RobertPrice
TBC

I went looking for Stonecreek Park's legendary creek Tuesday. Evidently the meandering little waterway has some admirers. 

I must have taken a wrong turn because all I found were five older, long-bearded gentlemen sitting around an aluminum picnic table. No creek. Not even much stone.

If this part of south Bakersfield does not quite qualify as a Sikh enclave, it has to be close. Officials at the Panama-Buena Vista and Greenfield school districts, two of the three K-8 districts that serve the area, list Punjabi, the primary language of the Sikh people, as the third most-often spoken language in students' homes, behind only English and Spanish. Third and closing, demographers might note.

Greater Bakersfield has an estimated 35,000 Sikhs. Where were they all Tuesday?

"Come back at 3 or 4," said Gurdial Singh, the only nonbearded Sikh at the picnic table. "That's when too many people are here. Talking, playing cards, walking for exercise. Forty people. Fifty."

Among them, he said, will be local Sikh leaders who would like the City of Bakersfield to acknowledge their culture and contribution by renaming Stonecreek Park for a hero of the Sikh people, Jaswant Singh Khalra. The late human rights activist is considered the Martin Luther King Jr. of the Sikh community.

Not everyone is impressed.

Wait for the next park to come along, some say, even though the dozen Sikh boys I saw playing basketball in Stonecreek Park Tuesday might have long gray beards themselves by the time that happens.

Name the park after an American Sikh, some say, not an Punjabi Indian Sikh like Khalra, who in 1995, at age 42, was murdered by Punjabi police for exposing other color-of-authority murders. Who among us will choose that individual? I'm inclined to leave it up to a local Sikh, and they have spoken.

Preserve the name Stonecreek, others say, because it's familiar and matches the name of the housing subdivision that surrounds it. Perhaps those traditionalists — if that term applies here — have an affection for other contrived names conjured up by homebuilders' marketing departments as well. You know, Silver Creek (no silver, no creek), Polo Grounds (not much polo to speak of), Seven Oaks (but mostly other kinds of trees).

Renaming Stonecreek Park would be a small gesture of acknowledgement to a local ethnic community that is both underappreciated and misunderstood.

Misunderstood is an understatement. Remember the knucklehead who in 2016 pitched his beer on a Bakersfield Sikh, because, as the assailant allegedly told Balmeet Singh, he "was a threat to the country I grew up in”? The attacker apparently mistook Balmeet for a Muslim, thereby slandering two cultures at once.

I say underappreciated because local Sikhs as a group not only give generously to the city that has for the most part welcomed them, they are law-abiding citizens.

Former Kern County District Attorney Ed Jagels put it this way a few years ago: "There's virtually no crime in the Sikh community. Please bring us more Sikhs."

Former Bakersfield Mayor Harvey Hall also spoke highly of the Sikh people.

Councilman Chris Parlier, whose ward includes the park, told The Californian last week that the change wouldn't be as simple as switching a name. He mentioned public safety considerations. I assume he means Bakersfield Police would have to remember where they're going if they're ever called to the park. I have confidence they can handle it.

And yes, a new sign will cost some money.

Those near-insurmountable obstacles aside, the proposal is completely reasonable and highly appropriate.

Sikhs, predominantly from the Punjab region of India, have managed to both honor the cultural traditions of their homeland and integrate into the economic and civic fabric of their adopted home. By all accounts, they are models of respectful civility.

We in Bakersfield should be able to distinguish the practitioners of various southwest Asian religions better than most: One of Bakersfield's sister cities is Amritsar, India, a city of about 2 million people that is home to the Golden Temple, the holiest site in the Sikh religion.

Sikhs are part of this city. Let's tell them so.

The Jakara Movement, the organization heading up the effort to change Stonecreek Park's name, will hold a town hall meeting at the park at 6 p.m. Wednesday. 

Contact The Californian’s Robert Price at 661-395-7399, rprice@bakersfield.com or on Twitter: @stubblebuzz. His column appears on Sundays, Wednesdays and Saturdays; the views expressed are his own.

(29) comments

inghnd59

Yes, people called the Stonecreek residents ignorant at the City council meeting. But how ignorant are they to compare MLK park name to this name change? Most Americans during the Crow era can tell you lots of horror stories. There are parts in my husbands hometown that he detests to go in today!!!And he has stories taht might also help you to understand why MLK park was named after him in a predominantly black community.

yorkies2014

Stonecreek has a nice ring 2 it..... but Vote any Shade of Blue in 2018 & 2020 and remember.... Impeach the nut in the "BigHouse"....the Dude needs 2 Go

Victor

Being the resident of Bakersfield for generations, I grew up with many Sikh Punjabi friends. They are very helpful and very family oriented people. Sister city of Amratsar welcomes the initiative of renaming the park to Mr. Khalra who like many American panjabis tried to help others and sadly he lost his life by doing so. Khalra deserves such respect for upholding justice and truth like we support ours in a truly democratic society.

Coolbeamer

[smile]. The name change will not be easy. The park already has a name Stonecreek! Make another park and give it an Indian name based on an American worthy of the selection. Does anyone have the link for the petition to keep the name Stonecreek?

KyleFe

[thumbup]With all the racial tension we see in this country this is great that our country is now returning to a diverse normality it was before 2016. Hopefully this park will inspire others to see us all as American, because we all seek liberty and freedom. I can’t say much about the past history of people we all have skeletons in our closets, but it doesn’t mean we have to be ignorant about the ones who are around us today making our communities and country prosprous. [spam]

GaryJohns

I'm sure there must be a "Dolores Singh" Foundation out there somewhere that can get some boundary lines redrawn so the renaming can happen.....

Churchillis1

I would suggest putting this up to a vote. Bob Price's opinion would be one vote. Others can make their decisions and vote accordingly. NOBODY gets to bully their way into forcing the rest of us into complying with their wishes at the risk of being called racist or nativist or some other garbage "ist."

Bodak Hello

The author clearly hasn't done his research into Sikh militant terrorism. Legal Sikh immigrants to Canada blew up jetliners & assassinated diplomats. Sikhs in India assassinated the Prime Minister, unleashing massive violence. Based on the ancient hatreds between Sikhs & Hindus it is clear that this park would be a "no go zone" for Hindus. We don't want the Northern Ireland Troubles imported to Bakersfield. The park name will remain unchanged.

MikeD

I’ve done tons of research on this topic... but a simple Google Search can show you all the atrocities India has committed against its own people. Christians need to unite and expose these Hindu terrorists. There are hundreds of articles regarding Christian persecution. DO YOUR RESEARCH. They doing the same against Sikhs... killed of a whole generation of Sikhs ... hundreds of Thousands of males and raped their females.. pretty crazy stuff.

Bodak Hello

Too funny. Now this Sikh militant in Bakersfield is trying to gin up hatred against the Hindus in India b/c they persecute Christians in India. See how they roll? It's just a Gordian knot of ancient hatreds, massacres & rivalries. We want no part of it in clean, sunny, peaceful California. Thanks for playing. The park name shall remain unchanged.

Thirtysomething

The truth is somewhere in the middle. Sikh militants killed innocent Hindus and non-observant Sikhs and the Indian police killed militants or anyone they suspected of being a militant. Both sides killed many innocents. Jaswant Khalra was a good man who did good work exposing Indian state atrocities, but the local group wants to use his name to advance a political cause in another country.

As a Sikh-American who rejects extremism, I suggest we use the name of Kartar Singh Saraba. He was a Sikh that the community can be proud of, has roots in the U.S. (he attended UC Berkeley), and was involved with the Gadar movement to gain Indias independence from Britian. He's a great hero that will bring the community together rather than divide us.

MikeD

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www1.cbn.com/cbnnews/cwn/2018/january/persecution-is-rising-in-india-but-christianity-standing-strong%3famp

Bodak Hello

So to understand why we should name our park in America after your dead freedom fighter in India, we must watch videos of massacres & savagery? I don't know whether to laugh or cry. Leave all that 3rd World hatred & ethnic cleansing at home. We don't want any part of it in America. Good men & women have fought in uniform for this country precisely so we DON'T have those problems!

KyleFe

Lol, dude have you been in coma for last year? Turn on the news we are about to become a 3rd world country. Has nothing to do with other people we choose the politicians in this case the “real America” 50% of the country. Not sure what your problem is with Sikhs but sure seems they made you mad at one time that you went to the extent of throughly researching them. One of there guys take off with your girl or something? Lol

MikeD

Perhaps you guys should also point out what the Indian Govt run by Terrorist prime minister Narendra Modi is has done and still doing to Christians in India. Hindu terrorist Organization the RSS burning churches and slaughtering Christians. This RSS Organization runs the government.
https://www.google.com/amp/www.foxnews.com/world/2018/02/01/pastors-grisly-death-spotlights-persecution-christians-in-india.amp.html

Bodak Hello

Thank you, Sikh supporter- you just made our point! Your whole worldview is nothing but racial hatred, revenge, killings, massacres. That's not American stuff. We want no part of the ethnic violence you bring in your minds to the USA. (And certainly nothing to name a park over, for heaven's sake.) Apologize now for wasting our time- your community looks foolish!

REMUDA

Ah, Mr. Price, " . . . behind only English (US Standard) and Spanish . . ."? Aren't all these great Sikh families (and Latino/Hispanics) American Citizens? Have you been looking for a local Sikh-American (or is it American-Sikh?) hero in Bakersfield that would be a worthy candidate to celebrate with a local landmark name (of original creation . . . say a street or building/center)?

Wouldn't that be more appropriate to the "Sikh Community" rather than a change to a long-existing (navigation) landmark name that bespeaks our neighborhood (subdivision) topography? Even the Kern River is hard to find (often only a dry off-road vehicle track) running through Bakersfield. No one has ever suggested renaming it, say appropriately, to "Rio McCarthy".

How did a brand-new airport (Bill Thomas Int'l/Meadows Field) get its name? Did it come up on a list of those sites needing to be renamed because of diminishing popularity or utility? BTW, Bill was not an "immigrant". Who was 'Meadows'? The Stonecreek Park (creek or not) exists as a "benchmark/cornerstone" and was there long before any ethnic enclave neighborhood came into being, 'celebrated' as crime-free or not. Does the word "assimilation" mean anything these days?

What else is that area 'famous for' ? Perhaps, Bob, there's an underlying feature to this 'international identity' that has yet to be disclosed. Or is raising controversy the "Name Of 'The Game' " . . . hmmmmm?

Bodak Hello

Good point! Why not rename the Kern River after a militant leader in a faraway conflict. This whole issue is a joke- somebody owes Bakersfield and apology.

Bodak Hello

Sikh militants bombed & assassinated to establish their homeland of "Khalistan" (and even allied with the Afghan Mujihadeen in the 1970's. These expat Sikhs are using our stupidity to legitimize their conflict back home. We are being played for political pawns. All because somebody said "Martin Luther King" so it must be OK. How naïve we are.

inghnd59

I so agree with you I am an Immigrant and I am not trying to get integrated by having something,anything named after someone that did some or a lot of good in my home country. It may just be a park to you mr. price without silver or a creek but it is HOME to us, we identify with it as home and since I am far from home I like it to stay STONECREEK PARK>>>

byebyeCA

As usual Robert Price's 2 cents isn't worth 1 cent.

GaryJohns

Amen...!

mrdwm1

Either take a vote of all who live in Stonecreek, or consider rather a monument, aka the Cancer Survivors in Beach park.

Bodak Hello

The difference between Sikh militant terrorism in 1985 and Muslim militant terrorism on 9/11 is that the Sikh group bombed two airliners in one day & the Muslim group bombed 4 airliners in one day. Oh, and the Sikh bombers were legal immigrants.

inghnd59

YUP

Bodak Hello

Suprised the author would repeat a Sikh-Martin Luther King comparison without doing more research.
It's true that Sikhs are not Muslims. And the majority of Sikhs are peaceful.
But Sikh extremists (who were also immigrants to Canada) have blown up a few jetliners:
Air India Flight 182 from Toronto to London in 1985, killing all 329 passengers (268 Canadians, 27 Brits, 2 Indians)
Narita Airport Bombing- Japan- miraculously the bomb detonated early & only 2 baggage handlers were killed
In 1984, Sikh militants killed the Prime Minister of India (her own bodyguards, no less) touching off violence that killed tens of thousands
You can also Google Operation Blue Star, the Golden Temple Seige, and Khalistan to get an idea of the politics involved.
Do we really want to insert Bakersfield into a faraway conflict?
Are there no American heroes to name the park after?

CTurk3

How about naming it after Satwant Singh and Beant Singh, the bodyguards of Indira Gandhi, who assassinated her? That makes about as much sense.

Bodak Hello

Good point CTurk3. Americans must be very naïve if someone can say "Martin Luther King" and we just nod approvingly. There are a lot of politics involved here (the establishment of a Sikh state in India called Khalistan) and an ugly trail of terrorism in the 1980's. Do your research!

KyleFe

Finally got a chance to review all of the comments. Interestingly you say “Americans must be naive” so you are here commenting as a American or other? Apparently from your rant above you showed yourself as American but at the same time isolate yourself. Apparently you seem to have misunderstood that Sikhs a people are as American as any other group of religious people living in these boarders over 100yrs. Ever heard of “Russian river” doesn’t sound very American does it? It’s here and named from a Russian-American company. America accepts those who are strong and productive and this community has proven both. Gone through a genocide by the Indian state twice once i believe when the British left and then in the 80s by he Indian gov. Then they still come to our country or maybe I should say my :). And make strides in politics, and economy and academics. If this isn’t a model community to look up to that makes America great I don’t know what else we are looking for. If they want a park named after a human rights activists then so be it. Heck we got people putting up statues of ghandhi what difference is this going to make?

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.