Armenian community celebrates, remembers

On the heels of the 96th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, more than 1,000 members of the Armenian Diaspora gathered Sunday at St. Mary's Apostolic Church to commemorate their community's historic struggles, and celebrate their cultural successes.

The event, titled “One Voice, One Cause,” was organized by the Armenian Youth Federation and featured Harout Pamboujkian — one of the most celebrated musicians in the Armenian community — as well as DJ Bei Ru, whose vintage vinyl sampling fused with hip-hop, funk and soul have earned him widespread recognition.

The 1915 Ottoman Turk massacre of more than 1 million ethnic Armenians, along with the Turkish government's denial of the events, remains a source of sadness and frustration for many in the community. But Armenian Youth Federation organizers said they wanted to go beyond the victim mentality.

“Although there was a genocide, we're still here, we're surviving, and we're still embracing our culture,” said Shoghak Kazandjian, who helped plan the event.

In between musical performances by Ara Movsisyan and Harut Hagopian — and food provided by the TK Truck and the Hungry Nomad — MCs Sanan Shirinian and Tro Krikorian addressed the crowd, highlighting the strength and willpower of the Armenian people who survived genocide, natural disasters and political unrest throughout the years.

“Now more than ever, we are laughing again, we are singing again, and we will be home again,” Shirinian said.

Attendees, who spanned the age spectrum, were also invited to write messages on paper and take pictures with them.

Many emerged with messages about survival and the desire for justice. Glendale resident Kristina Karayan, who traveled to Armenia last year, wrote about Sasun, Moush and Van, territories that were once historically Armenian, but that are now provinces within the borders of Turkey.

Along with genocide recognition, the return of lands to Armenia as determined by the boundary configuration drawn by President Woodrow Wilson in the Treaty of Sévres is a priority for the Armenian Youth Federation. The treaty, drafted in 1920, was never signed by the U.S. or ratified by the Ottoman Empire.

“Everyone needs to understand that Western Armenia, which is now technically in Turkey, is very important to us. We need to do everything we can to get it back,” Karayan said. “The reason I'm here today is to show the people of Glendale and all the Armenian Americans that … we're willing to do anything and everything for the betterment of Armenia.”

With posters touting the “Cycle of Genocide” that highlighted the Bosnian, Rwandan and Sudanese genocides, the Armenian Youth Federation has also made it a priority to put their cause in the context of human rights, contending that the recognition of the Armenian Genocide can help stop the domino effect of other human rights violations.

“We want to stop that cycle,” Kazandjian said.

Sebough Meguerditchian was manning a booth of photography from the effects of the 1989 earthquake in the Armenian city of Gyumri, which killed more than 20,000 people. He said recent events like the earthquakes in Haiti and Japan and floods in India can help put the global implications of why people should care regardless of their background into perspective.

“We have to do something about these tragic events that are happening, find a way to fix them and prevent them,” he said.

 
 

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