Thinking Inside the Box

THE SIKH TEMPLE SHOOTINGS: WAKING IN OAK CREEK Premieres on Channel 10

by Ellis Bromberg, General Manager of MPTV


Hello again, Ellis Bromberg, "Thinking Inside the Box" on mptv.org and MPTV MOBILE.

It was a sunny Sunday morning in Wisconsin, two years ago, August 5, 2012, when the police received emergency calls around 10:25, and responded to a shooting at the Sikh Temple on South Howell Avenue in Oak Creek. A white supremacist, Wade Michael Page, had gone on a shooting spree, using a handgun to kill six worshippers preparing for Sunday services.

On arrival, police engaged Page. He shot and wounded the first responding officer, Lieutenant Brian Murphy, 15 times. Page himself was shot in the stomach, and then he turned the gun and fatally shot himself in the head.

The lives lost that day were those of Suveg Singh Khattra, the oldest at 84; Satwant Singh Kaleka; Ranjit Singh; Sita Singh; Prakash Singh, he was the youngest at age 39; and the only woman, Paramjit Kaur.

That was the breaking story, non-stop, on local TV that day, and the lead story that night on the national news broadcasts. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder described the horrifying incident as "an act of terrorism, an act of hatred," and you could conclude that that was the story: six innocent people gunned down senselessly by a white supremacist, a hate crime in a house of worship on a day of worship.

But the enduring story is how this community came together in and around Oak Creek to respond to the tragedy, and used it to build bridges to a faith group that was not well-known to most of us.

Early this year, we at Milwaukee Public Television became aware of a remarkable film about the shootings that had been made by an independent producer in California, the Working Group. Thanks to a grant from the Department of Justice, they have been documenting hate crimes that have occurred across the country. Sadly, they have had a steady stream of business the past few years.

The shootings in Oak Creek, and particularly the aftermath, set this story apart from others, though. As the producers noted, the crime shattered the lives of the Sikh congregation "but not their resilience." The community discovered "inspiration in the Sikh tradition of forgiveness and faith." In the year following the tragedy, thousands gathered for vigils and community events not only to honor the victims but also to "seek connection." And the producers found that together, a community rocked by hate was "awakened and transformed by the Sikh spirit of relentless optimism."

For those reasons, the film is called WAKING IN OAK CREEK. It actually was not produced for television -- it was intended instead for community screenings -- but we felt so strongly about the quality and power of the production, that we have acquired exclusive broadcast rights to it, and will air it on Channel 10, Monday evening, August 4 at 8 o'clock. If you miss it, it will be repeated several times, and can also be linked to through mptv.org.

The film is paired with a panel discussion hosted by MPTV's Dan Jones that brings the story up-to-date.

And we're also planning to have an online interactive discussion about the film, featuring its executive producer, the evening of the broadcast. More details about that will be available right here on mptv.org.

So please plan to join us on Channel 10, 8 o'clock, August 4 for WAKING IN OAK CREEK.

And I'll be back soon with more "Thinking Inside the Box."