Hundreds of Sikhs participate in the parade through the streets of Kent each spring, part of the Khalsa Day celebration. MARK KLAAS, Kent Reporter

Hundreds of Sikhs participate in the parade through the streets of Kent each spring, part of the Khalsa Day celebration. MARK KLAAS, Kent Reporter

Thousands to join Sikh celebration in Kent

Khalsa Day features prayer, music, demonstrations and a large parade

One of the area’s largest Sikh communities converges in Kent on Saturday, May 4, for the 27th annual Khalsa Day Celebration and Parade – a religious and colorful festival filled with music, prayer, food and demonstrations – at the accesso ShoWare Center.

The celebration begins at 10 a.m. at ShoWare, 625 W. James St., where there will be music, exhibits, food stalls and speeches. The celebration is free and open to the public.

The day culminates at 3 p.m. with the Nagar Kirtan, the parade, in which thousands of people proceed through the streets of Kent, singing hymns from a sacred book of worship known as Guru Granth Sahib Ji, the Sikhs’ most ultimate holy scripture.

The event also features langar, a free community kitchen and food for attendees, interfaith service projects and Sikh martial arts demonstrations.

Every spring millions of Sikhs worldwide celebrate Khalsa or Vaisakhi Day, marking the beginning of the harvest season and the Sikh new year.

“This spring, Sikhs worldwide are commemorating Vaisakhi, one of the most historically significant days of the year,” said Kent City Councilmember Satwinder Kaur. “It’s remarkable for Washingtonians of all ages to come together and recognize a community that has made significant contributions to the state for over a century.”

Sikh community leaders continue to make strides in increasing Sikh awareness with three Washington cities and counties issuing proclamations honoring the contributions of Sikh Americans over the last month. This also includes a statewide resolution that was issued on April 10, making April Sikh Awareness and Appreciation Month.

In Washington, the efforts to raise Sikh awareness remain critical after recent incidents targeting the state’s Sikh community. Last year, the FBI’s annual hate crime report indicated hate crimes rising nationally in 2017 for the third consecutive year – with a 243 percent increase in anti-Sikh hate crimes since the 2016 report.

In addition to Sikh officials and community leaders from throughout the state, non-Sikh political leaders will participate in the event, including U.S. Congressman Adam Smith, D-WA, 9th District; state Sen. Mona Das, D-Kent; Seattle City Councilmembers Lorena González and Kshama Sawant; Kent City Council President Bill Boyce; and Kent City Councilmembers Kaur, Brenda Fincher and Marli Larimer.

“For over 100 years, Sikh American contributions to Washington state have only made our community stronger,” Smith said. “The annual Khalsa Day Celebration and Parade continues to be a great opportunity to recognize Washington’s Sikh community, and I look forward to celebrating with my Sikh friends, neighbors and colleagues on Saturday.”

The Sikh Coalition is the largest Sikh civil rights organization in the United States, creating lasting impact in the courtroom, classroom, community and halls of Congress.

Learn more at sikhcoalition.org.

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