As the winter season comes upon us, we used this time to remember the shaheedi of the youngest sons of Guru Gobind Singh. Most of the Gurus had children - Guru Nanak had Sri Chand and Lakhmi Chand; Guru Angad had Baba Dasu, Baba Dattu, Bibi Amro, and Bibi Anokhi; Guru Amardas had Bhai Mohan, Bhai Mohri, Bibi Dani, and Bibi Bhani; Guru Ramdas had Prithi Chand, Baba Mahan Dev, and Guru Arjan; Guru Arjan had Guru Hargobind; Guru Hargobind had Ram Rai and Guru Harkrishan; and Guru Tegh Bahadur had Guru Gobind Singh.
However the children of Guru Gobind Singh are distinct as we remember them as 'Sahibzadehs,' a term of praise not usually associated with the children of other Gurus. The reason is that while some of the Gurus' children followed in the path of the Gurus, others were led by their own ego (Bhai Gurdas has a complete vaar
naming the sons that did not follow the Guru's path, and though near the sandalwood, did not become fragrant). Guru Gobind Singh's sons were unique in that they all gave their lives for the Khalsa. The memory of the two choteh Sahibzadehs has inspired Sikh communities for generations.
When your own great-grandfather felt pain, he could remember their sacrifice. When your own grandmother faced her own challenges, she could be inspired by their sacrifice. When your parents sought to connect you to the Sikh tradition, they shared with you their sacrifice. We hope you keep this oral knowledge living and continuing
- share the story with your friends, children, cousins, and beyond.
In the tradition of spending that time to keep the Sikh tradition alive especially with our high school youth, that age group that is most disconnected from the Gurdwara, we ask you to support the Nishaan Conference, our Sikh high school initiative.
You've probably seen us post about it on our social media sites. Our Community Organizers mention it each week in their newsletters. Your little sister, cousin, nephew, niece, or family friend may have mentioned it to you as well. The word on Nishaan is all around. That's because we seek to not only spread the word on the Nishaan conference, we hope the message, the purpose, and the mission goes further than just our high schoolers to reach our entire sangat. We want you to know why this Conference matters to YOU and not just our Sikh high school students.
With the Sikh Honors and Service Society
movement across the state, we have been able to work with a very specific portion of our Sikh youth. We want to reel our high schoolers back in at an age where they drift from going to the Gurudwara, the age where they work to really hone in on their self-identity. This brings both positives and negatives. The students find themselves at odds with the expectations of their parents, college and career questions, the pressures they feel within their friends circles, or the societal and political climate of the time. Each aspect becomes significant in how they define themselves and the paths they then pursue throughout their lives. This is the age we seek to connect with them. We want to have those difficult conversations. We want to hear from them. We want them to make their voices heard. We want to create a platform and a resource we ourselves wish existed when we were at their ages.
Nishaan is an annual conference specifically designed for our Sikh youth. We work towards making content that they won't hear anywhere else. We want them to create conversations that they're not having elsewhere or won't have until much later, whether it be college or after. We want to kickstart their journey to higher thinking.
These conversations range from how to have a Sikh lens on issues of social justice, being politically aware and active, organizing within our communities, pursuing careers that merge passions with success- to name a few. These conversations merely open the doors to the thought provoking conversations our Sikh youth create at Nishaan. We can attest for you that there is nothing as complex and rewarding as understanding the workings of our high schoolers. This is why it crucial for such a platform to exist for them.
What is the structure of Nishaan? What happens at Nishaan?
Nishaan takes place over the course of 3 days. We have 2 days of Facilitator-lead workshops, in which our current college students and young professionals lead the high schoolers in small group discussions on the topics at hand. We also have lecture style conversations surrounding the topics we want to cover with the entire group. Just to give you a glimpse, in past years these conversations have been the music industry and its reinforcement of gender roles and stereotypes, as well as career panels. We load the students' daily agenda with a variety of workshops, keeping them busily learning throughout the day. We end the day with some bonding activities, such as a talent show, bowling, and fun desserts to end our day. We end our final day of the conference with a banquet, in which the students share their closing thoughts on the conference and enjoy a night of good food and tunes with the new connections they've made. This structure allows us to give the students a glimpse into college-style Lecture-TA style learning, as well as the socializing aspect that comes with being grouped with new people and meeting new individuals whose lives probably parallel their own in many aspects. We encourage them to network with one another and see the value in such networking, allowing for them to form such habits at an earlier age than usual.
Why it matters to YOU.
Nishaan is a conference strictly for high schoolers. But this Nishaan 101 email seeks to inform our Jakara community on the vitality of it to all of our livelihoods. If ever throughout your own life, you questioned the career line you were being encouraged towards by your parents, or you felt hopeless on how to balance wanting to connect with the Sikhi you've known your whole life and feeling disconnected from it, Nishaan matters to you. Nishaan gives the future of our panth the platform that challenges the structures we find ourselves in. It allows for our students to discuss the complex questions they have surrounding their belief systems, their identity and allows for them to have outlets back into what they feel disconnected from. We as a community constantly engage in the same conversation that our children are straying away from Sikhi, from their sabyachaar, their culture, and their identity. Yet, when we find groups that have actually have a record of connecting, support suddenly dries up.
If you seek for your sister, your brother, your cousin, child, your niece, your nephew, or even yourself to be engaged or someday engaged with their identity, we encourage you to support and seek out platforms like Nishaan. If anything, they allow for our youth to connect and form a community with one another. When a teenager sees another teenager doing something, it of course becomes cool -- we all know how peer pressure works. If positive peer pressure is an appropriate term, the enthusiasm the students have for Nishaan speaks towards it.
SPONSOR A STUDENT. Help them grow.
The financial realities of today are evident to each of us. Our passionate students often times find themselves in systems or circumstances that limit them from taking part in opportunities of such growth. It becomes disheartening when their realities sometimes hold them from engaging in community in such a vital way. We ask that you sponsor a student.
We DO NOT want price to be a reason why any student comes or doesn't come - but the reality is that we have to make sure that all costs are covered to vendors as well.
For MANY students the price is too much. We have many students that come from family that are less financially well-off, from those where the child does not feel comfortable asking their parents, and from those backgrounds where the family does not prioritize Sikh based events. If your son/daughter has benefited, sponsor another. If you want this event for your future son/daughter to remain alive, sponsor a student!
Allow for a student to attend Nishaan
and take part in the opportunity to grow intellectually. These are future leaders that we have the opportunity to cultivate and give every resource to be humble, giving, and successful individuals who hold the Panth as a priority throughout their lives. Teach by example. Teach by generosity. By extending your generosity, you will allow these students to first hand see and experience the power of Sangat we hold. We are our own greatest resource. Within our Sikh community, we already hold every resource to organize as a community and allow for our community to prosper. We encourage you to be a part of Nishaan
and take part in this monumental way.
The hope is that this email informs you on a cause so dear to our Sikh youth. Our high schoolers eagerly look forward to Nishaan Conference all year, functioning as the greatest motivation for us to curate and host the best Nishaan yet. Help us in doing so.
Send your your sister, your brother, your cousin, child, your niece, your nephew, or even yourself to Nishaan. Share your generosity. Contribute to our Sikh youth.