It started with a poster of a bearded Captain America wearing a bright blue turban created by Sikh-American cartoonist, Vishavjit "Vish" Singh. "Just relax! It's called a turban," the cartoon read. "Inside is my long unshorn waist length hair. Now let's kick some intolerant ass."
Photographer Fiona Aboud saw the poster at New York Comic Con and suggested Singh attend next year dressed as Captain America. Singh declined.
"Almost a year later," said Singh, "A mass shooting by a right wing white supremacist at a Milwaukee Sikh gurdwara really hit close to home. I penned an op-ed piece for the Seattle Times making the case for a new superhero fighting hate crimes."
Despite his misgivings about being too skinny for Spandex, he suited up -- donning the blue turban for Aboud's "Sikh in America" portrait series. Now a Sikhlens grant has brought Sikh Captain America to film - in the form of "Red, White and Beard" - to continue challenging people's misconceptions about what it means to be turbaned, bearded, and American.
Singh said he was nervous about wearing the costume on the streets of New York for the first time, but has been "stunned" by the reception since then.
"I have had strangers hug me," said Singh, "Got pulled into wedding parties, [was] photographed by police officers, had access to a fire truck for a photo shoot, got love letters from fans across the entire nation, [received] teary eyed letters from veterans and soldiers serving in Afghanistan, [got] invitations from museums, universities and late night comedy shows. What I imagined would be my first and last costume playing outing has turned into a journey across the nation from NYC, LA, Kansas and on to next stops."
The documentary film, "Red, White and Beard," is available online.
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