To Mark MLK Jr. Day, Chamlian Students Speak to Civil Rights Activist

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Chamlian 8th grade students participate in a talk with civil rights activist Bethel Charkoudian

Chamlian 8th grade students participate in a talk with civil rights activist Bethel Charkoudian

GLENDALE—The Chamlian Armenian school’s eighth- grade class on January 12 hosted a Skype session with Armenian activist, Bethel Charkoudian, who participated in a Civil Rights Movement march led by Martin Luther King Jr. in 1965.

Charkoudian shared her personal story on her role with the Armenian Genocide and her experiences during the Civil Rights Movement. The 8th grade students had the opportunity to ask questions about what inspired her to participate in the movement and what emotions were provoked from the experience as the only Armenian-American present in the march.

The topics of conversation not only engaged the 8th grade students of Chamlian Armenian School, but also instilled in them the desire to continue on with the struggle for freedom and equality. Throughout the video-chat, the most noted appreciation that students expressed was Ms. Charkoudian’s impeccable ability to make important social issues seem relevant. She demonstrated that we, too, through awareness and sheer bravery, may be remembered throughout the pages of history as those who dedicated their time and effort in ensuring that we leave the world a little better than we found it for all of humanity.

Bethel Charkoudian (right) during the 1965 civil rights march on Washington

Bethel Charkoudian (right) during the 1965 civil rights march on Washington

This educational Skype session was a once in a lifetime opportunity for Chamlian students to be exposed to someone directly involved in a pivotal and decisive historical event. Students especially appreciated the chance to not only ask their questions, but also to engage in conversation with Ms. Bethel. One of the most memorable moments was when Ms. Bethel urged the students not to be afraid by repeating the phrase, “Mi Vakhnak!” which translates to “Do not be afraid!”

This motto helped them understand that while taking a stand against injustice is not always the easy option, it will always remain our moral obligation. This truly was an educational experience for our students and sparked conversations regarding critical issues such as racism, sexism, and discrimination. As part of Chamlian’s school mission to embrace Armenian culture and heritage, we continue to be active participants in the Armenian community and gain greater awareness of the unique aspects of the Armenian culture and history while preserving the Armenian heritage.

Chamlian expressed gratitude to Charkoudian for what it called the “unforgettable opportunity and for sharing your inspirational story and encouraging us to fight for respect, dignity, and equality.” The school also thanked Verginie Touloumian, the Executive Director of the Armenian Relief Society Inc. for her support as well as efforts in organizing this memorable and unique experience.

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