Remember Oak Creek – Our Stories Are Tied Together

By Sabiha Basrai

I got the news of the massacre at the Sikh Temple in Oak Creek just before I was about to lead a workshop for Bay Area Solidarity Summer (BASS) — a social justice political training camp for South Asian youth. My workshop was to be about messaging strategy and visual communication — how to tell our stories and reclaim our narratives. The other trainers and BASS coordinators were juggling logistics and bringing the youth together to get started. But everyone quieted down as the news rippled through the group. We stopped in our tracks and found ourselves sitting on the floor in a circle. We thought about the families at that temple. We thought about our own relationships with family and faith and what our religious centers have meant to us. I did my best to help hold the space as our BASS youth worked through these questions and let the gravity of the situation sink in.

As I listened to these brilliant youth, I remembered what it was like for me when I was their age and 9/11 had just happened. I remember the racism and hate speech I endured. I remember the sadness and frustration over the loss of life and war mongering rhetoric that dehumanized Muslim Americans. I remember the way Sikhs were targeted because they are perceived as Muslims.  I wished I could protect these youths from those feelings of fear, sadness and confusion. But I also recognized our community resilience as I saw them finding their political voice and articulating their commitment to social justice for all.

On the anniversary of the Oak Creek massacre, I mourn the victims and I express solidarity for all those impacted by racial profiling and the violence of white supremacy. I promise to continue my work in support of racial justice and remember that our struggles intersect and our stories are tied together.

Sabiha Basrai is a member of Design Action Collective — a worker-owned cooperative dedicated to serving social justice movements with art, graphic design, and web development. She is also Co-Coordinator of the Alliance of South Asians Taking Action where she works with racial justice organizers to fight against Islamophobia.