Students in Armenian clubs in the Glendale Unified School District combined their performing-arts talents to remember the 1½ million lives lost 104 years ago in the American Genocide.
Clubs’ members from Crescenta Valley, Clark Magnet, Glendale and Hoover high schools hosted the 18th annual Armenian Genocide commemoration held in the John Wayne Performing Arts Center at Glendale High on Wednesday.
Students ranging from elementary-school age to high school students participated, and the program featured Armenian music and culture as performers sang, danced, recited poetry and played instruments before an audience of about 500 people.
“Our students hope that regardless of your race or ethnicity, together, we can bring awareness, peace and harmony to the world,” said Armina Gharpetian, a member of Glendale Unified school board.
The commemoration drew dignitaries including counselor Varazdat Pahlavuni from the Consulate General of Armenia in Los Angeles.
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) also attended to reiterate his support of a resolution that would require Congress to officially acknowledge the Armenian Genocide for the first time.
The Republic of Turkey, a NATO ally, and its supporters have successfully blocked this vote for years despite ongoing protests by Armenian Americans.
“Gathered here as we are, in the heart of the Armenian community in Glendale, it may be difficult to understand why it is so difficult,” Schiff said. “The facts are not in dispute. A million and a half people were shot, bludgeoned and marched in the desert to die.”
Even though the killings occurred more than a century ago, it’s important for the United States to recognize them as the first holocaust of the 20th century, Schiff said.
“For those who have lost loved ones, parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles and cousins, no one has to persuade you why recognition is so important,” he said.
Sophia James, a student representative on the school board, served as emcee for the event and said the role held special meaning for her because she is the great-granddaughter of an Armenian Genocide survivor.
“Hearing his survival story has impacted my way of thinking and my compassion toward others,” she said. “Despite our tragic past, I’m so proud to be part of a community where Armenians are now thriving.”
One of the evening’s highlights was when more than 100 students in the Armenian dual-language immersion program at Jefferson and R.D. White elementary schools stepped onstage to sing “Aprel Khaghagh” in Armenian.
The programs at both elementary schools teach classes in Armenian for half of the students’ school day.
Audience members also clapped along to traditional Armenian music as members of the dance troupe Ara Dance synchronized their movements in orange dresses and headwear.
Greg Krikorian, president of the Glendale Unified school board, closed out the evening with a message to students to be proud of their Armenian heritage, respectful of their neighbors and display the American and Armenian flags together.
“We are blessed to live in this great nation of America, and a lot of Americans saved Armenian lives,” Krikorian said.
A handful of events commemorating the Armenian Genocide will continue this week. A candlelight vigil in honor of the victims of the Armenian Genocide will be held tonight at City Hall, tomorrow the city will host its annual event at the Alex Theatre to honor the victims and on Thursday there will be a panel discussion titled “Parallel Histories” at the Downtown Glendale Central Library.