34th Sikh Day Parade: New York City rang out with the sounds ‘Bole Sonihal’ as the community came out in color

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A section of the Sikh Day Parade of April 23, 2022, in Manhattan. Photo: Raja Bhatty, ITV Gold.

Tens of thousands of people took part in the 34th Sikh Day Parade including some high-profile politicians, as it marched from 37th Street and Madison to 25th Street. Thousands crowded the sidewalks to watch floats and performers, as well as the Guru Granth Sahib, being carried on Manhattan’s famous street, as navy blue, yellow, orange and white traditional dresses and flags dominated the colorful landscape amidst the sky scrapers.

A model of the Golden Temple in a float at the April 23, 2022, Sikh Day Parade in Manhattan. Photo: Raja Bhatty, ITV Gold

And most significant, a float with the Golden Temple model!

The Parade had added poignance and significance in light of recent violent incidents in which Sikhs have been attacked in their own residential areas and near Gurdwaras over the last few weeks. Organizers say despite being one of the oldest immigrant communities in this nation, hate crimes and school bullying still single out their members.

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United States Senator Charles Schumer joined the Parade in the beginning, the first time a U.S. Senator showed up, organizers told Desi Talk.

Like previous Big Apple mayors, Eric Adams also joined, with a dedicated banner, and accompanied by the first Punjabi elected official to Albany Jenifer Rajkumar.

Mayor Eric Adams, with NY Assemblywoman jenifer Rjkumar, at April 23, 2022 Sikh Day Parade in New York City. Photo: Twitter @jeniferRajkumar

These elected officials spoke out against the ongoing hate crimes, noting it was unacceptable in a multicultural city like New York, or anywhere for that matter. Mayor Adams self-identified as the “First Punjabi Mayor” and Assemblywoman Rajkumar spoke of her Punjabi roots.

More than 24 Gurdwaras from around the tri-state area and Washington, D.C. took part, and between 30,000 to 35,000 from the community walked the route, Harpreet Singh Toor, chairman of Public Policy and External Affairs of the Sikh Cultural Society which organized the march, told Desi Talk.

A New York Police Department band followed by a contingent of Punjabi officers, walked in the Parade. There was also an impressive group of mostly Harley Davidson motorcycles led by a souped up one driven by a woman, which growled their way, bringing to mind farmers of Punjab, who are famous for using the  Royal Enfields in India.

A group of participants doing kar seva at the 34th Sikh Day Parade in New York City April 23, 2022. Photo: Raja Bhatty, ITV Gold.

Women in yellow and red duppattas, kar seva being performed by barefoot men and women symbolically sweeping of the street, a float adorned with flower-garlands carrying musicians and table players, bhajans being sung, carrying the Guru Granth Sahib rolled solemnly by; one contingent with a large banner proclaiming ‘Sikh Di Fateh’ and another ‘Raj Karega Khalsa’, and qualities of Sikhi proclaimed on another – Compassion, Kindness, Fearless.

Suddenly, a band walked through playing “When the Saints, go marching in…”, and then a group of young Sikh men playing drums.

A bright yellow flatbed truck carried children, youth, and adults, men and women, sitting as if in a gathering. A group of young Sikh men displayed their prowess in martial arts, and simulated swordfights, jumping and twirling.

About the mood in the Sikh community during this year’s Parade, Toor said, “We are a community which always comes back from whatever happens. It is not going to get us down,”
referring to attacks. “But people are a little bit more aware of the situation, and at least for some time they will look over their shoulders.”

However, as one of the oldest immigrants to the United States, especially the West Coast, Toor said, “We have to raise awareness both inside and outside our community about our long history in America – we were among those who built the railroad; we went back to fight in India’s freedom struggle; we contributed to the agricultural wealth of states like California. New immigrants on East Coast don’t seem to know our history.”

Participants in the 34th Sikh Day Parade in Manhattan April 23, 2022, which attracted some 30,000-35,000 people according to estimate of organizers. Photo: Raja Bhatty, ITV Gold
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