JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- A first ever event Wednesday for Northeast Florida tried to correct longstanding stereotypes.
The University of North Florida hosted "Wear a Turban Day" on Osprey Plaza at the Student Union.
It's intended to be a kick-off event to the university's annual Interfaith Week that the Interfaith Center is hosting next week.
Members of the Sikh Society of Northeast Florida plan on distributing up to 100 turbans on campus. They will also demonstrate how the cloth dressing should be properly wrapped and worn.
It's believed no event like this has ever been held at UNF or in the Jacksonville area before.
Dr. Tarah Trueblood is the director of the Interfaith Center and helped organize Wednesday's event. She told First Coast News 'Wear a Turban Day' is intended to educate people about another religion and culture.
"There's a movement right now on college campuses. It's like the women's movement, the civil rights movement. This is now a religious literacy and inclusion movement and interfaith movement for students to learn about one another, get some literacy," she said.
In the Sikh community, turbans of all colors and patterns are worn to cover long hair that the faith says cannot be cut.
Those who wear them believe they serve as symbols of courage, honor and dignity. A traditional turban is a piece of cotton cloth that measures 15 to 18 feet and is wrapped around the head several times.
Sukhbir Singh, the treasurer of the Sikh Society of Northeast Florida, said the head dressing has often been the target of negative stereotypes.
He said people, especially after 9/11 and fatal shootings at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, sometimes associate turbans with terrorism or extremism.
"Ninety-nine percent of Sikh people you see with a turban are peaceful," he said.
In Jacksonville, the community consists of 50 families that, Singh said, have faced no major threat. But, consideration for safety and security was taken when the society built a new place of worship on the city's south side, he said.
Singh hopes "Wear a Turban Day" will clear up stereotypes and help correct what he calls a mistaken identity.
"This is a good way of informing of our own neighbors, of our own co-residents of Jacksonville who we are, why we wear turban so we can build better relations," he said.