Maritime Bhangra's 'joyful activism' thinks globally, and acts locally
It's been five years since a small group of Sikh students at Dalhousie University started dancing because they missed home.
But something magical happened when they started sharing videos of their dances online. It spawned a movement they call joyful activism, which helps local causes such as Feed Nova Scotia.
"The idea of joyful activism was something that came from us trying to understand this new world we became a part of after we opted to come here and study," says Hasmeet Singh Chandok, a co-founder of Maritime Bhangra. "In general, as we looked around the world at the state of activism, it was very angry."
Chandok says food security is a cause the group has taken an interest in.
"I think it's very important for all of us to understand that food is something we all need irrespective of where we come from," he said.
Nova Scotia has the highest rate of food insecurity in Canada -- one-in-six households are food insecure -- which is why it is some important for them, and others, to take action.
"I always feel it's going to be a partnership between the society and the government," Chandok says. "The charities and non-profits, so we are just trying to play a small role."
Chandok says the group is grateful to people around the world, but especially to people in Nova Scotia.
"(They) have given us so much love and now people around the world are watching what we are doing," he said. "We are creating a dance project where we are mixing the dance of Bhangra dance the one we do with the dances here in ns with the different communities for example Highland dancing and Irish dancing to get the message of uniformity and universal love."
Some of them have already been recorded and they will be released in the next few weeks, Chandok says.
"I think the whole purpose of creating those videos is to show the kid in the class that feels like he or she is different and may not be able to find friends so easily, I think they will be able to find friends in that classroom," said.
He encouraged others to take up "joyful activism."
"If you see anything in your community that needs to be changed, take the smallest action possible and eventually people will come together with you, and I think we could solve any problem in our community if we can get people together and then get the conversation started with decision makers and policy makers," Chandok says.
Maritime Bhangra continues to build bridges and they have a lot going on. On top of their continued work for Feed Nova Scotia and food banks across Canada.
Their story is the focus of a documentary called Behind the Bhangra Boys and a clip from it was used in the opening of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, which Chandok says was a dream come true.