Chardi Kala Celebration Honors Volunteers and Collaborators

“Chardi Kala means to keep our spirits uplifted, particularly in hard times, because we know we are doing the right thing,” read the screen at this weekend’s Chardi Kala Celebration at Pioneer Pavilion in Ferndale on Saturday, May 17, from 2-5 p.m..

This afternoon event – hosted by the Chardi Kala Project and produced by ONE Whatcom at Pioneer Pavilion – brought community members, Sikh and non-Sikh, Punjabi and non-Punjabi, together to celebrate Sikh traditions and Punjabi culture, food, and dance.

Punjabi foods
A sampling of Punjabi foods, illustrating how community building can start with something as easy as sharing traditional dishes with others. Photo by Josh Hernandez

Founded in 2018 by the late Dr. Kirpal Singh and Kamalla Kaur, the Chardi Kala Project was born out of a love for community and the pursuit of fighting hate crimes against Sikh Americans via education and charity work. Along with events such as the one that took place on Saturday, the organization also presents educational programs in Whatcom County schools, works closely with many civic organizations, and invites visitors to local Gurdwaras — the Sikh places of assembly and worship — to eat delicious Indian food at their community kitchens, a practice called Langar.

“When we connect one non-Sikh with a Sikh, in a positive way, we reduce fear and build a welcoming home for all,” reads the “In the Community” page on the project’s website.

Presentation slide honors celebrants
A presentation slide honors longtime student volunteer Rose Kaur Kular and her service to the social justice of Sikh Americans. Photo by Josh Hernandez

For the first half of the celebration, volunteers and partners of the Chardi Kala Project were honored by Director Kamalla Kaur and Co-Director Tarnjot “TJ” Singh Brar with a Sikh scarf called a saropa, which is used in Sikh tradition for the exact purpose of honoring community members. Among those honored were WCLS librarians, Rep. Alicia Rule (D-WA 42nd District), and longtime student volunteer Rose Kaur Kular.

The  first segment of the afternoon was followed by Bhangra dancing led by instructor Shub Kaur from Rhythms of India! With origins in Punjabi folk tradition, this happy harvest dance has spread across the globe, with its famous arm and leg movements and themes of vitality and love. As the dancing began, the lead instructor explained the benefits of both the exercise of Bhangra as well as the benefits of the dopamine and endorphins released when participating in Bhangra.

Learning Bhangra
Learning Bhangra was part of the fun at the Chardi Kala Project’s gathering brought to Whatcom County by ONE Whatcom. Photo by Josh Hernandez

The final portion of the afternoon, beginning around 4:00 p.m., focused on round table discussions about Sikhism’s core values and beliefs and its roots in social justice work. A representative of ONE Whatcom facilitated discussion, asking everyone to sit with someone they didn’t already know and be open and honest. And with that, the celebration came to a close.

Attendees surely walked away with lighter spirits and a stronger sense of what diversity and community in Whatcom County can and does look like.

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