Community organizer for Jakara Movement
Manpreet Kaur was born, raised and formed in Bakersfield and she is proud of it.
So much so that her friends would tease her for going back home so much despite living and attending school in San Diego. She also found herself defending her hometown against classmates who came from LA and the Bay Area.
To her, there’s no real comfort like being in Bakersfield.
“It’s a place that made me who I am,” she said.
A political science and ethnic studies major at UC San Diego, Manpreet learned about Dolores Huerta, Cesar Chavez and the plight of Delano farmworkers – history she’d never heard before – despite growing up in Kern County. While it angered her to learn about it away from home, it also reinforced her love for the community she grew up in, prompting her to serve it when she returned.
In 2016, she started the Greater Bakersfield chapter of the Jakara Movement, a grassroots community-building organization shaping the next generation of leadership by engaging Sikh communities, building strong families and healthy individuals, and inspiring youths, providing a voice for a community within a community.
“Punjabi is actually the third-most-spoken language in Bakersfield and also in Kern County,” Manpreet said. “That’s actually true across the Central Valley and that’s a little known fact because there’s been this language discrimination that’s happened when the population is so large but it’s been systematically largely ignored. We don’t find basic service needs met.
“We’re really trying to make these communities that have lived here feel more part of the fabric of the community.”
Manpreet is often the youngest person in the room, whether it be on commissions, panels or the gurdwara, a place of worship for Sikhs, but she doesn’t let her age hinder her desire to affect change in her community – to pull a seat up to the table or create the table itself if it doesn’t already exist.
“I might have to be the first and I might have to be the youngest, but that will make room for someone even younger to come next and to come after me,” she said.