Los Angeles, CA – Throughout the month of December, the Armenian National Committee of America – Western Region (ANCA-WR) traveled across the United States – from San Diego, Dallas, and Denver to Washington, DC – to educate, motivate and activate local, state and federal leaders and community members.
The meetings and events commenced on December 3 when ANCA-WR Education Committee Chair Alice Petrossian, committee members Media Kalognomos and Kay Mouradian, and ANCA-WR Government Affairs Director Tereza Yerimyan, shared the story of the ArmenianGenocide and the “America We Thank You” initiative with more than 3,000 educators at the California School Boards Association Conference out in San Diego. The committee provided attendees with resources and tools to use in classrooms when teaching on the subject matter.
“We are extremely pleased what the reaction of school board members to teaching the Armenian Genocide in schools throughout California. We sincerely believe because of the outstanding work of the ANCA more and more schools and school districts will be involved in teaching the Armenian Genocide. This proved to be a very successful venture,” commented Alice Petrossian, chair of the Education Committee.
Just two days later in Texas, on December 5, ANCA Dallas hosted The Role of the Grassroots and the Armenian Youth Post Armenian Genocide Centennial event, a visionary grassroots activism talk with ANCA Western Region’s Executive Director Elen Asatryan serving as the keynote.
ANCA Dallas Chair Lucia Nazarian welcomed attendees and encouraged continued local community involvement in ANCA efforts. Since its founding in 2015, ANCA-Dallas has co-organized Advocacy Day in Austin, helped pass Texas House Resolution 1541 in praise of the Near East Relief efforts between 1915 to save “Armenians threatened with genocide in Turkey,” helped defeat anti-Armenian resolutions in the Texas legislature, and hosted an informational booth at the annual Dallas ArmeniaFest in October.
During the event, Asatryan commended ANCA Dallas for its grassroots efforts and shared recent community service initiatives launched by the ANCA-WR and its local chapters. During a Q&A session, Asatryan provided various tools and resources to help plan and implement community engagement processes.
The following day, ANCA WR representatives arrived in Denver, Colorado. Armenians of Colorado, Inc. (AOC), in partnership with ANCA Colorado, the Consulate of Armenia in Los Angeles, Colorado Coalition for Genocide Awareness & Action, and Djulfa Virtual Memorial and Museum, hosted Shine a Light on All Genocides, a candlelight vigil, to observe the International Day of Commemoration and Dignity of the Victims of the Crime of Genocide and of the Prevention of this Crime and to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the genocidal destruction of Djulfa – the world’s largest collection of medieval khachkars.
The program began at the Colorado State Capitol Khachkar – a beacon of grassroots activism in Colorado that was unveiled earlier this year by Colorado Governor John W. Hickenlooper on the Centennial Anniversary of the Armenian Genocide. Master of Ceremonies Andrew Romanoff, who is also the former Speaker of the Colorado House of Representatives, continued the program at The First Baptist Church of Denver, where Reverend Brian Henderson graciously opened church doors to community members.
Hours before the program, in an official proclamation, Governor Hickenlooper declared December 6, 2015 as the 10th Anniversary of Djulfa Destruction – joining global commemorations of Azerbaijan’s genocidal destruction of 2,000 Djulfa (Jugha) khachkars. The Proclamation was later read by Colorado’s Douglas County Public Defender and Djulfa descendant Ara Ohanian.
Special guests included the 38th Governor of Colorado Richard Lamm, the Office of Congressman Mike Coffman, Colorado Senate Minority Leader and former Senate President Morgan Carroll. Consul General of Armenia in Los Angeles Sergey Sarkisov, who was also present, spoke about the Armenia-led effort at the United Nations to proclaim December 9 “International Day of Commemoration and Dignity of the Victims of the Crime of Genocide and of the Prevention of this Crime.” Affluent members of the Jewish community, Roz Duman and Melinda Quiat, who read the unprecedented October 2015 Jewish Council of Public Affairs resolution recognizing the Armenian Genocide.
During the second part of the program, ANCA-WR Community Development Coordinator Simon Maghakyan presented his 2006 documentary The New Tears of Araxes, which documents the vital loss of Azerbaijan’s indigenous Armenian cultural heritage (film available www.djulfa.com, followed by a presentation on the history of Colorado’s Armenian community and Colorado’s staunch support of the Near East Relief (NER), the American-led campaign that quickly sparked an international response with its unprecedented humanitarian endeavor, mobilizing all segments of American citizenry including elected officials, celebrities and laypersons alike, to help rescue victims of the Armenian Genocide in Ottoman Turkey from 1915 to 1930. Part of the speaker lineup for the program, Asatryan commended the community’s strong record and enthusiastic work in educating Coloradans on the Armenian Genocide and noted how their work and efforts have become a model for other states to follow. Asatryan also used the opportunity to announce that the organization will honor Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper with the ANCA WR Freedom Award the next morning during a scheduled meeting. AOC Board President Sona Hedeshian also thanked all who helped with the successful year.
The organizing committee also took the opportunity to honor several legislators for their leadership and commitment to issues that are of great importance to Armenian-Americans worldwide including Former Governor Richard Lamm, Senate Minority Leader Morgan Carroll, and Congressman Mike Coffman. Other public officials present at the event included ANCA Colorado Advisor and former State Senator Lois Tochtrop and Representative Paul Rosenthal, who were honored at the September America We Thank You Gala. At the conclusion of the program, AOC Centennial Chair Anahid Katchian Logue recalled growing up in a family saved by the Near East Relief and acknowledged the First Baptist Church’s vital role in Colorado’s Near East Relief efforts between 1915 and 1930. Pastor Henderson was awarded the Humanitarian Award.
“The incredible work of Armenian-American activists in Dallas and Colorado demonstrates how small communities can make such great strides to advance Armenian-American issues,” said Asatryan. “Our strong and flourishing chapters in Dallas and Colorado are demonstrative of the many communities we plan on reaching out to in 2016.”
Early the next morning, Asatryan, Maghakyan and Tatev Oganyan, joined by ANCA-Colorado co-chair Jirair Christianian, Senator Tochtrop, Hedeshian, Katchian, Sarkisov, and Deputy Consul General Artak Galstyan, met with Governor Hickenlooper to discuss recognition and teaching of the Armenian Genocide, recognition of Artsakh’s Independence and right to self-determination, as well as support of Syrian refugees, the recent initiative of eliminating double taxation between the United States and Armenia, and potential partnership between Colorado, Armenia and Artsakh.
The group also thanked the governor for proclaiming December 6, 2015 as the 10th Anniversary Commemoration of Djulfa and for his unwavering support of issues important to the Armenian community.
At the conclusion of the meeting, Asatryan presented Governor Hickenlooper with the organization’s highest recognition – the prestigious Freedom Award – for his decade-long fervent leadership and dedication to tangible achievements for Armenian Genocide awareness and human rights.
That evening, ANCA-WR representatives attended the Hanukkah Ceremony at the Colorado State Capitol, where Representative Paul Rosenthal welcomed the Armenian community and spoke about Armenian Genocide recognition, which was received with applause.
On December 8, at the Denver Young Democrats holiday party at Governor’s Mansion, ANCA-WR representatives met former US Secretary of Interior and US Senator Ken Salazar along with promising young leaders in the Denver community.
In the days to follow, the ANCA-WR team also took the opportunity to meet with public officials, dignitaries and community leaders in Denver, including Senator Linda Newell, Representative Rosenthal and Dominick Moreno to discuss the future of Armenian-Coloradan affairs in regard to genocide education, recognition, trade opportunities between Colorado and Armenia, and ideas on how to reenergize the youth.
Across the country, on the same day, ANCA-WR Chair Nora Hovsepian, ANCA National Board Member Raffi Hamparian, and ANCA-WR Government Affairs Director Teresa Yerimyan, along with dozens of pro-Artsakh advocates and many Armenian-Americans who survived the 1988-91 Azerbaijani pogroms in Baku, Sumgait, and Kirovabad, joined in the ANCA Fly-In for #NKPeace to share a message of Karabakh freedom with over 80 Congressional offices on Capitol Hill.
Community leaders and Armenian-American survivors of the 1988-91 Azerbaijani pogroms met with US Representatives and Senators from New York, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Maryland, Massachusetts, Tennessee, and other eastern states to discuss the urgent need to stop escalating violence and war rhetoric by the Aliyev regime against the peaceful population of Artsakh Republic; support for the independent and democratic Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (NKR); and raise awareness about the anti-Armenian discrimination in Soviet-Azerbaijan which peaked in pogroms in Sumgait (February, 1988) and Baku (January, 1990).
Back in Colorado on December 9, ANCA-WR representatives, and members of the Armenian community in Colorado met with local Jewish community officials and Associate Dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center Rabbi Abraham Cooper at the Jewish Community Center to discuss future projects between the Jewish and Armenian-American community in Colorado. The meeting ended on a positive note, promising to strengthen collaborative efforts between Armenian and Jewish communities. Later that evening, at the Governor’s menorah lighting and Hanukkah ceremony at the Jewish Community Center, the Jewish American community warmly welcomed members of the Armenian community, shedding light again on the atrocities that took place during the Armenian Genocide of 1915.
Leaders in Washington, DC shared the same collaborative sentiment during the December 9 Capitol Hill celebration of Karabakh freedom and stability, which took place with the leadership of the Congressional Armenian Caucus, Embassy of the Republic of Armenia, Office of the Nagorno Karabakh Republic in the US, and Armenian American organizations, including the Armenian National Committee of America and the Armenian Assembly of America.
House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA), Armenian Caucus Co-Chairs Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and Robert Dold (R-IL) were joined by House Select Committee on Intelligence Ranking Democrat Adam Schiff (D-CA), and Representatives Judy Chu (D-CA), Katherine Clark (D-MA), Jim Costa (D-CA), and Dina Titus (D-NV), at the observance, with featured keynote remarks by Republic of Nagorno Karabakh Foreign Minister Karen Mirzoyan and Armenian Ambassador to the U.S. Tigran Sargsyan. His Eminence Vicken Aykazian, Legate of the Diocese of the Armenian Apostolic Church of Eastern US, offered the invocation and convocation at the event.
“ANCA-WR leaders, advocates and supporters hit the road last week to spread the word of Hay Tahd across the United States. We were overwhelmingly welcomed in Congressional offices as we successfully educated legislatures and community members during our journey, building new bridges for 2016,” said Nora Hovsepian.
Upon returning home to its headquarters in Los Angeles, the organization opened applications for the 2016 spring session of its Internship program. ANCA-WR wrapped up the Centennial Anniversary of the Armenian Genocide on a high note at its annual Christmas Celebration on December 17, followed by yet another with a toy drive benefiting the Armenian Relief Society and the Salvation Army Glendale hosted by ANCA Professional Network on December 18- assuring collaborative efforts with lawmakers and community partners to advance genocide education in schools, recognize Karabakh freedom and stability, and revitalize community engagement projects with community members and Armenian-American youth across the United States.
Community members, corporations, and organizations interested in supporting the efforts of the ANCA WR, may make a donation online at ancawr.org or by calling 818.500.1919.
The Armenian National Committee of America-Western Region is the largest and most influential Armenian American grassroots advocacy organization in the Western United States. Working in coordination with a network of offices, chapters, and supporters throughout the Western United States and affiliated organizations around the country, the ANCA-WR advances the concerns of the Armenian American community on a broad range of issues. For more information, visit www.ancawr.org.