These images were taken in front of Gurudwara Sis Ganj Sahib in New Delhi. When I stepped off the bus, my surroundings instantly reminded me of the year 1984, the genocide and brutal killings of innocent Sikhs. The buildings and alleys appeared unchanged, as if time had stood completely still. When I turned, I noticed the Indian police officers standing about. I couldn't help but think, “This is exactly what they were doing during 1984. Nothing.” In capturing these images, I tried to imagine the helplessness that so many must have experienced during those dark days in Delhi.

Harjas Kaur is a fourth year student at the University of the Fraser Valley, working towards a Bachelor's Degree in English and Anthropology. She is deeply passionate about social justice and anti-racism work. As a Sikh, she believes it's important to engage in social justice conversations which further our knowledge and uphold Sikh values.

People often say live in the present, but Harjas recognizes the breathtaking power in capturing the emotion of a moment and preserving her surroundings. She took up photography as a hobby a few years ago and her creative skills have only been growing since. The evolution of her creative practice stems from a recent trip to Punjab where she was able to explore, create and capture the beauty of her homeland. Her photography centers Punjab, Punjabi culture and Sikhi and she hopes these themes will always remain central to her work.

Her work can be found on Instagram at @h.k.b.lens.

Read on for an exclusive new song from the accompanying soundtrack to Keep Moving On.

Back in 2012, when I was a bright-eyed young event organizer, I was lucky enough to have Amrit Singh (better known by his emcee name 'Noyz') perform at my first social justice arts event. At the time, I was just beginning my journey as a poet, but Noyz was a seasoned rapper, captivating the audience with his hard-hitting political lyrics, alongside rapper B Magic. Since then, it has been an honour to witness Amrit's creative evolution, as he's moved from the mic to paper.

This month, Amrit releases his highly anticipated autobiographical family memoir, Keep Moving On. In 2017, Amrit Singh experienced the deaths of his grandmother and uncle. Soon after, his mother was diagnosed with a life-threatening illness. "Raised in a family that lacked open communication", Amrit yearned to break down barriers and talk to his dad about experiences he'd never openly shared. What followed were eye-opening and life-changing conversations about his father's immigration story, family secrets and countless life lessons. I sat down with him to discuss the journey.

How did you know you needed to write a family memoir? Was there a single moment when it hit you?

My grandmother and my uncle passed away just a few months apart. My uncle lived in the UK, and local news outlets in his town wrote beautiful articles about his contributions to the community. Those articles made me realize that even though I loved my uncle, there was so much about him that I didn't know. Longing for that feeling of connection and having longstanding questions about the family made me start the project of sitting down with my dad and other relatives to finally uncover and preserve our history.

What were your greatest apprehensions when it came to writing a book?

At first, it was that I wasn't going to be a good writer. I was making a pretty big jump from writing music to writing a book, and the processes for each are so different that I didn't know if I would be able to adjust to the new medium. I also struggled with thoughts of "what right do I have to write a book?" or "what do I have to say that's so important that it needs to be put in a book?" throughout the entire process. Impostor syndrome hit me hard in the early goings (and still does). As I learned more about my dad's story and understood that he travelled through many countries using means that weren't always legal, my fear was that I would be putting him in harm's way by sharing his story publicly. I almost had to scrap the entire project until I spoke with a lawyer who explained to me that there was a very low chance of any legal risk.

The title Keep Moving On was inspired by Noyz's song of the same name, released as part of his 2012 album Degrees of Freedom.

How have you changed as a writer since you began writing this memoir?

I no longer operate from a place of scarcity. Writing a book can be daunting when you're thinking about the end product and how many pages you're trying to complete. In the beginning, each new piece was such a struggle to get done and I felt like I had to keep everything I wrote. The further I got in the process, the more discriminating I could be with my editing. I developed trust within myself that more words would always flow and the story would be strengthened with each revision. In writing an autobiographical family memoir, were there any tough storytelling decisions that you had to make?

As kids, we're often shielded from certain situations and behaviors. When speaking to my dad about how he grew up, I learned about domestic violence involving certain family members that I wasn't previously aware of. I wrestled with how this new information changed my perception of the people who carried out that violence, and whether or not to include those details in the book. In the end, I decided to keep it in because experiencing and being witness to that violence had an impact on how my dad chose to raise me and shield me from having to live through the same abuse. To better understand my father and everything he had been through, I had to acknowledge both the good and the bad that made him who he is.

Very fittingly, you chose to record an accompanying album for the book—and invited me to record a track with you! Can you walk us through the creative process for a unique soundtrack like this? The idea to make a soundtrack was almost like a security blanket for me. I was worried how my audience would respond to me pivoting away from music and writing a book, so the soundtrack was initially made to satisfy the parts of my fanbase who I felt only wanted music from me. The book was new and uncomfortable for me too, so concurrently working on music felt familiar and reassuring. Writing a book is solitary work, so to make the soundtrack special, I decided to reach out to friends who have very different talents than mine to make the music a fun and collaborative process. The soundtrack covers themes that mirror some of the major topics covered in the book like migration, mental health, racism, classism, and intergenerational family dynamics, and it mixes rap with R&B and spoken word. The music was done by Vancouver-based producer EMPWER, and he provided me with some beautiful beats that really pushed me out of my comfort zone as a writer. Who do you hope that Keep Moving On reaches?

I hope this book reaches the children of immigrants and encourages them to explore the richness of their own histories. There is so much that we can gain from spending time with and listening to our elders, and if we don't take the time to learn, we run the risk of losing touch with our roots. I also hope that this book reaches those who have already travelled and settled, and that it helps them see the value of their own experiences to younger generations. My dad didn't think his past meant much, but when he did finally share it, I learned about the ways in which the political intersects with the personal, that leaving home is never an easy choice, and that the connection to what we call "back home" never goes away.

Listen to an exclusive new track from the Keep Moving On album, here:

Amrit Singh is an author, rapper, spoken word artist, and community organizer from Brampton, Ontario. Some of his verses discussing themes of migration, identity, and belonging have been published in the academic journal Sikh Formations, and in the book The Precarious Diasporas of Sikh and Ahmadiyya Generations: Violence, Memory, and Agency. Amrit studied psychology and neuroscience at McMaster University, and went on to complete his Master's in cognitive psychology at York University.

Keep Moving On releases on Nov 30. You can preorder now from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Booktopia and other retailers.

You can preorder the accompanying soundtrack at BandCamp.

New York City, Winter, 1953

The coldest irony, here, is that I’m just as invisible dead as I was in life.

I circle her without touching the ground. Studying her porcelain skin. The way she draws in the tiniest breath before the heavy curtains fall open, before the grand room becomes a roaring echo of applause, before the stage lights illuminate her blond ringlets and the entire theatre goes perfectly still.

There is no tap of my heels upon the stage floor. I stare into her freshwater eyes, yearning for some miniscule recognition, a shiver up her spine at the presence of her once-forever love. But she looks right through me. Beyond me. If I could feel, perhaps there would be a familiar twinge of dejection at the pit of my stomach.

“We love you, Claudette!” someone calls through velveteen darkness. There is a whistle, a cheer and then the cavernous theatre is quiet, once more. Claudette breaks into an incandescent smile, centered and poised with her gloved hands clasped around the mic stand.

Everything about this woman is graceful. I’m the one who’s floating, bodiless, and yet, she is still the more ethereal one. I don’t know that she could ever be a ghost. If death is as biased in her favour as life certainly is, she will cross this veil already crowned an angel. This evening, Claudette is regal, dressed in the opalescent gown I chose for her opening night. She didn’t wear it then. Fitting that she’s wearing it now I’m gone.

I have to admit, she’s a goddess. To know her, to love her, to smell the vanilla-lavender skin of her collarbone and count the constellation of beauty marks on her back, was the greatest thrill of my disappointing existence. I’m not foolish enough to think we were ever a perfect fit, but never in all my twenty-two years did I think I’d find another woman like me. One who didn’t know how to yearn for a man, no matter how hard she tried. We were ill-fitting, yes, but at least God made us in a pair.

She clears her throat, begins to sing, sound slipping through her lips in luscious, lilting waves. She never hits a falsetto, no matter how high the note reaches. A testament to my good teaching, I suppose. I spent the summer of ‘51 training Claudette to fill her lungs and sing straight from the gut. All between cups of honey and ginger tea, boiled and cooled to the perfect temperature, just the way she wanted it. She was a diamond in the rough back then.

“You know, Lalita, you’re my duster,” she had said one night, kissing me on the nose after the last of the stage hands had left and the theatre was finally ours.

“Gee, thanks,” I scoffed. “I’ve never wanted anything more.”

By the collar of my satin blouse, she pulled me closer to her mouth. “I mean, ma chérie, that you’ve cleaned me up. Smoothed all the sharp edges in my voice. We’re going to make it, Lalita, I just know it.”

We?” I eyed her skeptically, pulling away without meaning to.

“Yes, we! You’ve taught me everything I know. How could we not know stardom together?”

“I love you, meri jaan. You know that. But sometimes, youyou

I what?!”

“You don’t see what’s right here in front of you.” I clasped her milky hand in the warm cinnamon of mine and brought it up to a shard of light pouring in from an open window. It was long past midnight, but Broadway never slept.

She stroked the back of my hand, brushing at my skin. Dusting. “It doesn’t matter. A voice is a voice. It’s all they’ll hear. All they’ll see.” So easy for Claudette to say when she could hide her peculiarities neatly behind our bedroom doors. When her moon-pale skin allowed her to stand out in all the right ways. When no one ever told her to go back to France.

She kissed me on the forehead. “And even—even if the producers don’t choose you, Lalita, what’s mine is yours. If Iif one of us—makes it, we both bask in the glory, oui? That house in Nantucket will be ours, Lalita, both of ours.

Something about those freshwater eyes, those coral lips, hooked me around the throat. Made me nod. Want to believe. I couldn’t be blamed for this. God chose her for me.

On the night I unraveled from my body, I was wearing a black circle dress, cinched tight at the waist and filled with a heavy petticoat. I had on an ebony pair of gloves that Claudette desperately needed. She couldn’t find her own so I obliged and offered them to her. It was her big night, after all. The opening for her very own one-woman show. An Evening with the Unforgettable Claudette Durand.

We exited the black car together, but the cameras didn’t notice. Bodies swarmed around Claudette like bees to honey. The flashing bulbs pulsed like electricity in her blue irises. With each “Claudette, over here!” something sizzled a little brighter in her gaze and I was swallowed further into the swarm until it spit me out.

Left behind on the snow-coated street, no one saw a calloused hand grab me across the mouth, pull me into the alleythe one just beside the glowing marquee filled with her name. Not even her.

She only called the police the next morning.

Claudette coughs politely into her black glove. My black glove. “I’d like to, um, dedicate this next song to my good friend, Lalita Rajalingam, who I tragically lost one week ago.” Good friend. Not even dear friend. As though a good friend could ever hold her the way I did. “I wrote this song before sunrise this morning as I remembered her.”

She clears her throat, once again, and begins to hum a sultry acapella tune that is so very familiar. “If only you kneeeeew the water of your eyes the way I doooooo…”

I...wrote that song.

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