Fifteen years ago today…

  |September 15, 2016

Fifteen years ago, Balbir Singh Sodhi was killed — the first victim of a hate crime in the aftermath of 9/11.

Today we will be joining his family at the site of his death, a Second Ground Zero.

Watch DIVIDED WE FALL to learn his story and sign up to share the film in your classroom or community as part of a nationwide dialogue this election season. We have 80 events so far — get us to 100!

This is a week of profound grief — and revolutionary love.

Fifteen years ago today, my family friend and uncle Balbir Singh Sodhi was shot and killed as the first person murdered in a hate crime after 9/11. The site of his death in Phoenix, Arizona is a Second Ground Zero — a place to honor the thousands of people who have been harmed or killed by hate since 9/15.

This Sunday on 9/11, I spent the morning at Ground Zero with my friend Kerri Kelly. Her stepfather was fireman Lt. Joe Leavey who was killed rushing up flights of stairs to save people on 9/11. We ran our hands over his engraved name at the memorial pool and listened to a recording of his voice recovered in the rubble. His last words were “I’ll be right up.” I held her hand and wept.

Kerri is tired of people killing in her father’s name. And so today, we’re joining the Sodhi family in Phoenix to reclaim the hate of 9/11 and 9/15 for revolutionary love. It begins with our stories — here’s how you can join us:

1. Watch DIVIDED WE FALL for FREE today — a film that tells Balbir Sodhi’s story, then sign up to show the film in your classroom, campus, or community — anytime between now and Election Day. You will be joining 80 sites across America in a nationwide dialogue on revolutionary love!

2. TODAY at 6:30pm PT, tune in to Facebook where Kerri and I will be broadcasting live with Rana Sodhi and his family. You can also jump on Twitter with us from noon-2pm PT / 3pm-5pm ET to honor Balbir Sodhi and all who have been killed in hate since 9/11. Use the hashtag #Remember9/15.

3. Get your ticket for the Together Tour. Next month, Kerri and I are taking our message on the road to 6 cities across the U.S. to inspire storytelling, healing, and social action on the eve of the election.I’ll be sharing the stage with women visionaries Glennon Doyle Melton, Seane Corn, and Rev. Jacqui Lewis; Kerri is organizing the tour behind-the-scenes. We are coming to Portland, Los Angeles, Chicago, New York City, Atlanta, and Denver.

This election season, too many have been emboldened to act on their hate.

After Balbir Singh Sodhi was killed, his family hung a single handmade sign over the doorway of his gas station: EVIL TRIUMPHS WHEN GOOD PEOPLE DO NOTHING.

Today, in the memory of Lt. Joe Leavey, Balbir Sodhi, and all we have lost in the last 15 years, let us embolden one another to act with courage, love, and relentless optimism.


Valarie + the Fellows of the Revolutionary Love Project

P.S. For a dose of inspiration: You can read Balbir’s brother Rana Sodhi’s beautiful essay in CNN today: “Love: The best tool for combatting hate.” You can also hear me tell this story on PRI’s The World: “In an era of ‘enormous rage,’ I’m still finding love in America.” And listen to Kerri and I tell our story here –broadcasting on Facebook Live from Ground Zero AND in the pulpit of Middle Church in NYC on the 9/11 anniversary on Sunday.


DIVIDED WE FALL tells the heart-wrenching story of Balbir Singh Sodhi and hundreds of others in the aftermath of 9/11. It shows how communities responded to devastating hate with #revolutionarylove.

We thought the film would capture a chapter in US history, a brief explosion of hate toward Muslim and Sikh Americans. But fifteen years later, hate and mass violence are once again part of our daily lives. In this crucial election year, our communities are five times more likely to be targets of hate crimes than we were before 9/11.

Since 2008, DIVIDED WE FALL has inspired brave new dialogue in classrooms and communities on racism, hate, and healing. Our nation needs this dialogue now more than ever. That’s why the Revolutionary Love Project is teaming with the Sikh Coalition to bring you the film and dialogue tools for free.

There are already 80 screenings and dialogues planned, and with your help we can reach our goal of 100 events across the country before the election. We will provide you with the film as well as a dialogue guide to help your congregation, classroom, family and friends join a coast-to-coast discussion on #revolutionarylove.

You can watch the film and SIGN UP here and we will send you everything you need.