Jasleen Singh ’17
Jasleen Singh ’17 believes in the power of stories.
So much so that in the summer of 2013, after earning her bachelor’s degree from UC Berkeley, she requested a deferment for her planned first year at Berkeley Law and embarked on a journey to interview more than 150 Sikh people in communities across the United States.
Singh, who grew up in a Sikh household in Southern California, spun the interviews into a stage play called “Sikh Monologues.” The show has been mounted five times in the past three years—in California, New York, and Washington, D.C.
Through 10 first-person stories, the play explores identity, judgment, discrimination, immigration, and domestic violence in Sikh-American communities.
“The concept of people talking for themselves is beautiful to me, and I was tired of media dictating everything my Sikh community stands for, believes in, and looks like,” Singh says. “The media’s pre-packaged ‘Sikh story’ is devoid of nuance and lived experience, so I created a platform to tell our own stories.”
Singh’s parents immigrated to the United States from India in the 1980s and settled in Santa Clarita, California. As a child, Singh attended Punjabi school on Sundays and felt connected to her identity as a Sikh, a faith founded in the 15th century in South Asia.
As an undergrad, Singh explored her interests in law, Sikh-American identity, and theater. She also interned for the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund and participated in a campus production of “The Vagina Monologues.” After her admission to Berkeley Law, she sought to explore these passions and began drafting a plan for her “Sikh Monologues” project.
Although that project kept her busy at Berkeley Law, Singh nevertheless produced a distinguished law school career. She served as a law clerk for both the Equal Justice Society and the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division last year, and she also became involved with Berkeley Law’s Women of Color Collective and the Coalition for Diversity.
Eyeing life after law school, Singh continues to explore ways to merge her interests. “I’ve started thinking about how I can incorporate artistic expression or theater as part of my social justice advocacy,” she says.
After earning her JD, Singh will join the California Attorney General’s Office as an Honors Program attorney.
“I’m glad that I chose law as my path,” she says, “because I think a lot of lawyering is enabling people who are oppressed or marginalized in some way to make sure that their story is heard.”