Today is the second anniversary of the Oak Creek tragedy when white supremacist gunman Wade Michael Page fatally shot six people and wounded others at a Sikh house of worship. In the United States, the event’s date August 5, 2012, marks the largest hate-based act of violence perpetrated against a faith community since the civil rights era church bombings. In the days after the attack, Attorney General Eric Holder called it a hate crime, and a year later he announced that the Justice Department would — for the first time in U.S. history — begin tracking hate crimes against Sikh Americans and six other groups; Hindus, Arabs, Buddhists, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Orthodox Christians.
The anniversary date offers opportunities for reflecting on the tragedy and what’s happened since then, and The Aerogram shares a few of them below.
Remember those who were killed
Six individuals paid the ultimate price on that summer day when their place of worship was attacked. The memory of Paramjit Kaur, Prakash Singh, Ranjit Singh, Satwant Singh Kaleka, Sita Singh and Suveg Singh lives on. Find out more about them via tributes online including this CNN interactive and the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin’s website.
Read the “Letters Home” collection of poems by Preeti Kaur
Excerpted below, Preeti Kaur’s poem connects the Oak Creek tragedy to other events of racial violence in U.S. history. In these poetic letters Preeti addresses Balbir Singh Sodhi, Vincent Chin and America at large. Read our interview with the poet. and visit her website for the complete text of the poems.
please forward: to the 50 states/ the white house/ all territories/ the flagged patch on the moon
the gurdwara door is open
our bare feet like cracked glass
our covered heads bulletproof from ego
we turn our backs on bellingham
build our gurdwaras from post traumatic cinder
of bombed birmingham black church
nina simone sings tera bhaana meetha laage*
to tune of mississippi goddamn
gunpowder lines noses of children
left behind wailing mummy papa we will never forget you
‘the love that forgives’ a lullaby
which sears obedient
into a bittering lemon
i stand half mast, america
i grieve for my future son, america
i grieve for all nights, america
i grieve for all nights
Waheguru Waheguru Waheguru
Hear From Survivors and Community Members
To mark the 2-year anniversary of the tragedy, South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT) traveled to Oak Creek, Wisconsin, on August 2, 2014 and interviewed community members who participated in the Chardhi Kala Memorial 6K Run/Walk and those personally affected by the shooting and the aftermath. Hear what they have to say and why it was important to them to participate in this community event in memory of the tragedy and its victims. Chardi Kala is “the spirit of relentless optimism: a philosophy that empowers us to persevere and grow from hardship.”
Watch the Oak Creek: In Memoriam Film
Re-read Naunihal Singh’s “American Tragedy”
In this essay for The New Yorker days after the shooting, Professor Naunihal Singh examined how the Oak Creek shooting was treated by the national media and politicians and perceived in the national consciousness.
In the end, the events of Oak Creek are tragic on at least two levels. There is the tragedy inherent in the brutal murders, the heroic sacrifices, the anguished waiting, and the grief of relatives whose lives will never be the same. But there is also the larger one of our inability to understand this attack as an assault upon the American dream and therefore a threat to us all. The cost of this second tragedy is one that the entire nation will bear.