Valarie Kaur, born in Clovis, California is an activist, civil rights lawyer, award-winning filmmaker, educator, entrepreneur, and Sikh interfaith leader. born and raised in a small town near Fresno where her family settled as Indian Punjabi farmers a century ago.
She was raised as a Sikh whose faith inspires a commitment to social justice. She became an activist when family friend Balbir Singh Sodhi was murdered in a hate crime in the immediate aftermath of 9/11.
At twenty years old, she drove across America to chronicle hate crimes against Sikh and Muslim Americans. The journey led to the award-winning film Divided We Fall in 2008 and initiated her work as an artist, scholar and activist. While in school, Kaur filed a landmark immigrant rights lawsuit with her clinic team from law school and co-led a high-profile campaign against racial profiling with a coalition that resulted in a monumental consent decree of the East Haven Police Department. She also reported on the military commissions at Guantanamo and clerked on the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Kaur lives with her husband and filmmaking partner Sharat Raju in Los Angeles, where they live with their son Kavi in an inter-generational home. She loves the ocean, dark chocolate, the Sikh stringed instrument called the Dilruba, and classical Indian dance kathak.
She earned bachelor's degrees in international relations and religion from Stanford University, a master's degree in theological studies from the Harvard Divinity School, and a Juris Doctorate from Yale Law School. Her filmmaking and activism have focused on gun violence prevention, racial profiling, immigration detention and prison practices, and internet neutrality. Kaur believes that the way in which we make change is just as important as the change we make.
Her activism has also included education work to combat hate crimes against Muslim and Sikh Americans. She founded the Groundswell Movement, a multi-faith online organizing community and the Yale Visual Law Project.
She documented hate crimes against Sikh and Muslim Americans following the murder of Balbir Singh Sodhi in a hate crime immediately following the attacks of September 11, 2001. This led to the film Divided We Fall in 2008.
Kaur served as the Media and Justice Fellow at Stanford Law School's Center for Internet and Society, and co-founded Faithful Internet, a campaign to inform faith leaders on Internet neutrality issues.
She is the Scholar-in-Residence at Middle Collegiate Church and Senior Fellow at Auburn Theological Seminary. Kaur has given speeches at the White House, the Pentagon and the Parliament of the World's Religions.
Her newest venture, the Revolutionary Love Project at the University of Southern California, champions the ethic of love in an era of rage.
She has made award-winning films and led national campaigns on civil rights for the past 15 years. Her activism focuses on addressing hate crimes, racism and profiling, gun violence, immigration, solitary confinement, LGBTQI equality, and Internet freedom.
She is the founder of Groundswell Movement, America's largest multifaith online organizing community of 300,000+ known for 'dynamically strengthening faith-based organizing in the 21st century.'
She also founded the Yale Visual Law Project where she trained students at Yale Law School to make films that change policy. Kaur recently served as the Media and Justice Fellow at Stanford Law School's Center for Internet and Society, where she co-founded Faithful Internet to equip faith leaders in the fight for Internet freedom.
Now as the Scholar-in-Residence at Middle Collegiate Church and Senior Fellow at Auburn Theological Seminary, she speaks on Revolutionary Love as a public ethic - a political and moral response to injustice and wellspring for social action.
Television, print media, as well as on stage, Kaur has been a regular television commentator on MSNBC and an opinion contributor to CNN, NPR, PBS, The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, The Hill and The New York Times.
She has spoken to audiences at the White House, Pentagon, United Nations, the Parliament of the World's Religions, and on more than 250 U.S. college campuses.
She has also traveled with the U.S. State Department as a keynote speaker throughout Burma, aiding its transition from dictatorship into democracy. In 2016, she became a co-creator and keynote speaker of the Together Tour in 6 U.S. cities.
Kaur's first film Divided We Fall won a dozen international awards, and became known as the go-to documentary on post-9/11 hate crimes. The Divided We Fall Campaign inspired dialogues on over 100 campuses and communities during the 2008 and 2016 election seasons.
Since then, Kaur and her husband, Raju have continued to make documentary films together on social justice issues: Alienation in 2011 - a short film, follows families swept up in immigration raids; Stigma in 2011 - a short film, chronicles youth encounters with stop-and-frisks; The Worst of the Worst: Portrait of a Supermax in 2012 - a documentary on the practice of solitary confinement, helped win policy change in Connecticut and is now used by activists around the country; and Oak Creek: In Memorium in 2012 - a viral short film on the 2012 mass shooting at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin, which helped the Sikh community win historic federal policy change on hate crimes.
In 2016, Kaur and Raju created Seva Productions to support entertainment and social justice projects.
"A standout figure in the world of interfaith organizing and activism and among 13 progressive faith leaders to watch" - The Center for American Progress
"One of the most compelling young voices in America today - Melissa Harris-Perry
Awarded the American Courage Award - Asian Americans Advancing Justice
Named "Person of the Year" - India Abroad
One of eight Asian American "Women of Influence" by Audrey Magazine in 2013
Named among the "Women Who Won Net Neutrality" in Slate during 2015
Was honored as a "Young Global Leader" by the World Economic Forum
Became the youngest person to receive an Alumni Award from Harvard Divinity School in 2016
The State of California has recognized her work
Quotes On Revolutionary Love
"Revolutionary love is a well-spring of care, an awakening to the inherent dignity and beauty of others and the earth, a quieting of the ego, a way of moving through the world in relationship, asking: 'What is your story? What is at stake? What is my part in your flourishing?' Loving others, even our opponents, in this way has the power to sustain political, social and moral transformation. This is how love changes the world."
"Love calls us to look upon the faces of those different from us as brothers and sisters. Love calls us to weep when their bodies are outcast, broken or destroyed. Love calls us to speak even when our voice trembles, stand even when hate spins out of control, and stay even when the blood is fresh on the ground. Love makes us brave. The world needs your love: the only social, political and moral force that can dismantle injustice to remake the world around us - and within us."
"To pursue a life of revolutionary love is to walk boldly into the hot winds of the world with a saint's eyes and a warrior's heart - and pour our body, breath, and blood into others."
Quotes On Forgiveness
"Forgiveness is not forgetting. Forgiveness is freedom from hate."
"We can no longer divide the world into victims and aggressors; we must remake the institutions and cultures that diminish and divide us."
"Your greatest test is whether you can still see the humanity of the people who disagree with you and people who hurt you. For when you are hurt, you will want to hate. But when you hate the ones who hurt you, you become the darkness that haunts your dreams. Love shines a light; love returns us to the path; love makes us brave."
Quotes On Courage
"'Tati vao na lagi, par brahm sharnai' The hot winds cannot touch you when you walk the path of love and justice. Even if you are beaten down. Even under a rain of fire. Even if you are bleeding in the birthing room or on the battlefield, the hot winds cannot touch you. Because you are with the holy, and of the holy. You are with God, and of God. You are with love, and of love. And that kind of love saves us all."
"There are no bystanders. In this time of astonishing moral crisis, silence is complicity. Because in the palm of our hand we have the ability to respond - to speak, to post, to organize, to act, online and on the ground, and in the voting booth. Speak, even if your voice trembles."
"Courage is only possible in community. When you find yourself afraid and you don't know if you can survive it: Close your eyes and breathe and remember the one who loves you. Love will make you brave."
"We pray to remember God (simran) but we serve to realize God (seva). That's why we are called to serve matters not with anger or despair but with joy and boundless optimism - the Sikh spirit of Chardi Kala."
Quotes On Stories
"We are trapped by stereotypes - Black as criminal, Latino as illegal, Muslim and Sikh as terrorist, indigenous as savage, trans as deviant, and women as property. Once a person is reduced to a stereotype, it becomes easier to rape them, imprison them, and kill them. But stories can destroy stereotypes. Our stories can set us free."
"Stories can save us. Stories enable us to see others as worthy of love, and therefore worth fighting for. Everyone has a story. Which story have you yet to tell? Whose story have you yet to hear?"
Quotes On A Calling
"The passion to change the world flickers in you like a flame, and if you let that light go out, you will be robbing the world of your greatest gift. Your task today is not to know what the future holds; your task is to vow to protect that flame."
"You are meant for more than a life of comfort. You are meant for a life of meaning. Staying within the walls that others build for you may make you feel safe, but its emptiness will breed despair. In the meantime, the fires of life will never stop calling for you."
"Your calling is when your passion meets the world's needs. But you don't hear your calling behind thick walls. You need to go to the places where the world needs you - the places of pain and neglect. But do not go to save the people you find there. Go to be saved by them. For in those places, you will find your greatest teachers on life and love and courage."
Quotes On Wellness
"The way we make change is just as important as the change we make."
"Read. Think. Dream. Speak. Do not let others colonize your moral imagination."
"Seek harmony, not balance. Do not cut your life into pieces and measure their worth on a scale. Instead gauge your success by how well you have loved. Let your life sing. Join your song to the Great Symphony that has played long before your birth and will go on sounding after your death."
Here are her remarks at the Pentagon - full text can be seen on The Huffington Post: "Service is the core of Sikh practice, but it's not the kind of service we think we know. Seva is not safe. Seva is not easy. Seva means selfless service. To pursue a life of seva is to walk boldly into the hot winds of the world with a saint's eyes and a warrior's heart - and draw from a deep well of love to pour our body, breath, and blood into others. I believe that seva is the call of our times." Full Text on Huffington Post
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Yabanci is a book by a Dutch woman who moved from Holland to Turkey to start a new life in a Turkish village overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. A great read for those who are considering a move abroad or have lived in a different culture. Available in English as an ebook or in Dutch in both print and popular ebook formats...
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