Armenian and Korean immigrant communities have been living side by side in the pockets of Los Angeles for decades, but beyond the namesakes of Little Armenia and Koreatown, they've quietly and mutually called the Crescenta Valley home too.
So when the idea came up a year-and-a-half ago among community leaders to collaborate on a multicultural festival, it almost seemed like a non-question.
In less than three weeks, the Korean Armenian Cultural Festival — organized by the Korean-American Federation of North Los Angeles and the Armenian Community and Youth Center in Montrose — will make its debut at the Crescenta Valley Park.
At the two-day event, to be held on Sept. 15 and 16, expect to find Korean and Armenian BBQ, dance groups, martial arts exhibitions, traditional wedding displays, cultural arts and crafts and probably what I'm personally most looking forward to: K-Pop, or Korean pop music that has delightfully transcended beyond the borders of South Korea, gaining fans across the world.
Plus, there's going to be a roaring rendition of the international sensation, “Gangnam Style,” you won't want to miss. And if you don't know what that is, drop everything and go to YouTube immediately.
I've been to many Armenian festivals, as well as those focusing on other single ethnic groups, but when I heard about this multicultural event so close to home, a mild version of euphoria set in. The idea that I can experience so much of the world in L.A. all at once is one of the best and most underrated characteristics of this city that I treasure.
Yes, we all come from different lands, struggles, dreams and nightmares, but we're here now, and we need to cherish that too.
At a time when racism, xenophobia and being shot and killed for simply looking or believing in something different is a reality, a celebration of diversity is a welcome change.
James Pak, representing the Korean community, and Arick Gevorkian, from the Armenian community — both of whom had a huge role in organizing the event — told me over the weekend how important it was not only to form strong bonds between Armenian and Korean-Americans, but to use this festival as a tool for letting others know the benefits of working together, instead of against each other.
“We want to let other communities know how two different nationalities can come together and work harmoniously to bring a strong community with benefits,” said Pak, adding that the partnership is especially important for future generations in the city.
Gevorkian echoed that sentiment.
Oftentimes, Armenian and Korean kids sit next to each other in middle and high school without ever interacting. But, he said, if they see the collaboration emerging from progressive leadership open to change, then the rest of the community will follow.
Gevorkian stressed that an important factor of this event is to showcase how immigrant communities have become so deeply and positively intertwined in the fabric of our cities, while advocating for mutual understanding.
“Be proud of your heritage,” he said. “But also, know your neighbors.” He notes that he's seen how other communities have raised artificial barriers without giving each other a chance to understand each other and individual customs and hopes the mutual efforts between Armenian and Korean counterparts can have a ripple effect on all parts of the community, including city leaders.
Along the way, Pak and Gevorkian have realized how similar Armenian and Korean communities and the values they uphold are. From the importance put on family, higher education, culture preservation, respect for elders and spirituality, as well as entrepreneurial spirit, they have more in common than they originally thought.
Even the planning process alone has had a positive intercultural impact: the Korean-American Federation is now even using the Armenian Community Center on Honolulu Avenue as a weekly meeting place.
Organizers hope this first event will lead to bigger and more diverse festivals in coming years, where they can add to the mix “Irish,” “Mexican” and other ethnic groups that make up L.A.'s landscape.
LIANA AGHAJANIAN is a Los Angeles-based journalist whose work has appeared in L.A. Weekly, Paste magazine, New America Media, Eurasianet and The Atlantic. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Korean Armenian Cultural Festival
Crescenta Valley Park, 3901 Dunsmore Ave., La Crescenta
11 a.m – 8 p.m., Sept. 15
10 a.m. - 5 p.m., Sept. 16
Info: Korean, (213) 445-7020, Armenian (818) 292-1089