About the Academy

July 12-17, 2015

Building off the clear success of the first four years of the Sikh Advocate Academy, the Sikh Coalition is proud to invite applications for its fifth Sikh Advocate Academy, a week-long, all expenses paid, experiential learning course in Washington, DC.

Successful applicants will take a deep dive into the practical aspects of human rights advocacy—including government engagement, media engagement, and community engagement—and pledge to become social justice leaders in their local communities.

Along the way, you will meet accomplished leaders from government, media, and civil rights groups; walk the halls of Congress; enjoy our nation’s capital, and build lifelong friendships with your fellow Advocates. In 2012, 2013 and 2014, the Academy also included a briefing at the White House.

Our Vision
Our objective is to train and cultivate a corps of dedicated volunteers who will enhance the Sikh American community’s fight for civil rights both locally and nationally. Through focused planning and execution, our goal over the next five years is to build a “trained and certified” corps of grassroots advocates who consistently support the cause of civil rights.

Why Should I Apply?

  • Learn how to work with  elected officials to make change both locally and nationally
  • Receive training on social justice advocacy from professionals and ongoing year-round support from Sikh Coalition staff as you pursue initiatives in your community
  • Network with fellow Advocates from around the country
  • Network with change-makers in Washington, DC during the course
  • Vital training that can be added to your professional resume
  • Your week long training in Washington, DC will be all-expenses-paid

Application Criteria

  • At least 18 years old
  • Strong passion for social justice
  • Have time and energy to spend approximately 40 hours per calendar year after the training to support civil rights initiatives
  • Responsible and committed, with persistence in everything you do
  • Strong oral and written communication skills
  • Please Note: Applicants for the Sikh Advocate Academy must live in the United States. We are sorry that we can not accommodate applicants outside of the United States at this time.

What Happens after the Training?

Graduates of the Academy will be certified as members of the Sikh Coalition Advocacy Corps and receive business cards and a Sikh Coalition email address.  In order to maintain their certification, members of the Advocacy Corps must undertake a minimum number of advocacy actions per year, as determined by the Sikh Coalition, in support of the Sikh Coalition’s mission and in collaboration with full-time staff from the Sikh Coalition.  Examples might include organizing visits to local Congressional offices; pitching positive stories to local media outlets; and building alliances with organizations that promote human rights.





The Sikh Advocate Academy has been made possible through the generous support of the Security & Rights Collaborative, a Proteus Fund Initiative, Open Society Institute – National Security and Human Rights Campaign and through individual contributions from the Sikh American Community.

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The Sikh Advocate Academy has been a stellar success.  In the video below, you can hear our alumni speak about their experiences in the program. In addition, you can learn more by reading these blog posts: Advocating for the Future, Taking the Leap: The Birth of an Advocate.


The Work of our Alumni
After receiving training, support, and inspiration at the Academy, our alumni have documented over 250 distinct actions in the areas of government engagement, media engagement; and community engagement.  Their amazing work includes the following highlights:

Media Engagement
Our Advocates were quoted or published in the following outlets:

Community Engagement
Our Advocates have organized:

  • Grassroots surveys to help address school bullying in Arizona, California, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia. These surveys promote awareness and dialogue about the need to address the problem of school bullying and also empower local communities with diagnostic data that can be presented to schools and decision-makers.
  • Khalsa Kids Empowerment Workshops in California and Texas, providing Sikh children with the tools and resources they need to address school bullying.
  • The first ever “Women of the World” panel in collaboration with West Sacramento Gurdwara and the American Association of University Women addressing issues impacting Sikh women.
  • A Sikh Education and Awareness conference in Indiana, the first of its kind in the region.
  • Day of Seva events on the anniversary of the Oak Creek tragedy.
  • Outreach to schools, libraries and law enforcement agencies for California Sikh Awareness and Appreciation Month.
  • Collected more than 1,700 community petitions to the U.S. Congress in support of our continuing effort to expand opportunities for all Sikhs to serve in the U.S. Armed Forces.
  • Conducted Sikh Awareness presentations across the nation.
  • Wrote essays for an anthology about Sikh women in North America.


Government Engagement
Our Advocates engaged with the Government in numerous ways.  Some highlights include:

  • In total, the inaugural class of Sikh Coalition Advocates met with the offices of over 16 Members of the House of Representatives and United States Senate, both in Washington, DC and in their field offices.
  • Engaged community members in California to pass the nation’s strongest workplace protections against religious discrimination.
  • In 2014, our advocates in Georgia organized the first ever Sikh Awareness and Legislative Day.
  • Introduction of Sikh Awareness and Vaisakhi proclamations and resolutions in cities and states across the nation.
  • One of our Advocates from Maryland was able to use the results of his bullying survey work to persuade his member of Congress to co-sponsor the Safe Schools Improvement Act. He even inspired a community volunteer—a local high school student—to accompany him to Capitol Hill to discuss the survey results in the context of post-9/11 school bullying. A short video about this success story is available here.
  • Our Advocates have requested that elected officials support legislation such as the End Racial Profiling Act, Workplace Religious Freedom Act, and Safe Schools Improvement Act.
  • An Advocate from Ohio engaged with the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in planning the Midwest Regional Summit.
  • Secured Congressional support on a Dear Colleague Anti-bullying letter.
  • Partnered with the White House to host listening sessions for the AAPI community in their local communities.


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Trainers & Speakers

Stay tuned for additional guest speakers!

Rajdeep Singh, Trainer

rajdeep_singh_2013Rajdeep Singh joined the Sikh Coalition in December 2009 and serves as its Director of Law and Policy. As Director of Law and Policy, he focuses on developing and promoting policy solutions for civil rights issues through an interdisciplinary combination of government affairs, media relations, and interfaith coalition building. In this capacity, he has substantively engaged with the U.S. Congress, White House, and several federal agencies, including the Department of Justice, Department of Homeland Security, and Department of State; published articles in the Washington Post and New York Times; appeared on numerous television and radio programs; delivered dozens of presentations at government agencies, law schools, and universities; and designed an advocacy training program for grassroots community volunteers.

In recent years, Rajdeep has spearheaded and managed successful campaigns to expand federal hate crime tracking; repeal an 87-year-old Oregon law that prohibited public school teachers from wearing religious dress; and pass historic equal employment opportunity legislation in California that protects religious observers from workplace segregation.

Rajdeep has a background in bank regulation and is the author of The Application of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act to Appearance Regulations that Presumptively Prohibit Observant Sikh Lawyers from Joining the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General Corps, which was published by the Chapman Law Review in 2007, and How State Photo Identification Standards Can be Used to Undermine Religious Freedom, which was published by the Asian American Law Journal at UC Berkeley Law School in 2012. He received his law degree in 2006 at the College of William & Mary and his undergraduate degree in philosophy in 2003 at the University of Miami. Rajdeep is a member of the Florida Bar.

Simran KaurTrainer

simran_kaur_2013Simran joined the Sikh Coalition in September 2011 as the Advocacy Manager and transitioned to Western Region Director in May 2014. She is charged with leading organizational efforts in California. In 2012, Simran led efforts in California to pass the Workplace Religious Freedom Act – the nation’s strongest protection against religious discrimination in the workplace. Simran has been interviewed by NPR affiliate KQED, and has had several op-eds published related to Sikh civil rights issues.

Prior to joining the Sikh Coalition, Simran managed a health program for Children’s Hospital Central California. Simran travels regularly for global health projects and has worked to improve access to health for immigrant and refugee communities. She is an active member of the Sikh community in California – volunteering with Jakara Movement, co-founding The Langar Hall – a progressive Sikh blog, is on the Editorial Board of the Sikh Love Stories Project and is a liaison for Saffron Press – an independent publishing house focused on multicultural literature. She is on the Board of Directors for The Women’s Building, a women-led community space that advocates self-determination, gender equality and social justice and has served as the Affirmative Action Officer on the Board of Directors for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Northern California.

Simran obtained her undergraduate degree from the University of California, San Diego and her graduate degree from Boston University School of Public Health.

Mark Reading-SmithTrainer

mark_reading_smith_2014Mark joined the Sikh Coalition in October 2014 as the Senior Director of Media and Communications. In this role, he is responsible for managing the Sikh Coalition’s daily media work and devising and implementing plans aimed at raising the profile of the Sikh Coalition’s issues. He also supports all program areas in communicating this work directly back to the Sikh community and broader public that the organization serves.

Prior to joining the Sikh Coalition, Mark spent six years as a Managing Director at Rethink Media, driving the media work and strategic planning on an array of national security and human rights issues across a sector of over fifty organizations. During that time he worked to challenge discrimination and hate crimes directed at American Muslim, Arab, Sikh, and South Asian communities, and was in charge of providing rapid response support to the Sikh Coalition in the weeks that followed the Oak Creek tragedy in 2012. His proven skills include crisis management, message development, reporter relationships, media training, and strategic planning.

He has facilitated dozens of successful hits in all of the leading national papers, placed leading experts on broadcast outlets ranging from NPR to CNN and MSNBC, and placed op-eds from authors working on issues ranging from Guantanamo, torture, surveillance, targeted killing, and racial profiling in nearly every top 50 print outlet in the country.

Previously, Mark investigated and reported for the Center for Public Integrity and the Fund for Independence in Journalism, co-writing Iraq: The War Card – the most widely viewed investigation in CPI’s twenty-five year history. Mark holds degrees in political philosophy and international relations from Michigan State University.

Speakers from Previous Years:

Jasmeet Ahuja –  JD candidate at Stanford Law School (Previously served as a staff member at the House Committee on Foreign Affairs)

Shawn Gaylord – Director of Public Policy, Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN)

Gene Kim – Executive Director of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC)

Michael Lieberman – Washington Counsel, Anti-Defamation League

Priya Murthy – Policy Director at South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT)

Eric Treene – Special Counsel for Religious Discrimination for the U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division.

Lexer Quamie – Policy Counsel at The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and The Leadership Conference Education Fund.

Mark Reading Smith – Managing Communications Director of the Security & Rights Collaborative

Gloria Chan – President of the Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies

Kiran Ahuja – Executive Director of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders

Jeremy Woodrum – Chief of Staff, Congressman Crowley, U.S. Congress

Akhil Vohra – White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders

Mazen Basrawi – Counsel to the Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights at the Department of Justice

Whitney Pellegrino – Special Legal Counsel, Civil Rights Division, U.S. Department of Justice

JJ Singh – Economic Policy Advisor to US Senator Chris Coons

Audrey Buehring – White House AAPI Initiative

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Learn more about The Sikh Coalition

The Sikh Coalition is a community-based organization that works towards the realization of civil and human rights for all people. In particular, we work towards a world where Sikhs may freely practice and enjoy their faith while fostering strong relations with their local community wherever they may be.

We pursue our mission by:

  • Providing direct legal services to persons whose civil or human rights are violated;
  • Advocating for laws and policies that are respectful of fundamental rights;
  • Promoting appreciation for diversity through education; and
  • Fostering civic engagement in order to promote local community empowerment

With a full-time staff of 10 and offices in New York City, Fremont, CA and Washington D.C., we are the most-staffed Sikh organization in the history of the United States.

Please visit our website: www.sikhcoalition.org

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