The Surat Initiative is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization focused on education

Speakers

Each year at the Surat Conference, we are joined by thought leaders and visionaries who share their ideas and interact with the hundreds of attendees from across the country. 

See below for some of our past guests

If you know someone who would be a great speaker at the conference, please email us at info@suratinitiative.org

Jagmeet Singh

Member of the Canadian Parliament

Jagmeet Singh is a Canadian Sikh politician who currently serves as a Member for the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. Singh was re-elected in Bramalea-Gore-Malton during the 2014 provincial election. In 2013, Jagmeet presented a bill in the Ontario Legislature, calling for the month of April to be recognized as Sikh Heritage Month, which received royal assent in December.

 

Mr. Singh was listed as one of Toronto Star’s Top 12 people to watch for 2012, named in Queen’s Park Briefing 2013 as one of Ontario’s 75 most powerful people, and featured in Toronto life Magazine’s “Toronto’s 50 Most Influential People.”

Manmeet Kaur

Founder and CEO, City Health Works

Manmeet founded City Health Works in 2012 to create a business case for the integration of local health coaches into the U.S healthcare system. Prior, she was an advisor to the One Million Community Health Worker Campaign and worked on related initiatives in South Africa, India and the United States. The organization has been funded by the Robert Wood Johnson and Robin Hood foundations and has become a leading model for applying innovations from low-resource countries towards the transformation of healthcare services in the U.S.

Manmeet’s work has been featured in NPR, the Daily News, and NEJM. She earned an MBA from Columbia and a BA from Barnard College and was selected as a Third Millennium Human Rights Fellow and a GLG Social Impact Fellow. Manmeet was born and raised in New York and lives in Harlem with her husband and son.

Major (Dr.) Kamaljeet Singh Kalsi

United States Army

Major (Dr.) Kamaljeet Singh Kalsi joined the Army in 2001 as the first turbaned Sikh to serve in the U.S. Army in over a generation. In 2011, Major Kalsi deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom to serve as the Officer in Charge for an ER in one of the bloodiest regions of Afghanistan. Major Kalsi is the recipient of a number of medals and honors including the Bronze Star in recognition for his efforts in Afghanistan. Major Kalsi was most recently honored with a Meritorious Service Medal by the Army citing his leadership and commitment to patient care as he transitioned into the Army Reserves.  

 

Currently he serves as the EMS director to one of New Jersey's largest EMS systems while also working as an emergency room attending physician at St. Clare’s Health System. He has worked closely with the military, The Sikh Coalition, McDermott, Will and Emery, the Becket Fund, and a number of congressional offices to help advocate for religious liberties for all service members.  He currently resides in New Jersey with his wife and two children.

Dr. Naunihal Singh, Ph.D

Political Scientist & Author

Naunihal Singh is an activist and scholar, with a Ph.D. in Political Science from Harvard. When he was in high school, he marched for a nuclear freeze, an end to Apartheid in South Africa, and for human rights in Punjab. He later went on to work in Silicon Valley and for Human Rights Watch and has taught at the University of Notre Dame and at the Air War College. He also was one of the founding members of SALDEF and the South Asian American blog Sepia Mutiny.

 

Naunihal has travelled extensively in Africa and has written a book called "Seizing Power: the strategic logic of military coups." He has also written for a popular audience at the New Yorker online and the Washington Post's Monkey Cage blog. He is best known for his piece "An American Tragedy" about the murder of Sikhs in Wisconsin by a white supremacist terrorist, which went viral at the New Yorker.

Narinder Singh

Entrepreneur & Co-founder of The Sikh Coalition

Narinder Singh is a Co-Founder and member of the Board of Directors of Appirio, a leader in delivering innovation to companies by using the cloud and emerging technologies through a unique crowdsourcing model. Prior to Appirio,
Narinder worked at SAP in the Office of the CEO as a part of the Corporate Strategy Group. Prior to SAP, Narinder managed R&D, sales and marketing activity as vice president and general manager at webMethods. He began his career
with Accenture at its Center for Strategic Technology.


Narinder has been recognized for leadership in the New York Times, named one of San Francisco Business Times 40 under 40, has appeared on CNN, C-Span, and represented Appirio at the World Economic Forumas a Technology Pioneer, and was the first person to testify before Congress while wearing Google Glass. He holds a Bachelor of Science from Northwestern University and an MBA from the Wharton School.

Gurbir Grewal

Attorney General, New Jersey

Attorney General Gurbir Grewal serves as New Jersey’s 61st Attorney General. He is the first Sikh-American Attorney General and one of the highest ranking Sikh government officials in United States history. Previously, Attorney General Grewal served as the Bergen County Prosecutor and as an Assistant United States Attorney in the Criminal Division of the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey.

 

Attorney General Grewal is a graduate of Georgetown University and the College of William & Mary, Marshall-Wythe School of Law.

Preet Kaur Virdi

Assistant Professor of Law and Society at John Jay College

Preet Virdi is an Assistant Professor of Law and Society at John Jay College, City University of New York (CUNY). Preet obtained her PhD in Law in 2017 from the School of Oriental & African Studies (SOAS), University of London in the United Kingdom. Her interdisciplinary research addresses the access to justice needs of ethnic minorities by specifically examining marriage breakdown among Punjabi-Sikhs in Canada. Preet is a Sikh feminist and a sewadar for Manhattan Sikh Association.

Ravi Bhalla

Mayor, Hoboken, New Jersey

Ravi Bhalla was elected Mayor of Hoboken in November, 2017 out of a field of six candidates. Mayor Bhalla’s campaign championed issues he fought for as a two term Councilmember, including balanced development, open space initiatives, flood remediation, sensible spending, and other important topics facing the Hoboken community. Mayor Bhalla took office on January 1, 2018.

A true believer in the American dream, Mayor Bhalla is the first Sikh to hold elected office in New Jersey and is the first directly elected Sikh to become Mayor in the United States.

CPT. Simratpal Singh

Captain, United States Army

Captain Simratpal (Simmer) Singh. Captain Singh is currently serving in the Active US Army as a Commander in the 249th Engineer Battalion at Ft. Belvoir, VA. His military career includes completing the Sniper Leader Course, Air Assault Course, Ranger School and a deployment to Afghanistan where he received the Bronze Star Medal.

 

With the assistance of the Sikh Coalition, Becket Fund, and McDermott Will & Emery, Captain Singh was the first Active Duty Military Sikh to receive a religious accommodation in 2016, which led to a historic policy change in the Army for all Sikhs. Captain Singh continues to advocate for Sikhs and all minority accommodations in the US Armed Forces, and will share his story of navigating and creating institutional change within the US Armed Forces.

Vishavjit Singh

 Cartoonist, Writer, & Artist

Vishavjit Singh is a cartoonist, writer, performance artist and creator of Sikhtoons.com. Additionally, he is currently a Media Fellow at Saldef, the Sikh American Legal Defense & Education Fund. Vishavjit got his spark for cartooning in the post 9/11 tragedy when Americans with turbaned and bearded countenance became targets of hate/bias crimes. Now, he travels around the country hosting talks, storytelling sessions and cartoon workshops.

 

His work and message has been covered by diverse outlets including NY Times, NPR, The Guardian, BBC, The Atlantic Monthly, Huffington Post, Salon and The Teaching Tolerance magazine.

Rupi C. Tut

Artist

Rupy C. Tut is an an artist based in Oakland, California who grew up in Punjab before moving to America. Rupy retains a strong connection to her Punjabi Sikh background and it continues to inspire and guide her journey as an artist and calligrapher. Her work is a blend of two unique traditional art forms: gurmukhi calligraphy and Indian miniature painting.

 

In addition to creating art, Rupy has a passion for researching historical Sikh art and exploring its relevance in current times. She enjoys advocating for creative expression through collaborations and workshops within the community.

Rubin Paul Singh

Consultant & Board Secretary, Sikh Coalition

Rubin Paul Singh has been actively involved with the Sikh community, primarily with Sikh youth, for over 20 years. He regularly facilitates workshops across the country at khalsa schools, camps, retreats, and conferences on a variety of topics including gurmat, Sikh history, and social activism. In addition, Rubin in as an avid writer and spoken-word poet and has contributed to online publications such as SikhChic, The Langar Hall, and most recently on his own blog, "Spirit Of The Sikh."

By training, Rubin is a technologist and works as a consultant in the nonprofit space. He earned his B.S. in Information Systems Management from the University of Maryland Baltimore County and his M.B.A. from the Johns Hopkins University Carey School of Business.

Harleen Kaur

Artist

Harleen, a senior at Barnard College in New York City, is a Sikh artist by passion. Her work, which reflects her Sikh upbringing, consists of images and typography inspired by love for Sikhi, and she hopes to create work that can invoke thought, curiosity and emotion. She works in pencil, ink and acrylic paint in a various array of sizes, ranging from a sketchbook page to full wall murals. Most recently, she is working to combine her art with Sikh activism to break barriers and start conversations surrounding the stigma of mental health in the Sikh community.

Kyle Barden

Former Army Captain, Finance Professional 

Kyle Barden has played leadership roles around the world, including serving as the governor of the Iraqi Municipality of Laylan and as an advisor to high-level Afghan provincial officials. With training at the United States Military Academy at West Point, one of the world's premier leadership institutions, Kyle served as an Army Ranger and captain in the storied 173rd Airborne Bridge, leading teams of 10 to 150 soldiers in high-stakes missions and earning two Bronze Star Medals in the process.

 

Since his time in the Army, Kyle has led a real estate start up, worked in corporate strategy for BlackRock, the world's largest asset manager, and is currently an equity derivatives trader at Credit Suisse. He holds an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management and lives in Manhattan, New York.

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