Hundreds gather in advance of 97th Armenian genocide anniversary

Hundreds of people on Sunday commemorated the 97th anniversary of the Armenian genocide through art, dance and music outside St. Mary’s Apostolic Church.

Verginie Touloumian, 19, said the event — hosted by the Glendale chapter of the Armenian Youth Federation — was one of the first in April to “pump up” the youth as the community prepares its upcoming remembrances and rallies surrounding the April 24 anniversary.

“Even though we’ve mourned for 97 years, now it’s more of a fight to get justice for all of them,” Touloumian said. “We have survived and we’re going to live on and we’re going to get stronger and justice is going to be served to us one day.”

April 24 marks the 97th anniversary of the genocide that lasted from 1915 to 1923 and saw the death of more than 1.5 million Armenians killed by Ottoman Turks. The Turkish government refuses to recognize the massacre as genocide.

Shoghak Kazandjian, 20, said that the group would join in upcoming candlelight vigils, a protest, and a bicycle ride in the San Fernando Valley called “Cycles of Denial.”

But Sunday’s performances were for “freedom of expression,” she said.

“It’s more than just commemoration, it’s a celebration of our culture, to show that we survived all these years,” Kazandjian said.

Guitarist Raffi Semerdjian, who performed Sunday with the folk-rock band Palm of Granite, grew up in Glendale as a member of the Armenian Youth Federation, which he joined at age 9.

The singer and songwriter has spent months at a time in Armenia, sometimes with other Glendale members of the federation, working at youth camps during the summer. He said he has worked many of his experiences into his songwriting for the band.

“The arts and music collaborating with social consciousness is the best way to get things done,” Semerdjian said. “I don’t trust politics. I think music and art are the truth and purest form of waking people up to change."

-- Kelly Corrigan, Times Community News

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