiment exemplified by Khalsa. Despite what happened to him, Khalsa responded to the Texas men’s prison sentences by saying, “I still consider you my brothers, and I hope that you will learn about me and my community, and one day consider me your brother, too.”

That’s exactly the reason to hold community gatherings like Wednesday’s, said Amrik Pannu Singh, an outreach member for the El Sobrante Gurdwara.

“It’s very, very important that we have the community come together to solve these problems,” he said. “We are using this venue to come together and discuss it and see what we can do to respect each other.”

Correction: The video indicates the event occurred Thursday when it in fact occurred Wednesday.