The Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund celebrated the achievements of New Jersey’s Indian American Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal and Hoboken, N.J., Mayor Ravinder S. Bhalla at its annual national gala that was held April 6 at the Sheraton in Tysons Virginia.

At the gala that was attended by over 350 guests from across the nation, Bhalla’s activist wife, Navneet Kaur Bhalla, was also honored.

Grewal, who was awarded the ‘2019 Public Service Award,’ said: “More work needs to be done to preserve the American dream and our Sikhi.”

Bhalla and his wife, Navneet Kaur Bhalla, a prominent human rights advocate and lawyer and the executive director of Manavi, a New Jersey-based women’s rights organization, were honored with the ‘2019 Sikh Image Award.’

“It is absolutely imperative that men in our community speak against gender inequality,” she said.

SALDEF also introduced the Volunteer Award which was given to Rajvir S. Goomer, who has been volunteering for the organization for over six years.

Ghoomer said that civic engagement in local communities is crucial to effectuating change. “By joining your local municipal committees, or local democratic or republican parties you gain a voice for our community and allow our local leadership and police to gain experiences interacting with Sikhs,” he was quoted as saying in a press release.

The gala’s theme was ‘Commitment, Hope and Renewal’ and these words echoed throughout the night in speeches by awardees, staff and board members.

The night was opened by new executive director Kiran Kaur Gill, who said, “Imagine a world where Sikhs are seen as changemakers and inspirational figures. Where Sikhs are recognized for their disproportionate contributions to American society. Where a man in a turban or woman with long hair represents trusted leadership and resource for those in need. Where when the average American thinks about a Sikh, they think of their Sheriff, an Academy Award winner, NBA player, governor, congressman, senator or even president.”

One of the highlights of the night, said the press release, was the speech given by Kirandeep Kaur from Jackson, Mississippi.

“The 21-year-old moved to Mississippi five years ago and during that time there had been roughly three murders of Sikh Americans that were not investigated by local law enforcement. SALDEF community relations manager Satnam Singh went to Mississippi to host a Know your Rights forum knowing that these murders had occurred. He connected the local Sangat to resources in Mississippi and soon after the Sangat received answers. The heartwarming speech highlighted the importance of community and connectedness throughout the nation,” the press released added.

The night began with Punjabi music and songs performed by renowned artist Ishmeet Narula.

The gala was attended by a number of local and national Sikh American community leaders, Sikh gurdwara representatives, distinguished Sikhs and leaders from partner organizations.

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