by We Are Sikhs — January 28, 2020
"My goal as a storyteller is to shed light on the often misunderstood and misrepresented Sikh community. The only way to stand united as Americans is to educate each other about our differences and let that knowledge be the bridge in breaking the barriers that divide us."
Sundeep Morrison is a Punjabi Sikh writer, actress, director, author, and activist. She is a graduate of the American Musical and Dramatic Academy NY and her work focuses on social justice, cultural friction, inter-ethnic family dynamics, and feminism. She is well known for her role in 'Raghead' where she explores Sikhs in America while portraying seven characters.
Can you share your background and what led you into the creative arts?
I was born and raised in a Punjabi Sikh Family in Calgary Alberta. My Biji, (my maternal grandmother) had the biggest impact on me as a child. I spent most of my time listening to her stories. She instilled a love for my roots which heavily influence my storytelling.
How does your identity as a Punjabi Sikh influence your art?
Being part of the South Asian diaspora, my writing reflects the pain and beauty of my experiences. My relationship to Sikhi has been an evolution, in many ways I have much to unlearn and learn but rely on the core teachings that have fostered my growth personally and professionally.
Tell us about RAG HEAD. What inspired you to write it and why is it important for you to share this story with white audiences and non-Sikhs?
On the morning of the Oak Creek shooting, my parents who live in Wisconsin were attending Gurdwara, as my mom does Kirtan. I was at home in LA when I received a frantic call from my younger brother in Wisconsin telling me that a shooting had taken place. I couldn’t get a hold of my parents and anticipated the worst. After an agonizing hour, my mom called to tell me that they were okay. There are only three places of Sikh worship in Wisconsin, and my parents had gone to a different Gurdwara that Sunday. I couldn’t help but wonder what would’ve happened to my parents if they were present. Following the tragedy, I found myself in a state of depression and constant worry over my parents. In our current social and political climate, I still worry about their well-being. I feel it’s important for white audiences to see this story and hopefully walk away as stronger allies having learned about our often misunderstood and misrepresented community.
What is it like working in the entertainment industry is Los Angeles as an actor, director and writer?
Early on I experienced prejudice and felt like I had no place in the industry. Gradually I learned that I wanted to voice my own stories and those of my community. It’s beautiful to see more South Asian creatives in the industry. I’m grateful for the support I have.
What advice would you give to fellow Punjabi Sikh LGBTQIA artists wanting to pursue the arts?
To my fellow Punjabi Sikh LGBTQIA siblings, I would say be fearless in your existence and your art. Know that your story is important and valid and share it in whatever medium you feel comfortable with. It will not only heal yourself but help others heal too.
What current projects do you have in the works that you would like to share?
I’m currently working on my first feature film project and will be performing RAG HEAD in the US and I look forward to bringing it to Canada in 2020.