Singing out against genocide

Armenian students celebrated their culture — and remembered the tragedy of the Armenian Genocide — through speeches, poems, music and dance during a genocide commemoration Tuesday night at Glendale High School.

The program was one of several remembrance events taking place in Glendale this week to mark the 93rd anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, the killings of about 1.5 million Armenians that began in 1915 in the then-Ottoman Empire.

It was the eighth annual genocide commemoration event organized by student members of the Armenian clubs from high schools and middle schools within the Glendale Unified School District.

“It just shows unity,” Rubina Vartanians, 15, said about the various schools coming together to remember the genocide.

In one performance, a group of girls from Glendale High, dressed in royal blue skirts and tops, performed a traditional Armenian dance.

The slow, somber song is about an Armenian soldier who misses his homeland, said Christine Garibian, 15, one of the dancers.

As the dance came to a close, the girls were joined on stage by three boys — one pretending to be an Armenian soldier, the other two pretending to be Turkish soldiers. The teens acted out a scene in which the Armenian boy is beat up and carried off stage by the two Turks. A sound imitating a gunshot was heard as if from a distance.

“It brings an element of tragedy to it,” Christine said about the closing scene of the routine.

Clark Magnet High School students Serli Nazarian, 14, and Meenely Nazarian, 15, played a piano duet of Aram Khachaturian’s “Saber Dance,” and other students read poems and speeches.

The show also featured a video filmed and edited by Crescenta Valley High student Edrick Sarkissian in which students and community members discussed what Armenians in Southern California could do to honor their past and respect the plight of their ancestors.

Many of the participants said the event was as much about looking to the future — and potentially altering the course of history still to come — as it was about looking back.

“If there is one genocide that is not recognized, there may be other genocides that are not recognized,” said Vanui Barakezyan, 16.

Vanui was participating in a skit that was expected to be performed later in the show about the importance of obtaining official recognition for the Armenian Genocide.

“The message is we won’t give up fighting for what we believe,” Vanui said about the skit.

Several speakers, including school board President Joylene Wagner and Glendale schools Supt. Michael Escalante, affirmed the importance of recognizing historical events like genocides as a prerequisite for preventing similar events in the future.

“Through the recognition process we begin the process of changing the future,” Escalante said.

 ANGELA HOKANSON covers education. She may be reached at (818) 637-3238 or by e-mail at angelahokanson

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