If you have gone to any major protest or demonstration in Southern California in the last two years, it is very possible that you would have seen, and heard, Shankar Singam with a megaphone at a table trying to convince people to sign a petition for California Independence.
A musician, graphic artist and retailer, Shankar, 42, was brought to California by his parents when he was two, first to Berkeley in Northern California for a few years, and then to Orange County in Southern California where he’s lived ever since. According to Shankar, his father, a chemist, and his mother, now a retired nurse, found a receptive home in Orange County to make a new life. “My parents sure picked the right place to migrate to and make a home because I absolutely love it here,” Shankar recently told The Independent Californian in a brief interview. “I’ve traveled all over the world and California is the best. ”
He was propelled into political activism after Bernie Sanders lost the Democratic primary in the summer of 2016. “I was really devastated,” Shankar explained, “how did we ever get to the point where we only have a choice between in my view two extremely bad candidates? I have two kids and I really fear what’s happening in the world right now.”
After the Presidential election itself with Donald Trump’s Electoral College win, Shankar started attending the pro-independence meetings that were popping up all over the state. “Those meetings totally changed my perspective, “ Shankar continued. “It was a real wake-up call for me. I was talking to people and doing a lot of reading and research. Suddenly it hit me, Oh my God, I’m a Californian! And the system is totally rigged against us!”
Since that time, Shankar has worked tirelessly for the California Independence Movement by going to protests whenever he could to get people to sign the early independence petitions. Also during this time, Shankar co-founded several movement organizations, the latest being Independent California where he is now a board member. He’s even appeared on a very heated Tucker Carlson episode on Fox News to get the word out. He’s currently IC’s Artistic Director and the organization’s point person for networking and coordinating with other grassroots organizations.
“I totally love going to these meetings,” Shankar told us. “Whenever I go to these meetings I am proud to represent Independent California and I’ve found that people are very open to what we have to say. Even when I’m not at activist meetings, when I’m just out and about like at a swap meet, I don’t see the red, white and blue anymore. It’s all California that I see on t-shirts and hats, all Californian flags in the booths. People here in California don’t identify any more with the US. How could they?”
In addition to California independence, Shankar actively works for other causes, especially those that he feels represent Californians’ values or improves everyday life for Californians. “Romanticizing the military is another issue that really concerns me,” Shankar said. “It’s just not a California value in my opinion and yet groups like the ROTC are opening firing ranges on school campuses and more money for the US military comes out of California than anywhere else.”
Another important issue for Shankar is creating a public bank to serve all Californians. “The point of activism,” Shankar explained, “is getting power out of the hands of the establishment in big and small ways, like opening a public bank. Because of racism and poverty, so many people can’t open a bank account. A public California bank would make such a difference in people’s lives here. An independent California could actually do this.”
When asked how being involved in the California Independence Movement has changed his life, Shankar said it has been a little hard on his relationship to some family members. “Not all my family knows but some do,” Shankar said. “Sometimes when I walk into a room at family gatherings, it’s like the record stops. People just stop talking. I’ve learned to live with it.”
When asked if being a Californian activist has been worth it, Shankar was not shy with his response. “Absolutely!” He boomed. “Since becoming an Independent California activist I walk differently. I hold my head high. I don’t take any shit about California. This is my home. These are my people. I would do anything for this state.”