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.