FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WFFT) — Multi-colored turbans filled Promenade Park Sunday afternoon on the heads of Sikh men like Jesse J Singh, and anyone else who wanted to learn more about Fort Wayne’s Sikh community during the First Annual Sikh Turban Fest.
"The whole motivation behind this is to tell our friends, to tell our fellow Americans, ‘Hey, we are your friend. We are not stranger. We are not aliens. We are here for years and years, and we serve every field in America,'" Jesse said.
The Indiana Sikh Outreach Mission brought over 100 people to Promenade Park offering food, martial arts demonstrations and free turban wraps.
"We are tying turbans here today to just make the people aware, ‘What does this mean?’ and who we are," said Sikh Fort Wayne resident Krishen Singh.
Singh says the Sikh faith calls on him to never cut his hair and to keep his head covered, but he says his turban is sometimes met with ignorance.
"We are everywhere. Sikhs are doctors. Sikhs are engineers. Sikhs are gas station owners. Sikhs are other businesses. Sikhs are at jobs, and sometimes we still face discrimination from I think people who are not well-educated and do not know who we are," Krishen said.
So the Indiana Sikh Outreach Mission hopes to reach as many people as possible.
And Sunday afternoon, they even reached the mayor.
"This particular group, this particular religion is a very loving community, and they’re very proud of their faith," Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry said. "And they want to let everyone know in Fort Wayne that they’re very proud to be here."
And for Jesse, that pride is especially poignant ahead of Memorial Day.
"We are thankful to the men and women who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom, the life today that we are living in America," Jesse said. "Everybody is living their American Dream. That is because of them."
The Indiana Sikh Outreach Mission formed during the pandemic to help those in need.
They have been working with food banks and homeless shelters across the city.
Sikhism is the fifth largest religion in the world, and Jesse says the United States has had a Sikh community for roughly 125 years.