Valarie Kaur

Valarie Kaur

“Love Outlasts Life”

Like many, Valarie used to roll her eyes upon hearing “Love is the answer.” Part of it, she says, is due to the way America has sensationalized the definition of love to mean only a fierce and euphoric rush of emotions. This cultural definition excluded the nuances of love and the messiness of loving others, ourselves, and showing up for one another radically and without expectations. As Valarie’s grandpa used to tell her “Love is dangerous business.” 


She unpacks her grandpa’s aphorism by saying,

“If I see you that way, with love, I must let your grief into my heart, your story into my heart, I must stand up for you when you’re in harm’s way. What happens when we see George Floyd as our brother, or Breonna as a sister, migrant children as our own sons and daughters—what would we risk?” 

20 years ago, 4 days after 9/11, Balbir Singh Sodhi, a relative of Valarie’s, was the first of many to be murdered in a hate crime ignited by the racist rhetoric following the attacks. This tragedy is what propelled her towards advocacy. She made documentaries, fought cases, and organized in an effort to build a better, more accepting society than the one in which she grew up. However, her activism experienced a change in tone during the 2016 election season. While she was tucking her son into bed one night, she noticed a breathlessness in her body. Hate crimes and hate speech were on the rise and the work she had been doing for nearly 15 years began to feel as though it were done in vain.

“Love Outlasts Life”

Like many, Valarie used to roll her eyes upon hearing “Love is the answer.” Part of it, she says, is due to the way America has sensationalized the definition of love to mean only a fierce and euphoric rush of emotions. This cultural definition excluded the nuances of love and the messiness of loving others, ourselves, and showing up for one another radically and without expectations. As Valarie’s grandpa used to tell her “Love is dangerous business.” 


She unpacks her grandpa’s aphorism by saying,

“If I see you that way, with love, I must let your grief into my heart, your story into my heart, I must stand up for you when you’re in harm’s way. What happens when we see George Floyd as our brother, or Breonna as a sister, migrant children as our own sons and daughters—what would we risk?” 

20 years ago, 4 days after 9/11, Balbir Singh Sodhi, a relative of Valarie’s, was the first of many to be murdered in a hate crime ignited by the racist rhetoric following the attacks. This tragedy is what propelled her towards advocacy. She made documentaries, fought cases, and organized in an effort to build a better, more accepting society than the one in which she grew up. However, her activism experienced a change in tone during the 2016 election season. While she was tucking her son into bed one night, she noticed a breathlessness in her body. Hate crimes and hate speech were on the rise and the work she had been doing for nearly 15 years began to feel as though it were done in vain.

“If I see you that way, with love, I must let your grief into my heart, your story into my heart, I must stand up for you when you’re in harm’s way. What happens when we see George Floyd as our brother, or Breonna as a sister, migrant children as our own sons and daughters—what would we risk?” 

“Year after year, with every film, with every campaign, with every lawsuit, I thought we were making the world safer for the next generation and I had to suddenly reckon with the fact that my son was growing up in a nation more dangerous for him than it was for me. I thought to myself, ‘What has actually created an impact in the communities I work with?’ It was never a lawsuit or a film. Lasting change took hold when I saw what can only be described as the ethic of love.”

This is when the eye-roll was recast as an embrace. In 2017, Valarie delivered a Ted Talk titled “3 Lessons of Revolutionary Love in a Time of Rage” and she founded the Revolutionary Love Project, which holds a wealth of information and tools for those seeking to educate themselves on growing communities rooted in antiracism. One of those tools is The Compass. It breaks down different directions of love—towards others, our opponents, and ourselves—and the emotions felt in those stages. As Valarie says, The Compass “makes room for the most intimate energies moving inside of us.” She compares the process of Revolutionary Love to labor. A process that encourages us to breathe when we feel breathless, so we can feel energized to push forward the change we want to see.


“Year after year, with every film, with every campaign, with every lawsuit, I thought we were making the world safer for the next generation and I had to suddenly reckon with the fact that my son was growing up in a nation more dangerous for him than it was for me. I thought to myself, ‘What has actually created an impact in the communities I work with?’ It was never a lawsuit or a film. Lasting change took hold when I saw what can only be described as the ethic of love.”

This is when the eye-roll was recast as an embrace. In 2017, Valarie delivered a Ted Talk titled “3 Lessons of Revolutionary Love in a Time of Rage” and she founded the Revolutionary Love Project, which holds a wealth of information and tools for those seeking to educate themselves on growing communities rooted in antiracism. One of those tools is The Compass. It breaks down different directions of love—towards others, our opponents, and ourselves—and the emotions felt in those stages. As Valarie says, The Compass “makes room for the most intimate energies moving inside of us.” She compares the process of Revolutionary Love to labor. A process that encourages us to breathe when we feel breathless, so we can feel energized to push forward the change we want to see.

“If love is labor, then it contains the whole spectrum of human emotions. Joy is the gift of love, grief is the price of love, rage, our anger, is what we harness to protect that which we love. So when I began to think of love as labor, I thought, ‘How did our ancestors show up to the work for justice with that love, how did they grieve, how did they rage, how did they breathe?’ When we choose to love beyond what evolution requires, that’s what I call Revolutionary Love. 


I feel like what we’re facing right now between the pandemic, the racial reckoning, and climate catastrophe, is so immense, that the only way we can find the courage to take the next breath is to know that we’re not alone. If we can summon ancestors that have gone through fires before us, we can call upon them, imagine them behind us whispering in our ear, “You are brave,” that is what gives us the ability to take the next breath.”

This idea of summoning ancestors is more accessible than one would think. Valarie channels the energy of her grandfather, a biological ancestor, but she also sits at the feet of Black thinkers like Dr. King, James Baldwin, Audre Lorde, and bell hooks.


“There are tools that I feel I’ve learned from Black ancestors. And I feel like more and more of us can take them into our lives and follow their lead no matter who we are. Black women in particular have really shown us that loving ourselves is not another form of self-indulgence but a form of political warfare. 

“It’s Black and Indigenous mothers who know what it’s like to put their children into the world and not be able to protect them from white supremacist violence, but they can give them the tools to be resilient and brave in the face of it. My son had his first racial experience at the age of 4, so what does it mean? For all my work—if I can’t protect my son in the schoolyard, how do I find a way forward? It’s by giving him the tools that our ancestors had, to know that you are worthy, that you are beloved, to feel your own dignity, to not let any person diminish your character so much as to make you hate them.” 

Valarie also emphasizes the importance of not canonizing our idols, to instead see them for both the work they progressed as well as their imperfections. 

“As soon as we put people up on pedestals and make them into saints, we sap them of all their power. It’s so easy to say ‘Well, they were saints. They were superhuman. That means that I don’t have to try and be like them.’ So, what does it mean to take them in their imperfections, messiness, and all their faults and to see how they continued to show up for their people? What does it mean for us to acknowledge our vulnerabilities and our faults and our mistakes and say ‘You too are worthy enough to be able to show up and live a life rooted in love.’” 

At the core of the Revolutionary Love Project’s ethos is the perspective of “seeing no stranger”. It is a belief preached in Sikh faith, “I see no stranger, I see no enemy. Wherever I look, God is all I see.” It communicates that we are all linked, that the way we show up for ourselves and others is both self-preserving and selfless. That both truths can exist in harmony.


“There is a consistency between Indigenous wisdom across different cultures and this knowledge of interconnectedness. That you can look on the face of anyone and say, ‘You are a part of me that I do not yet know.’ When we do that, I want to invite people not to be an activist like me but to take on this way of being, this way of living.


“That’s what I’ve been so inspired by witnessing lately. That people are shifting from shallow solidarity—which is rooted in the logic of exchange, like, ‘I show up for you, you show up for me, I posted your hashtag, now you post mine'—to deep solidarity which is rooted in love. It’s ‘I show up for you because I see you are a part of me. I weep with you, I rage with you, I rise with you.' It means I will also sing with you, I’ll dance with you."

This aspect of TikTok is one that puts a smile on Sera’s face as she talks about it. She appreciates that the platform works with the user to offer a feed that will generate joy and connect them with like-minded content.

As her career has progressed, Sera has adopted a form of living that doesn’t rely on long-term planning and, for her, it has made all the difference.

“I used to plan things heavily in advance because I’m such a perfectionist. But nowadays, it’s liberating to not have a 5-year plan. The pandemic was a great example of how sometimes things don’t go the way we expect them to and, often, the opportunity you weren't expecting is even better than the one you thought you wanted. So, it’s good to have an idea of who you are, what your core values are, and to have some sort of compass, but life happens when you’re busy making other plans. If you have a short-term vision that makes you happy, you know, just do that. Worry about the next thing when that time comes. I wasn’t always able to do that, but now that I’m trying to be in the moment, things feel more optimistic.”


To keep up with Sera's work, follow her on LinkedIn here.

"It’s the kind of relationship that transcends a particular moment or march, they last a lifetime. I feel like laboring with others that way, I can stay in the labor because I’m next to people who midwife me, nourish me, and inspire me to take the next breath and push, and that’s how we can last together.”

Shop Valarie's Looks

Lorraine Ruched Mesh Dress in Feathers


Remy Double Layer Mesh Top in Dancers