Close to 10,000 people crowded into Times Square April 15, to celebrate Turban Day, a colorful event hosted by Sikhs Of New York, an organization founded by Sikh youth. It combined a celebration of Vaisakhi, the harvest festival, with raising awareness about Indian-Americans of the Sikh faith who have felt particularly vulnerable post-9/11. The National Sikh Campaign also launched its “We are Sikhs” media blitz at the same event, and the U.S. Congress released a “proclamation” declaring April 15, 2017 as “Turban Day” and “Sikhs of New York Day”, an initiative led by Rep. Gregory Meeks, D-NY.
Entertainers at the event included Top Naach, a Bhangra group from Virginia; American Sikhs, an instrumental band from the 3HO Foundation in Los Angeles; The Lost Strings of New York, and mandolin player Gagandeep. A Bhangra workshop was also held.
This was the second time that Turban Day was held at Times Square. It attracted people from as far as Los Angeles and Alberta, Canada, many of whom volunteered to tie the turbans. Governor Andrew Cuomo’s head of Immigration Affairs Jenifer Rajkumar, attended the event.
Close to 500 volunteers helped wrap turbans on those wanting them. Though the event was to start at 12 noon, people of various ethnicities and cultures lined up from 9:30 am to wear their turban, Chanpreet Singh, 24, founder of Sikhs of New York, told Desi Talk. Turban Day was an opportunity for those that do not wear a turban to experience it and learn about its significance first hand, organizers said.
The four hour Times Square event was live streamed. “Some 400,000 people saw it live. And over 24 hours since the event took place, half a million people have seen the video on our Facebook site,” said Chanpreet Singh, founder of Sikhs of New York.
The impact of the event can be measured not just by the large attendance, but also from the reactions of the crowds, something that was gauged by the volunteers and from posts of those who came to enjoy the entertainment, Singh said. “Our three hash tags, #IamSikh, #IamaSikh, and #Turbanday, each had close to 200 photos posted within 24 hours of the event,” said Singh. a financial analyst with cosmetics giant Estee Lauder, who founded Sikhs of New York while a student at Baruch College in 2013.
“This is a youth initiative of a post-9/11 generation,” Singh said. “I started it mainly because of discrimination I faced at high school. I wanted to make a change,” he said. When distributing informative pamphlets did not appear to be making a difference, the organization began Turban Day. It has been held at Madison Square Park for three years before coming to Times Squate in 2016. “The crowd was a mix of many cultures from different parts of the world and around the United States. That’s one of the reasons we chose Times Square,” he added. They are already planning next year’s Turban Day, which Singh says, will increase from 8,000 to 12,000 turbans, he estimates. That is four times the number (3,000) that were tied at the first Times Square Turban Day in 2016.