Fear No One, Frighten None
I went to the Salvation Army on Monday (August 6, 2012). I didn’t know whom I was going to meet or what I was going to say.
What is the right thing to say when six people have been slain in their place of worship?
Who are the Sikh people?
Who was the shooter?
Who is the officer that lies in the hospital?
Why did this happen?
I have been all over the world and our country addressing acts of terrorism—violent extremism, racism—seeking answers for other communities and victims. Today was my turn to face them in my own back yard. But I felt so distant and helpless.
A voice inside me was directing me to go there: But I don’t know anyone in that community! Go! Get to know someone! But what will I say? Go! You don’t have to say anything at all! I have nothing to offer! Go! You can offer a hand, an ear, a moment! I feel stupid! Go! Think of the community and those who lost their lives! It’s not my responsibility! Go! You have been called to do this work!
I’m too busy; the grass needs cutting; I haven’t seen my kids; I feel inadequate! Are you done yet?! Okay, I will go. Please guide me in my actions and to the place because I know the general direction but no specifics.
Jeff Winkowski—a modern, urban, everyday person from Chicago, who rides his bikes, roller blades, and skateboards (and wears skully’s), is tatted, and who also happens to be a pastor—met me there with his wife and son. I’d probably be a Christian if I had met someone like him in my young life.
“Jeff, I don’t feel like I belong here. I feel like I am not doing anything,” I said, as we chose a spot right next to three men, who were obviously grieving, on the bench next to us. They and others looked at us with eyes that said, ‘Who are they and what are they doing here?’ A white guy and a Latino man in the midst of another world in which we were foreign.
“Sammy, there is something to be said about just being present,” Jeff said.
I guess, I thought, as I was feeling stupid.
On the way home my niece text-messaged me a dark and mysterious foreboding message. She told me that another of my mom’s brothers was recently sentenced to 26 years for raping his brother’s kids. These were the kids of the man who raped me when I was three. One of the many things I said on the way home from the Salvation Army in Oak Creek, WI, was, “ The victims of shit like this need to come together and use their voice. No more hiding because of what others have done to us.”
My niece sent me a text message about the vigil to be held tonight (August 7, 2012) for the victims of the Sikh community. No more doubt today—I am going. One of my daughters went with me. As I was about to head out the door, I spontaneously ran back inside to grab an extra Life After Hate t-shirt. My daughter said, “Who is that for?” Without hesitation I replied, “ I don’t know yet, but we will know when we find him.”
The place was packed—hundreds of people showed up. I was interviewed by the Sikh Channel within a moment of touching base at the site of the vigil. I spoke about our work at the Summit Against Violent Extremism (S|A|V|E). Amazingly, the reporter had heard of S|A|V|E. I mentioned that the founders of Life After Hate were once like the man that attacked them. He raised his eyebrow in shock. It went back down when I told them they are practitioners of peace and compassion, teaching the world to be kind and forgiving and accepting. I extended an invitation to build a bridge with Arno Michaels and the Life After Hate family.
My daughter and I were separated at the vigil. I could barely make my way close enough to see the stage of speakers. The stories I heard brought simultaneous smiles and tears. The strength and courage and resiliency was very familiar of the many stories I heard since meeting with victims of violence and extremism. Stories like Carie Lemack, whose mom was killed in the 9/11 attacks; or Camilla Carr, who was held in Chechnya by terrorists for 14 months; or Jo Berry, whose father was killed by an IRA bomb; or Amanda Lindhout, who was held by Somalian terrorists for 14 months. All of who took their worst pains and turned them into worldwide efforts to spread peace and a message of healing, forgiveness, and reconciliation—some who work with the very same men who caused them harm, and some who go back into the communities that harmed them. They Fear No One and Frighten None.
I made a few contacts but felt like I wasn’t any closer to establishing a tangible, viable bridge into the community. I walked around looking for my 17 year old to no avail. As the vigil ended and still no sign of my daughter, I continued to take random pictures and carried the candle that Camilla brought me from London. I spotted my daughter. She started telling me how she met so many people and was telling them about me and the work I do.
“Oh, I met the son of the temple leader who was killed. I gave him the Life After Hate t-shirt. I felt he was the one.” Wow! She took me to him. I watched him as he finished up his interview. He looked peaceful and strong. And he had our shirt laying over his shoulder.
When he spotted me sitting there patiently he came to me and said, “I got the shirt. Your daughter told me all about you. I am interested in sitting down with you.”
I had also brought some items I use when I pray. I gave him some tobacco and explained how it was a gesture of respect and prayer. I said, “After listening to you today, I would like to pray with you in both our ways soon one day.” “Definitely,” said Amardeep Kaleka, son of the man who raised the temple and lead his people up in his community. His father had died saving the lives of his followers.
Leaving there, I had a thought about a solution. I recently posted on YouTube (after I heard about the attacks on the Sikh Temple and its people) encouraging others to take an intelligent stance against acts of terrorism—not emotional, impulsive ones. I know there is the right and the left. Some who are on the border will use these events to push them to one side or the other of the issue. Some will justify not budging from their long-held, but poorly defined beliefs. Even worse, some will feel as if it’s not their battle or as my friend Tahir Malik, who suffered a horrible loss due to an act of terrorism—on October 05, 2009 his wife Gul Rukh Tahir was the first casualty when a suicide bomber blew himself up in the Country Office of the United Nations World Food Program, in Islamabad, Pakistan—said during the S|A|V|E event, “Some people will just turn the channel and do absolutely nothing.” My good friend James Shatzman mentioned a quote to me today. James is the Director of the Racine Community Re-entry program who welcomes and supports men and women back from incarceration in an effort to help them never offend again. He said, “Comfort the afflicted, and afflict the comfortable.”
With all the different minds that come out to offer a suggestion I am reminded that Camilla Carr said, “We cannot adopt the values of those that persecute us.” To take it a step further; defeat your enemy by making an ally out of him. Countless people around the world, none more right now than by the Sikh community, have modeled this truth. We need to have one mind concerning these issues. Its what happened at S|A|V|E. More than 50 countries, every imaginable faith, language and political stance was there, yet we were all on the same page. One mind.
My idea, however, is as radical as they come, borrowed from the Sikh faith: Fear No One, Frighten None. Kindness is not a weakness, but is not for the faint. Let me explain. A teen I met in Portland this year said to me, “I have been raped four times in my life, but I won’t stop loving people.”
With all the love for my new friends of Sikh faith, we pray for your healing and hope to shuttle you into the world however we can. And to the terrorists in the world, we pray for your healing and hope to shuttle you away from the hate you are afflicted with. As a 15 year old survivor of the Norway attacks said to his perpetrator, “You tried to divide us and inspire fear. All you succeeded in doing was bringing us closer together. You lose.” Never lose sight of the humanity in all people, despite their position or action.
My greatest weapon in the face of hate is my voice of love and compassion.
Fear No One, Frighten None.
In loving memory of those who lost their lives at the Sikh Temple in Oak Creek, WI, on August 5, 2012
Sammy Rangel has been the Program Coordinator for the SAFE Streets Outreach Program for ten years. Sammy works with Racine County youth and families who face extreme crisis or danger. Often times these youth are involved in gang, drug, and crime activities that place them in risk for incarceration, addiction or worse. Sammy has reached thousands of youth, families, and professionals across the nation. Many of the youth experience abuse, abandonment, homelessness, and engage in survival behavior such as sex in exchange for food and shelter. Mr. Rangel has created an initiative called “Adopt a School”. The presentations are tailored to the climate and needs of the individual school. Sammy has been able to reach tens of thousands of youth through this effort alone. Most recently he was asked to provide a plenary session to open the second day of the 2010 Gang Summit Conference in Milwaukee to Federal, State, and Local Law Enforcement and service providers. Mr. Rangel provided two six-state regional conferences in 2004 and 2006. In 2004 Sammy provided in Chicago, a six-state regional conference keynote address and workshop for the Region V Training & Technical Assistance Program and again in Milwaukee 2006 provided a six-state regional two day conference as co-main presenter for outreach workers on best practices, crisis intervention, and gang intervention in non/traditional settings. Sammy has been the main presenter in 2008 and 2009 for Why Gangs in Racine. In conjunction with the Milwaukee Lincoln Park Community Center and the Milwaukee Police Academy, at the Annual "Gangs, Violence and Crime" Conference, Sammy has provided ongoing workshops, presenting information on gangs for the beginner and advanced listener. Analysis on the subject included development, physical, and mental organizational concepts that make up a gang, street gangs and street workers, providing relevant facts and data. Sammy also has provided presentations to University of Wisconsin-Parkside and Carthage College in the Criminal Justice field with emphasis on client centered approaches and the importance of self-awareness when choosing fields and providing services. Mr. Rangel is often asked to come in to various juvenile and adult correctional facilities around the state speaking with staff and clients. In 2006 Sammy was asked to present to the Department of Corrections Psychological Staff. In 2004 Sammy graduated with Presidential honors from Gateway Technical College-Racine as the District and College Ambassador representing 450,000 students in Wisconsin. Sammy graduated from Carthage College with a Bachelors of Social Work Degree with a minor in Psychology, Cum Laude, in 2008. On September 13, 2009 Sammy graduated with a Master of Social Work Degree, Summa Cum Laude, with a mental health focus, from Loyola University-Chicago. He was also awarded An Excellence In Service Award by the school at graduation. Most recently October 19, 2009, Ren Svanoe Youth Leadership Award by the Wisconsin Association for Homeless and Runaway Services in recognition of outstanding dedication working with youth and families over the last ten years. In February 2008, Racine Interfaith Coalition recognized Sammy and his wife Denise, for promoting peace in the community. In 2006, Sammy received the Martin Luther King Award from UW-Parkside for his Community Service in Racine. Sammy, in 2005, was awarded the Hispanic Unsung Hero Award from the Martin Luther King Center in Racine for his work in the community. Sammy has been repeatedly asked to speak at multiple Black History Month events including for the NAACP and at the Sturtevant DOC site. Mr. Rangel also worked at the Racine County Jail from 2004 through 2008 as a Clinical Substance Abuse Counselor helping men and women with addictive and criminal lifestyles. In addition to his work with youth he also provides mental health treatment as Racine Psychological Services with patient who are chronically mentally ill and/or dual diagnosed. Sammy is an adjunct teacher for MATC, Gateway Technical College, and for the Department of Transportation. Sammy contributes to the community by sitting on various committees that address race, homelessness, crime, gang activity or drug abuse issues among our youth and adults. Sammy has furthered his credibility by overcoming the grips of addiction, and recovering from a street life of Chicago area gangs, violence and prison. It is worthy of note to mention that Sammy has accomplished all the aforementioned within ten years of being released from the Department of Corrections November 11, 1999, after serving more than 15 ½ years through his juvenile and adult years. Sammy lived out the majority of his preadolescent years as a victim of daily and ongoing childhood physical and sexual abuse. At the age of 11, Sammy set out on his own and lived out the rest of his juvenile life as homeless, throwaway child who very quickly encountered drugs, crime, sex, and violence on the street, just like at home. Eventually, Sammy made a lifestyle of the street life including gangs, crime, drugs, and institutions. Sammy considers his most crucial role in the community as raising a family of four girls and enjoys being married to a wonderful woman, all of whom have actively participated and supported Sammy through his career and education. As his wife so aptly stated… “The scary thing about Sammy is that despite all that he has accomplished in a very short period of time…He’s just getting started.”