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‘We’re all like a family’
Sikhs converge on Yuba City for parade
For 28 years, Yuba City’s Sikh Parade has been the showpiece of a Punjabi-American community that arrived mostly as farm laborers and become deeply woven into Mid-Valley society.
On Sunday, the latest celebration drew tens of thousands of spectators from the West Coast – while displaying a community as aware of its roots as ever.
A seven-hour pageant of parade floats showcased Sikh temples and groups from throughout the North State and as far away as Los Angeles, visitors drawn together in spirit as well as in person.
“We’re all like a family right now,” said Rajan Dosanjh, an Oakley boy among dozens of parade-goers crowding the Gridley-Live Oak Gurdwara’s float.
The Tierra Buena Sikh Temple, which organized the parade, estimated more than 75,000 spectators converged on Yuba City’s west side for the event. Hundreds joined the procession on truck-pulled floats, some with traditional bands along for the ride.
Sunday’s 41?2-mile parade followed morning prayer services at the temple and capped a three-day observance of Sikhs receiving the holy writings, the Granth Sahib, in 1708. The celebrations began Friday with prayer at Tierra Buena and continued Saturday with an educational open house featuring speakers on Sikh religion and culture.
The parade, called a Nagar Kirtan (town chanting), marks the anniversary of the Sikh people receiving their scriptures from Guru Gobind Singh, last of the faith’s 10 living gurus. Members of the Tierra Buena temple, the Mid-Valley’s first gurdwara, organized the first Sikh Parade in 1970, a year after the temple opened.
Despite Punjabi-Americans’ century-long presence in the North State, many of those on hand Sunday called the Sikh Parade and similar celebrations as essential as ever – particularly for a people whose distinctive turbans and beards often cause people to confuse them with other South Asian peoples and target them for harassment.
“I still feel like Sikhs are being mistaken for other Middle Eastern peoples,” said Harmail Singh, a Sacramento man who was watching the parade for the 16th straight year. “It’s kind of a shame for people who still don’t know who we are. This lets people know who we are... As a Sikh living in America, I want to see more things to present us to the world.”
The younger generation also left its imprint on the Sikh Parade, including college cultural clubs from Berkeley and Sacramento – and members of Yuba City High School’s own Punjabi American Club.
“It’s important to educate younger people about our history, our religion,” said Sanminder Singh, a Yuba City High senior who helped carry the club’s banner. “In school we’re mixed with other people, other faiths, and this is a way for (young Sikhs) to learn about themselves.”
Appeal-Democrat reporter Howard Yune can be reached at 749-4708. You may e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org