Dr. Jasbir Singh Kang (born December 30, 1962) is a medical doctor and a prominent leader and community activist in the Punjabi American community in Yuba City, CA. He co-founded the Punjabi American Heritage Society in 1993 and the Punjabi American Festival in 1995 to foster cross-cultural understanding and connect young Punjabi Americans to their cultural heritage. He and other like-minded individuals created the first permanent museum exhibit documenting the history of Punjabi Americans in the United States. Dr. Kang has dedicated his adult life to championing social, educational and human rights causes of great concern to Punjabi Americans.
Descended from a Sikh farming family in the Punjab, Dr. Kang’s father and uncle led distinguished careers in science and medicine. Dr Kang’s father’s uncle, Dr. Dhian Singh Kang, was one of the first graduates of the Glancy Medical College in Amritsar in 1923 and is likely the first person in the family to pursue higher education. His father, Harcharan Singh Kang (July 4, 1929 – November 17, 2001), was a respected veterinarian and scientist who received postgraduate training in Switzerland. In the wake of the partition of India, Dr Kang’s parents fled the newly-created Pakistan for safety in India in 1947. Like millions of other Sikhs, Muslims, and Hindus, his family made the harrowing journey across the new national boundary that arbitrarily divided their ancestral homeland of the Punjab, traveling by bullock cart and on foot for seven weeks. Overnight, the family’s fortunes were transformed. They left behind their family members, their friends, their land, and their wealth abruptly in the middle of the night. In India, they were political refugees who had to rebuild their lives. Harcharan married Charan Kaur (born August 1, 1929) in the Indian Punjab in 1948. The family adopted Kotla as their new family village near Chandigarh in the Punjab. Tragically, many of his father’s family members who remained in Pakistan, including his uncle Dr. Dhian Singh Kang, were killed in the ensuing communal violence that engulfed the region.
Early Life and Education
Born in Doraha, Ludhiana, Punjab, India, Dr Kang grew up in various towns before settling in Patiala, Punjab. Following his father’s dream, Dr Kang pursued a medical degree in the Government Medical College of Patiala (1980 – 86). Dr Kang was elected Student Body President of his medical school, and later the President of the Junior Doctor’s Association of the State. He also won two gold medals in an All-India University Cycling Competition. In addition, he was Captain of the College Cycling and Chess Teams. His peaceful, secular protest against human rights violations and the massacre of Sikhs in India in 1984 nearly landed him in trouble with the authorities. When he was just 23-years old, the widespread human rights violations in the Punjab after 1984 convinced Dr. Kang that it was necessary for him to leave India for the US in order to build a safe and secure future for himself and his family. He no longer believed it was possible for him to exercise his freedom of speech in his home country. After completing medical school, he married Sukhjit Kaur on February 9, 1986 and made preparations to leave India for the US.
Arrival in the US and Medical Residency
A US citizen, Sukhjit sponsored Dr Kang to emigrate to the US. After arriving in San Francisco to join his wife, Sukhjit, in San Jose on August 6, 1986, Dr Kang prepared for his medical residency. He completed a prestigious residency in internal medicine at the Cook County Hospital in Chicago (1988-1991).
Although he could have established his medical career anywhere in the US, Dr Kang decided to settle in Yuba City in 1991 in order to contribute to the vibrant rural Punjabi American community in the Sacramento Valley. He currently serves as the Medical Director (2009-Present) of the Yuba Sutter Hospitalist Group and the Fremont Rideout Health Hospitalist Program. He has served as the Chief of Staff for the local hospitals (2009). He also maintains a medical practice in Primary Care/Internal Medicine with an emphasis on the management of Type II diabetes.
Community Leadership & Activism
Dr Kang has made it his life’s mission to promote a greater understanding of the Sikh/Punjabi American community in the broader American society. He is extremely active in his writing, public speaking, and media outreach in the Punjabi American community and beyond. Over the last twenty years, he has given presentations at Stanford University, UC Davis, Yuba College, Sacramento State University, and countless churches. In 1993, he co-founded Yuba City’s Punjabi American Heritage Society to promote greater cross-cultural understanding and to install in young Punjabi Americans pride in their heritage. In 1995, he and other community leaders organized the first annual Punjabi American Festival that today attracts thousands of people to the Yuba City area. He and the Punjabi American Heritage Society Museum Committee founded the first permanent museum exhibit documenting the history of Punjabi Americans in the United States as part of the Community Memorial Museum of Sutter County. He helped reform California’s history textbooks and passed a California resolution to include the important historical contributions of the Punjabi Sikh pioneers in the state’s history. A short documentary produced by KVIE, “Meet the Sikhs,” was based on Dr. Kang’s presentation, which was accepted by the California State of Education Board to be used as instructional materials in classrooms across the state due to the efforts of Dr. Onkar Singh Bindra.
A prominent public speaker, he gave important speeches in the days after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, saying, “It doesn’t matter where we come from, it doesn’t matter how we look. This is a time to come together. I have never felt so proud to be an American.” In the wake of the 9/11 attacks and the growing number of hate crimes targeting Sikh Americans, Dr Kang has tried to educate the American public about the Sikh community: “Sikh values are the same as American values; the concepts of justice and equality can be found throughout our holy scripture,” he explains. As a result of his efforts and those of other Punjabi American community leaders, it is remarkable that the Sikh community has been accepted by a conservative rural town without the hate crimes that continue to occur in California and across the US.
He is a prominent figure in the media. For twenty years, Dr Kang and his brother, Jasjit, produced a weekly TV program, Apna Punjab (“Our Punjab”), where newsmakers are interviewed in Punjabi and English. He has served as a consultant on numerous documentaries and newspaper articles as a community spokesman raising awareness about the critical issues facing Sikh Americans. After the September 11 terrorist attacks he was an Executive Producer for the independent film documentary “Mistaken Identity: Discovering Sikhs” (2004) that depicts Sikhs Americans’ heritage and distinctive appearance. He also hosted a weekly “Dr Kang TV Show” on the Global Punjab Dish Network.
Dr Kang has also contributed a great deal to the broader Yuba City community. He has produced educational medical segments on the local television network. He also served on the Great Valley Foundation, Yuba College Foundation, and other non-profit organizations. In the wake of the Hurricane Katrina and 9/11 tragedies, he helped organize community fundraisers to help the victims.
In 2009 and 2010, Dr Kang won the Physician of the Year Award from the Fremont Rideout Foundation. He has also been recognized for community service. He won the Unsung Hero of Northern California Award in 2006 from KVIE/PBS Television Station in Sacramento for promoting cross-cultural understanding after 9/11. The Yuba City newspaper, The Appeal Democrat, also awarded Dr Kang with community service recognition. He was a consultant for the Emmy-Award winning KVIE/PBS documentary, “Sikhs in America.”
He was drawn to America, Dr. Kang says, not only by material success but because Abraham Lincoln and John F Kennedy were his heroes. He has found that the United States exceeded his expectations: “I found justice and fairness. I have found human dignity. I found tolerance and love. I found generosity of spirit, a country that rewards hard work.” He lives with his wife, Sukhjit, in Yuba City where they have raised three children: Simran, Jasdeep, and Jaydeep.
“Meet the Sikhs” Video on KVIE introducing the Sikh Americans of Northern California (Features Dr Kang), https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IIKDA8KHvC0
Global Punjab TV Program on Osteoperosis: https://Osteoporosis.be/C3E8z72itP
“Remembering Those Who Fell,” Appeal Democrat, September 15, 2001
Kang, Jasbir Singh. “Fellow Americans” Post 9/11 Terrorist Attacks Speech, Yuba City, CA, September 2001, http://www.sikhfoundation.org/speech_JSKang.html
“Living Prescription for Compassion,” Appeal Democrat, October 21, 2005.
Kang, JS. “Reduced to Ashes: Insurgency and Human Rights in Punjab: Book Review,” http://www.punjabiheritage.org/2005/12/08/reduced-to-ashes-the-insurgency-and-human-rights-in-punjab-review/
“Kang Wins Top Doctor Honor,” Appeal Democrat, October 23, 2009.
Kang, Jasbir Singh. “Punjabi Migration to the United States: A Story of Great Tenacity,” Sikh Foundation, http://www.sikhfoundation.org/PunjabiMigration_JSKang.html
Kang, Jasbir Singh. “Taking Stock: A View of Sikhs in North America from Yuba City, USA,” Sikh Foundation, http://www.sikhfoundation.org/taking_stock.html
“Punjabi-American Festival to Show Off Culture,” Appeal Democrat, May 27, 2010.
“Dr Bond of Yuba City: Jasbir Kang,” http://newseastwest.com/dr-bond-of-yuba-city-jasbir-kang/
“Yuba City Punjabi Festival Honors Brian Murphy,” Sikhnet, http://www.sikhnet.com/news/yuba-city-punjabi-festival-honours-brian-murphy, May 27, 2015.