Five years after the Oak Creek Sikh temple shooting, a former white supremacist and the son of one of the shooting’s victims will come together at a Madison event Sunday to promote unity.
The nonprofit United Against Hate, founded by Masood Akhtar, is hosting the “Moving Past Hate” event at Monona Terrace. The free-to-the-public event runs from 1:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., but doors open at 1 p.m.
Akhtar said he hopes people will learn more about peaceful reconciliation after hearing the story of how Arno Arr Michaelis IV, who formerly espoused white supremacist values, and Pardeep Kaleka, whose father was killed in the shooting, overcame their differences.
“Engagement is so critical in this kind of environment of hate, racism, bigotry,” Akhtar said.
Michaelis was a founding member of the hate group called the Northern Hammerskins and formerly sang in a hate-metal band called Centurion. Since the birth of his daughter, Michaelis has reversed his ways and wrote “My Life After Hate,” documenting his experience.
In the wake of the shooting that left six dead and four injured, Kaleka founded the group Serve2Unite, which “engages young people of all backgrounds to value humanity and the aspiration of living a genuine, honest life as a peacemaker,” according to the organization’s website. Kaleka is a psychotherapist and a former Milwaukee police officer.
A documentary on the shooting in Oak Creek and a question and answer session will follow the panelists’ remarks.
Among others, the event is sponsored by the Republican and Democratic parties of Dane County.
“That to me in itself is a great starting point where people with different perspectives and ideologies are finally coming together, at least at a Dane County level here,” Akhtar said. “I think that will itself send a very positive message to our people that we are heading in the right direction.”