Valarie Kaur`is an award-winning filmmaker, civil rights advocate, and interfaith leader who centers her work around the power of storytelling.`She is the founder of`Groundswell`at`Auburn Seminary,`a non-profit initiative`with`80,000+ members that equips people of faith to mobilize for social change. For the last decade, she has led national campaigns responding to`hate crimes, racial profiling, immigration detention, and solitary confinement. Valarie is a prolific public speaker and frequent political contributor on MSNBC.
A Sikh American, Valarie was born and raised in Clovis, California, a small town where her family settled as Punjabi farmers a century ago.`She began her journey as an advocate in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, when she chronicled hate crimes against Sikh and Muslim Americans across the country `and produced her first film`Divided We Fall`. She earned bachelors degrees in religion and international relations at Stanford University (`03) where she was selected as Baccalaureate speaker for her class, a masters in theological studies at Harvard Divinity School (`07) as a Harvard Presidential Scholar, and a law degree at Yale Law School (`12) as a Knight Law and Media Scholar.
Following are excerpts from her Baccalaureate speech at Stanford:-
`My family had lived in America for generations, but immediately after 9/11, hate crimes broke out across America against all the people who looked like us ` Sikh, Muslim and Arab Americans were chased, beaten up, gunned down.
A man I knew as an uncle, Balbir Singh Sodhi, was the first to be killed in a hate crime on Sept. 15, 2001. His murder in Arizona barely made the evening news. So what brave thing did I do` I hid in my room for three days. I turned to my bookshelf for comfort: the Bible, the Torah, the Qur'an and the Guru Granth Sahib. What sacred book did I pull down` Harry Potter! At least it was a world where kids battled Death Eaters and took risks when no one else would. I stopped reading and looked at the camera on my bed. I began to imagine filming the chaos unfolding outside my window and the world beyond.
I was overcome with doubt. I was only 20, a woman of color, with no film experience. But my grandfather, my mother's father, urged me to act. Capt. Gurdial Singh was the most fearless person I knew, a soldier on the front lines in World War II, who raised me to believe that the central heart of the Sikh faith was seva, sacred service. He taught me a prayer to protect me: Tati vao na lagi, par brahm sharnai. With this prayer on my lips, I wrote to my professor of religion, Linda Hess. She replied: "You're in a position to enter this unique moment in history ` and catch the life of it. It's like entering the whirlwind."
So I did. I was a single breath entering the whirlwind.
I left Stanford, grabbed my camera, and crisscrossed the country, capturing hundreds of stories of violence. When I returned to campus my senior year and the battle drums grew louder and louder, I was terrified that the Iraq War would lead to more post-9/11 violence at home. So my friends and I began organizing pockets of protest in the San Francisco Bay Area through the spring of 2003. We called ourselves the Pocket. By the time I graduated, I thought we were actually making a difference.`
Following is a clip of Valarie, which can be viewed to get inspired by this young brave lady.