A Sikh man wearing a white shirt, Black turban, and a red mask stands with other protesters at a march in Kenosha, Wisconsin, to support the family of Jacob Blake -- a Black man who was shot by the police in Kenosha. Photo by The Milwaukee Independent
Pardeep Singh Kaleka, Executive Director Of Interfaith Conference Of Greater Milwaukee
August 31, 2020
For many of us, 2020 has signified one of the most challenging years of our lifetimes. Our lives and livelihoods have been upended. There are significant interruptions in our educational systems. Parents struggle and our children are attempting to navigate their own sets of challenges. All in all, this year has been rough. However, to some, this year has been catastrophic. This is because this year has exposed many of the underlying injustices that continue to plague some much more than others. The Jacob Blake shooting by a white police officer in Kenosha was another example of how much work still needs to be done to bring about a society of equitable reverence.
On Saturday, 29 August, thousands of people marched in Kenosha to support the family of Jacob Blake -- a Black man who was in the back seven times by the police in Kenosha, Wisconsin. The march brought together many races, genders, ages, and faiths to celebrate our beautiful diversity. As our world attempts to move forward from the challenges of a divisive history, it becomes ever so important for us to be intentional to build from rallies like this one, a consciousness of love, and commit to action anything that stands in the way. This gathering of the community was not just about a black man being shot 7 times in the back by a white officer, this was about a generation that is building a more empathetic future.
As a former police officer, I wasn’t aware of my perceptions and the actions that I committed in the name of enforcing the law. Currently, as the executive director of the Interfaith Conference, it is now my mission to have faith communities fundamentally embrace our commitment to sowing worth into the great human family. Part of this commitment involves examining what religious communities can do to ensure that we are living out our values. The Interfaith Conference is a 50-year old greater Milwaukee establishment which encompasses 21 different Christian and non-Christian member judicatories, organizations that oversee a total of more than 500 congregations. We include mainline Protestants, Roman Catholics, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Baha’i, Hindus, Latter-day Saints, Moravians, Pentecostals, Sikhs, Unitarian Universalists, and others.
At our core, we are a humanitarian organization whose motto is, “To uphold the dignity of every person.” I am the first executive director of color and the first non-Christian. I don’t mention this out of pride nor bitterness, I mention this out of gratitude. I am afforded a responsibility to change the perception of leadership and worth. I want our children to aim to embrace all of themselves, which includes race, gender, culture, and yes, faith. To embrace the uniqueness and divinity in which God created us means to look at yourself with the same awe that you look at the world. To embrace faith is to see the worth in not only in yourself but in others, and in everyone. This lens offers us a unique gift; to go past slogans and genuinely embrace a consciousness of love and ONEness with all.
Yes, this has been a difficult year, however 2020 will also have been an important year. The great vibration that is happening has a significant purpose. I encourage all of us to embrace this purpose and create a world that we can say we are truly living in God’s grace and affording that same grace upon all God’s children.
A native of Punjab, India, Pardeep Singh Kaleka grew up in Milwaukee and received his B.A. at Marquette University, and M.S. at Alverno College. As a former Police Officer and Educator in the inner city of Milwaukee, Pardeep understands the difficulty facing our communities. Today, as a therapist his specialization is in holistic trauma-informed treatment with survivors of assault, abuse, and acts of violence. Both in his practice and out, Pardeep’s passion remains one of healing and recovery. He serves as the Executive Director Of the Interfaith Conference Of Greater Milwaukee.
(Interfaith Youth Core)