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500 plus turn out for peace walk at Graystone Park

Sahib Singh does not walk alone.

More than 500 of his fellow Manteca residents made that clear Sunday.

They gathered for a peace walk around the Graystone Park. It is where the 71-year-old was savagely attacked 13 days earlier while he was out for his daily morning constitutional.

The four laps — 1,000 steps each time as Bill Barnhardt pointed out — mirrored those that Singh does every morning. But this time it was just more than one man walking. It was Manteca exercising its heart.

Among them was Valarie Ford.

Her family moved to Manteca from Chicago in 1999 not knowing what to expect.

What she found out was that “The Family City” was more than just a hollow slogan Manteca had adopted.

“People actually waved,” Ford said.

The attack on Singh — that has led many to believe it had the overtures of a hate crime based on surveillance video that caught the vicious act of a young man kicking and spitting on a frail grandfather dressed in traditional Sikh garb — prompted Ford and others to make it clear what they saw as an aberration must not stand.

The Manteca they want to keep strengthening is the one that Ford described.

“I see a rainbow gathered here,” said of the crowd that took 90 minutes from their weekend to brave 95 degree heat not to raise their voices in anger but to emphasis the good while making it clear that the community is worth standing up for against ill forces whether they are rooted in hate or are spawned from evil.

“My sons don’t care what color their friends are,” Ford said. “What they care about is whether they can play basketball.”

Ford — a member of the committee that organized Sunday’s walk — appealed to the gathering not to let fear and anger guide them “and start yammering on Facebook.” Instead she challenged them to be part of the solution.

As for the attack it was horrific but as Ford noted that’s simply being “Captain Obvious.”

With that she asked people as they walked around the park to talk with each other — especially those they don’t know.
And if they have difficulty understanding English, Ford noted “everyone knows what a handshake means.”

As the crowd led by Sahib Singh and his family and joined by city and county officials started the first lap dedicated to peace, the music of soul great Aretha Franklin’s anthem “Respect” drowned out the video images of Aug. 6 ingrained on the minds of many.

Evil, as they say, triumphs only when good people do nothing.

And make no mistake about. The 500 plus walking around Greystone Park did indeed do something. They sent a clear message that Manteca is about what the four laps Sunday symbolized — peace, love, respect, and unity.

Manteca Councilman Gary Singh — not related to Sahib Singh — did not gloss over the bad that happens. But he did point out “that’s not Manteca”.

Sunday made that clear. On a scale of 1 to 500, those who opt to cater to dark hearts and dark thoughts are outnumbered.

Good and evil have struggled since the dawn of time. Sunday’s gathering was a reminder that the tide of good working in unison over time can wear the hardest rock thrown in anger down to mere grains of sand.

And let’s be clear about what Manteca is.

It is what you saw Sunday at Greystone Park. It is a quilt of races, creeds, and colors that are held together by four of the strongest threads ever known — peace, love, respect, and unity.

When evil takes a stab at tearing Manteca’s fabric apart, the response should never be anger. Instead it should be a concerted effort to work even harder to use those four threads to sew an even stronger community fabric.

Hate is not prevailing because people like those Sunday — whether they could walk on their own two feet, needed a walker, or made the four laps in a motorized wheelchair — won’t let it.

There were no words of anger directed at the suspects arrested for the crime.

The word “Sikh” was only mentioned once underscoring that who was attacked was a fellow Manteca resident and a fellow human being.

The fact Sikhs — many that are third and fourth generation Californians — did not dominate the gathering should make it clear an unprovoked attack on anyone going about their daily business in Manteca is an attack on us all.

 In the words of the music of Sisters Sledge whose 1979 hit started the fourth and final lap, “we are family.”


To contact Dennis Wyatt, email