There are few other substances that destroy our families on the same level as alcohol. Early memories from childhood of nearly every party was of uncles encouraging underage drinking, often inappropriately behaving, if not violently fighting, and humiliated wives and children watching it all. My childhood friends have grown to adult men, many with kids, but nearly every weekend involves heavy drinking with terms like moderation and limits far from their vocabularies.
Nearly every Punjabi music video and song encourages abuse and destruction tied to themes of machismo, the stories we have heard and the real effects that play out in our families, extended families, and friends are tragic. I have lost count of the number of friends/family members that have received DUIs. While it is encouraging that topics such as bullying are gaining new prominence, we hope that when the victims and victimizers are often ourselves that we can teach our kids new alternatives exist.
The Jakara Movement is seeking to make a difference. This fall for our Jakara Juniors kids camps we are pledging a new vision - "Punjabis Like Me - Proud and Alcohol Free." We hope that at least one time in our children, little brothers and sisters' lives that they will hear that an alternative is possible. So far we have conducted workshops in Fresno (Singh Sabha Gurdwara) and Kerman (Gurdwara Anandgarh) with over 250 Punjabi/Khalsa school students. Talking about issues such as healthy living and choices with the youngest of age groups, we focus on the real effects of drinking in our families and on our children's lives. Many silently admitted to their experimentation as young as 8 years old. Many shared that their extended family members were those that first offered them. Many young women, some not even teenagers, shared that they often indulged to forget some of their pain.
We wrote letters to some of our loved ones, just to share how we feel, when they drink. We shared some of our stories and made sure all new that as part of a sangat, we aren't alone. We have nothing to be ashamed of. We can love the person without loving a substance.
Starting in Fresno, but soon to be rolling out everywhere, we will be implementing these camps throughout the United States.
In Fresno, we are especially excited about our upcoming events, including a Sports Day with a special session on underage drinking (March 29, 2014), a special display with MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) at the Selma Nagar Kirtan (April 13, 2014), a special informational booth at the Vaisakhi Mela Caruthers (April 20, 2014), and finally a RALLY and CONCERT, celebrating "Punjabis Like Me - Proud and Alcohol-Free" (May 31, 2014 at Rio Vista) bringing together a showcase of our community's finest musical and artistic talent to share with over 500 youth that another vision is possible.
Get involved and make sure this is happing in your community too! Let's pledge - "Punjabis Like Me; Proud and Alcohol-Free."