Benedictine University to host Sikh Harvest Festival to help raise cultural awareness


The beards, turbans and other traditional clothing that many American Sikhs sometimes wear make them easy targets for hate crimes, says Naperville’s Manmohan Kaur.

In 2019, law enforcement across the country reported 8,812 hate crime victims. Of 1,715 victims of anti-religious hate crimes, 3.5% were anti-Sikh bias, according to the most recent FBI statistics.

Rising hate crimes against his Sikh community prompted Kaur, a math professor at the Benedictine University of Lisle, to apply for a grant from Interfaith America to promote healing.

With this funding, the Benedictine University South Asian Student Association is organizing a traditional Sikh harvest festival with performers, a Bhangra dance workshop and food from 12:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. on April 21. It is open to community members.

Vaisakhi, the Sikh New Year festival, is celebrated around this time in April. This is when farmers in northern India harvest their crops.

The event will take place in the lobby of the Daniel L. Goodwin Hall of Business, or outside in the quad, weather permitting.

“We will have a turban demonstration,” said Kaur, an adviser to the student association. “We’re hoping to bring a performer… someone with a Punjabi dhol (double-sided drum).”


The aim is to spread awareness of Sikhism, Kaur said, adding that “if we don’t tell our story, then someone else will tell our story.”

sikh awareness

In August 2019, Governor J.B. Pritzker declared April Illinois Sikh Awareness and Appreciation Month.

Sikhism is the fifth largest religion in the world. It was founded in 1469 by Guru Nanak in the Punjab region of the Indian subcontinent. The tenth successor, Guru Gobind Singh, formalized its practices in 1699. Key tenets of the faith include social equality, truthful living, service to humanity, and devotion to God.

Today, there are more than 30 million Sikhs worldwide, including 500,000 in the United States and 25,000 in Illinois, according to the Sikh Coalition.

Vaisakhi mela

The United Punjabis of America will celebrate a Vaisakhi Mela from noon to 6 p.m. Sunday at the Mall of India, 776 S. Route 59 in Naperville.

Vaisakhi means Punjabi New Year and Harvest Festival.

The mela, or fair, will include performances, group dancing, authentic Punjabi food and vendor stalls selling jewelry, decorative items, paintings and other wares. Free entry.

Hate Crimes Commission

The Illinois Commission on Discrimination and Hate Crimes released its inaugural report for 2021.

The commission, originally created in 2005, has been dormant for a decade. It was revived to address the rise in hate crimes in Illinois.

It is made up of experts and thought leaders from across the state who reflect a diversity of perspectives, racial backgrounds, abilities, religions, gender identities and sexual orientations.

Sponsor an iftar

Viator House of Hospitality, which in Des Plaines is home to 24 young immigrant men, nearly half of whom are Muslim, is seeking donors to sponsor iftars, or fast-breaking meals, for them during Ramadan.

Viator House provides housing, food, clothing, case management and spiritual support to young asylum seekers. It has been providing Ramadan meals to these refugees for a few years.

To donate cash and/or a hot meal, sign up here,!/showSignUp/10c0449aeaa29a1f58-ramadan1.

Hindu exhibition

An exhibit on Hindu civilization will debut Saturday at Fox Valley Mall in Aurora.

Native American groups from Aurora and Naperville are hosting the exhibit, “Darshana: A Glimpse of Hindu Civilization.” Its aim is to raise awareness of Hindu traditions, culture and contributions to local communities.

The traveling exhibition was presented throughout the country. It will be open from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the Aurora Mall, 195 Fox Valley Center Drive.

For more details, visit

Gifts for refugees

The Syrian Community Network is looking for individuals, families or community groups to purchase Eid gifts for refugee and immigrant families with children.

Eid is the celebration at the end of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan observed by Muslims around the world.

Sponsors will be assigned children and families, spending a minimum of $25 and no more than $35 per child to purchase gifts (no clothing) to be delivered to families between April 29 and May 1.

Forbidden books

Libraries across the country have faced an unprecedented number of attempted book bans, according to the American Library Association’s 2022 State of Libraries Report.

The Chicago-based association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom tracked 729 challenges to materials and services from libraries, schools, and universities in 2021. More than 1,597 books were challenged or removed from libraries for a variety of reasons , including sexually explicit content, profanity, violence, promoting an anti-police, demeaning message to women, depictions of sexual abuse/abuse and sex education. The most targeted books were by or about black or LGBTQIA+ people.

“The 729 challenges tracked by the ALA represent the highest number of book ban attempts since we began compiling these lists 20 years ago,” said ALA President Patricia Wong.

In response to increasing book challenges, the charity is launching Unite Against Book Bans, a nationwide initiative to empower readers to fight censorship. For more information, visit

The hardest books of 2021

• “Gender Queer” by Maia Kobabe

• “Lawn Boy” by Jonathan Evison

• “Not All Boys Are Blue” by George M. Johnson

• “Out of Darkness” by Ashley Hope Perez

• “The Hate You Give” by Angie Thomas

• “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” by Sherman Alexie

• “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl” by Jesse Andrews

• “The bluest eye” by Toni Morrison

• “This book is gay” by Juno Dawson

• “Beyond Magenta” by Susan Kuklin

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