Sikhs Emmys

On May 6, the Kamau Bell-hosted CNN show, “United Shades of America,” aired an hour-long episode focusing on the Sikh Indian American story. That episode won an Emmy Award at the Creative Arts Emmys held in Los Angeles, Calif., Sept. 8. (Sikh Coalition/Twitter photo)

CNN’s Emmy Award-winning show, “United Shades of America,” hosted by W. Kamau Bell, which featured the first-ever hour-long episode in May exclusively focusing on the Sikh American community, won more Emmy Awards at the Creative Arts Emmys held in Los Angeles, Calif., Sept. 8.

While the show won the honor for ‘Outstanding Unstructured Reality Program,’ the episode focusing on Sikhs, “Sikhs in America,” was declared the winner in the ‘Outstanding Picture Editing for an Unstructured Reality Program’ category. The latter award went to supervising editor Bryan Eber.

“United Shades of America” follows comedian and political provocateur Bell as he explores communities across the U.S. to understand the unique challenges they face.

In the episode, Bell visited Yuba City, Calif., saying, “I’m hoping to find out more about the most misunderstood religion in America.”

Throughout the episode, Bell interviews Harpreet Singh, co-founder of the Sikh Coalition; Sikh Coalition Social Justice Fellow Winty Singh; Yuba City’s Indian American Mayor Preet Didbal; Karandeep Bains, Yuba City farmer and community leader; lawyer and filmmaker Valarie Kaur; Lt. Colonel Kamaljeet Singh Kalsi; actor/designer Waris Ahluwalia; and Harpreet Singh’s son, Dilzafer Singh.

After the win, Kaur tweeted: “Our episode Sikhs in America on #UnitedShadesofAmerica w @wkamaubell won an EMMY! It was the 1st time the nation saw Sikhs tell our own stories, in our own voices, & now it has received the highest honor in the industry! Why this win is a little beacon:”

The episode came about after Harpreet Singh reached out to Bell on Twitter. “The Sikhs as a community have had their fair share of hate so I thought this would be an excellent venue for people to learn more about the Sikhs and the issues we face in America,” Singh said at the beginning of his interview. “Sikhism is a religion of love, and this love requires sacrifice for others, especially for the oppressed, the marginalized, the downtrodden, for example, we had Sikhs showing up in war-torn Syria, providing humanitarian aid… in Haiti during the earthquake. There has never been an instance when Sikhs have not opened their gurudwaras during calamities like Katrina.”

When asked to describe Sikhism, Didbal, the first female Sikh mayor in America, said: “I may not look like a typical Sikh woman, but I’m 100 percent Sikh. Under God, we are all equal, that’s how Sikhism is. We are all created equal, men and women, it doesn’t matter. I say, ‘We need to walk the talk.’”

Ahluwalia recounted how he was assaulted after 9/11, following which he nearly lost vision in his right eye.

The episode also highlighted the agricultural tradition of the community, the Sikh articles of faith and the religion’s history.

Watch the entire episode here:

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