Tag Archives: Valarie Kaur

8/9/12 Tragedy in Wisconsin, Chevron explosion, and anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki

Protesters at the Livermore Nuclear Lab. Photo by Tara Dorabji.

Download the audio by clicking here.

This has been a tragic week with a gunman opening fire at a Sikh gurdwara in Wisconsin and a massive Chevron refinery in Richmond catching fire and sending toxic fumes into the air forcing thousands to shelter in place and sending hundreds to local emergency rooms.

Tonight, we bring you tape from the Chevron Town Hall on Tuesday and we’ll talk with a local Sikh activist Gurinder Wadhwa and film maker Valarie Kaur about the implications of this recent tragic incident. We also mark the anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki with tape from a rally at the Livermore Nuclear Weapons Lab.

To send messages of solidarity to the Sikh community, please visit:

Community Calendar

  • On Saturday, August 11 at 3 p.m., Manilatown Heritage Foundation hosts an artist talk with photographer Ira Nowinski for their exhibition, “I-Hotel: We Won’t Move.” This is at 868 Kearny Street in San Francisco. http://www.facebook.com/events/399546626774034/
  • Little Sister, the fabulous band we had live on APEX Express last month, will be performing at the Stud in San Francisco, on Sunday, August 12 at 9 p.m. Tickets are just $5. http://www.facebook.com/events/103096193169107/
  • Next week on Thursday from 6-8 p.m. at the Oakland Asian Cultural Center, Forward Together Youth talk about sex education. Through skits, music, dance and poetry young people will share with the community their new vision for Sex Education in the Oakland Unified School District. http://www.facebook.com/events/330474113711952/

9/8/11 September 11 Then and Now

This week on Apex Express, we reflect back on 9/11. As the nation remembers the victims in the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and on board the airplanes, Apex explores the aftermath and how OUR communities have been affected.

We’ll hear a personal documentary by Robynn Takayama on how several Asian Pacific communities responded immediately after 9/11 to address racist scapegoating, hate crimes, and the build up to the War on Terrorism.

We also talk with Co-founder of the Sikh Coalition, Amardeep Singh, about the recent Islamaphobia conference and the accompanying website, “Unheard Voices of 9/11.”

And finally, we bring you a round table discussion with Valarie Kaur, award-winning filmmaker; Fahd Ahmed, legal and policy director with DRUM, Desis Rising Up & Moving; and Zahra Billoo, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations San Francisco Bay Area Chapter.

Plus we have a pair of tickets to Anthony Brown’s Asian American Orchestra at Yoshi’s SF on September 11 for the 30th anniversary of the first Asian American Jazz Festival.

Community Calendar

  • On September 8 through 11, you can catch Lenora Lee Dance perform Reflections at Counterpulse in San Francsico. This interdisciplinary performance explores the unraveling stories of three succeeding generations of Chinese men as they redefine themselves in the American context.
  • Today through September 17th, you can catch the regional premier of Unveiled, a one-woman show by Rohina Malik exploring stories of stories of love, Islam, culture, language, racism and life. Catch this at Brava! for Women in the Arts in San Francisco.
  • On September 10, get your ono grinds on at the 10th Annual Poke Festival at San Francisco’s Hukilau! This free, outdoor block party features celebrity chefs, a spam musubi eating contest, and the Bay Area’s aloha spirit.
  • Come celebrate and honor 25 years of grassroots work by Trikone, an organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered South Asians. This gala features food, dancing, and great performers at St. Mary’s Cathedral in San Francisco.
  • Also on the 10th, The Power of Two, premieres at the Castro Theatre for $20. The documentary tells how twins Anabel Mariko Stenzel and Isabel Yuriko Stenzel Byrnes, both born with Cystic Fibrosis, overcome their affliction with double lung transplants.
  • On Sunday, September 11, celebrate 30 years of Asian American Jazz with a newly commissioned work by Anthony Brown and Mark Izu at Yoshi’s San Francisco Jazz Club.
  • Next Thursday, September 15, you can join Bindlestiff Studio in celebrating the return to their home on 6th Street with the opening of Stories High! This annual showcase of original works for the stage written, acted, and directed by Pilipino/Filipino American artists runs Thursday through Saturday at 8 pm. Tickets are $20 in advance, $25 at the door.

“Divided We Fall”: From Ground Zero to Higher Ground

By Gina Hotta

Remembering 9-11 in America. Images play over and over again of the Twin Towers torn apart, of flags waving and people singing “God Bless America”. These are our sacred icons and stories.

But there are other stories of war and patriotism.

Balbir Singh Sodhi left religious persecution in India for America. He came to California and at last settled in Mesa, Arizona. But, four days after September 11, 2001, Balbir Singh Sodhi was shot to death while working at his convenience store. “I am a patriot,” yelled Sodhi’s killer Frank Roque, “arrest me while those terrorists go wild.” One year later in San Francisco, Sodhi’s brother was shot and killed when his taxi crashed. His killer was never found.

For the most part voices who could tell stories like that of the Sodhis are silent. They are silenced by war’s mad offspring: that of fear and hate in post 9-11 America. But Valarie Kaur wants to change all that.

Kaur says the Sodhi’s story hit close to home. Both the Sodhi and Kaur family are of Sikh background. And many Sikhs were targeted in the racial profiling after 9-11. Soon after Sodhi’s killing, Kaur and her cousin took off on a road trip across the US to document these cases of hate violence. Kaur’s award-winning film “Divided We Fall: Americans in the Aftermath” is a vehicle for these silent voices to break free and, as Kaur says, “rip open a space” to begin a national dialog about race, war, and, “who counts as an American”.

Kaur’s grandparents are immigrants from India who settled in the rural town of Clovis, California. Kaur was a young college student on September 11, 2001. As she watched the attack in horror on TV, reports of vengeance and backlash came in. And the attacks were often against people who were brown-skinned, wore a turban and fit the stereotype–popularized by American media images–of a terrorist; people who looked like Kaur’s family and friends.

On her road trip across the US, Kaur and her cousin caught all of these voices and images in “Divided We Fall”:

In New York: an elderly Sikh man badly beaten but who didn’t press charges against his attackers because he believed that for the US, “it was a time to heal”.

In California: a woman video store owner knifed in the street, a young boy pelted by lunch boxes and taunted with the names “Osama Bin Laden” and “Saddam Hussein”.

And in Arizona: the family of Balbir Singh Sodhi who called a press conference shortly after his death to draw attention to hate crimes.

Kaur hopes that showing her film “Divided We Fall” throughout the US at the grassroots level will spark a dialog that’s missing on the national political landscape. Towards this goal, community groups are sponsoring the film followed by discussion. In this way, Kaur hopes to help over-come the politics of fear that often permeate national dialogs.

The American vocabulary is full of words that conjure up anger, vengeance, fear. And all are backed up by a wellspring of myths harking back to the days of cowboys and Indians, of yellow and brown hordes banging at US borders while the Texas Rangers ride in to back them all off. Add to this mix, images of men with beards and turbans and it helps to fill the well that might otherwise run dry and expose who’s running off with all the water.

The film “Divided We Fall” gives people the stories, the ways and means of expression to oppose acts that deny the humanity of people like those found in Kaur’s film. “Divided We Fall”, and works like it, create memories and myths that help shape the American psyche.

And there are many new stories now.

Of people who are stopped on trains, on planes, who are denied jobs, put on long lists for deportation and yet, who still believe in the great potential of America. Of men and women who strive to level the uneven playing fields of America and believe in the unlimited possibilities of peace.

But there are few words that describe these actions as up-lifting, as patriotic, as courageous, and there are not enough myths about their deeds.

In America there’s a wellspring of stories to draw from. “Divided We Fall” goes to them to nourish the landscape, changing it into one that will reject the seeds of disparagement and dehumanization.

Balbir Singh Sodhi. One hour before his death, Sodhi donated money to the victims of 9-11. He asked for American flags to put in his store. He was a vehicle for change. In America, will we tell his story? In America, will we remember?