IMPORTANT MEETING ABOUT AKAL AND ICE
On Sept. 27, 2018, I was invited to give a presentation about the petition at the Khalsa Council conference in Espanola, NM. The Khalsa Council meets twice a year as an international body of ministers established to provide leadership and inspiration for Sikh Dharma and for the global communities.
The theme of this particular conference was Global Reach and Inclusion covering many topics. The segment pertaining to Akal and ICE was scheduled to last an hour but stretched to 2.5 hours. There were five executive officers of Akal Security in attendance who were given 10 minutes to describe the company's role. Then I was allotted 10 minutes to educate those in attendance about the petition and its purpose. Satwant Singh, the executive director of the SSSCorp board, then spoke for 5 minutes about how the board has been handling the issue thus far. After that, the floor was opened up for comments from the audience. If we wished, after a comment both Akal and I each had one minute to clarify.
There were many people attending who expressed support for the work of Akal Security and dismissed any need for change. Most of these speakers had been present when Yogi Bhajan founded Akal and/or had worked in the company.
There were many people who expressed a wish for more clarity, believed Akal's poor public relations had become a PR disaster, felt a change in business practices may be necessary, and hoped that the Council would be persuaded by the concern among community members outside the U.S. There were some representatives of communities in Central and South America, all of whom expressed confusion regarding how to reply to questions they have received from concerned students there. Prior to this meeting they had reached out for, but not received, guidance from the leadership on what to tell students.
There were a few people present who believed without reservation that Akal should end any and all work with ICE.
One of the Akal representatives made it clear that while he has every confidence in the upstanding nature of Akal's work thus far, the company exists only to serve; if the community decides that the company is no longer serving in the best capacity, then they are available to take guidance from the SSSCorp board regarding any desired changes.
The most commonly agreed upon point was the need for transparency regarding the businesses and the money. Time constraints prohibited discussion of what that would actually mean.
Based on the tone of the discussion, it appears the exponential growth of our international community has outpaced some of the traditions in Espanola. There is a clash between those who passionately insist that Yogi Bhajan would not want things done any differently than how he set them up 40 years ago and those who believe that the growth and shift in our community population warrants the adjustment of some of our attitudes and practices.
I presented four recommendations for how individuals and the community as a whole could proceed to address this issue: one, educate yourself on the changes in ICE and the questions people have about Akal; two, proactively open this discussion to the public, stop hiding; three, publicly engage with people of color in the sangat, listen to their various perspectives without defensiveness, and discourage attempts by others to silence their voices; four, create full transparency of the funding streams for the non-profit entities.
As of this update, I have no further information about action or intended action on the part of the Khalsa Council, Akal Security, or the SSSCorp board. When I have news I will share it here.
https://www.sikhdharma.org/khalsa-counc ... 2018-fall/
Conscious Businesses in Challenging Times – Sharing perspectives
from our Legacy Organizations and Sangat
SS Shanti Kaur
There have been questions and concerns expressed by some members of
our Sangat regarding Akal Security’s work with the Immigration and
Customs Enforcement Service. The intention for putting this topic on
the Khalsa Council agenda was to clarify the facts, dispel any rumors,
and to have an open discussion on the various perspectives. Members of
the Akal Security management were invited to speak, and Fatehbir Kaur,
a Sangat member from Los Angeles, who has drawn up an on-line petition
to end Akal’s relationship with ICE, was also asked to speak.
An open discussion followed with members sharing their perspectives
which had the following outcomes:
the Khalsa Council affirmed our values of transparency and
communication, as is appropriate, for our legacy organizations.
the Khalsa Council requested the Office of Public Affairs and Akal
Security to draft an informative statement that can be shared with our
Sangat and others as is needed.
The Khalsa Council requested the Office of Public Affairs to prepare a
proposal to add a Public Relations arm to their office within the next
few months, so we can be more responsive when issues like this come