Baljit Gill is proud of his Punjabi roots. But he is tired of seeing his culture and traditions portrayed in a “tainted” light.
"Whenever we make the news it’s not for the good stuff, but there’s a lot to be proud of in the South Asian community," Gill said.
Gill started a clothing line, B-Coalition, which boasts a collection of graphic tees — designed by his cousin — with culturally tailored messages — something to sport with pride.
When Gill and his cousin launched the line six months ago, they wanted to make sure that they stood out from all the Indo-tailored clothing they’d seen already.
“We felt a lot of it was stereotypical, but then we decided to start with a little more meaning and pride," he said.
“We want to bring something out there that’s classy and presents our culture — there’s a message of pride, instilling values, morals, our cultural roots,” he said.
The line features a history collection with T-shirts based on historical individuals, and a district collection with a shirt for each district in Punjab.
And their latest tee reads "I’m not Punjabi because I was born in Punjab, but that Punjab was born in me.”
For Gill, B-Coalition is more than just clothing or fashion — it is a movement.
“It’s getting in touch with your cultural roots,” he said.
Gill believes that’s where many of the problems stem from in the South Asian community — people are disconnected from their roots, from their parents and grandparents — especially the younger generation.
"Because of that disconnect, people are finding other ways to fill that void — by the negative friends … doing stupid things, like joining a gang,” said Gill. “You have Indo-Canadians killing Indo-Canadians — for what?”
He is hoping to make a change, so youth will instead fill that void with pride in their culture, learning Punjabi, learning about their history.
"We’re trying to instill pride in our community … to hopefully get people reconnected with our roots," Gill said.