Bay Area Genocide Commemorations

BAY AREA–Events took place all over the Bay Area in commemoration of the 88th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide. In Santa Clara County–Sacramento–Berkeley and San Francisco–Armenian-Americans marked the anniversary with memorial services–vigils–political gatherings–scholarly lectures and video screenings.

In San Francisco on April 24th–the Armenian Genocide Commemorative Committee organized a political and cultural evening–during which San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown who is serving his last year as mayor–received recognition for his steadfast support of the Armenian-American community and efforts to gain official recognition of the Armenian Genocide. The City Attorney and San Francisco Supervisors were present–including Aaron Peskin–who introduced two resolutions this year–one commemorating the genocide–the other calling on Congressman Tom Lantos to support recognition of the genocide. As keynote speakers–Mher Karakashian and Mher Alahydoyan stressed the necessity of youth involvement.

Also on April 24th–the Santa Clara County Armenian-American community–along with Sacramento area Armenian-Americans commemorated the genocide at St. Andrew Church in Cupertino. In Santa Clara–guest speaker Nayree Derderian spoke about genocide recognition efforts and called on those assembled to act. "We must make a pledge of unity to not give up the struggle for recognition of the genocide–the struggle to stay Armenian in foreign lands–and one day have the opportunity to return to the lands that are rightfully ours–the lands which are a dream in every Armenian mind and a love song in our hearts." Santa Clara County Supervisor Pete McCugh presented the County’s Armenian Genocide proclamation to St. Andrew’s Hayr Datev Arutyunyan. In addition to the proclamation–Supervisor McCugh drafted a letter to President Bush calling on him to properly characterize the Armenian Genocide. Santa Clara County Homenetmen Scouts performed various moving cultural pieces.

In the Sacramento area community members gathered at St. James church–where ANC member Hovaness Boghossian emphasized the necessity of supporting Armenia–as the ultimate memorial to the Armenian Genocide.

UC Davis Armenian-American students held a nighttime vigil–discussing the history of the genocide. ANC spokesman Aram Kouyoumdjian addressed students about the ongoing efforts to achieve Armenian Genocide recognition.

At UC Berkeley– the Armenian Students Association organized a series of events–including a mock execution in protest to the Turkish denial of the Armenian Genocide. The silent protest served as the haunting backdrop for speeches by City Councilmember Kriss Worthington and student members of the Armenian Students Association and the Assyrian Students Alliance. Events on campus included two documentary screenings and a lecture by renowned genocide scholar Vahakn Dadrian. Diverse groups of students attended the events.

The final event was a candlelight vigil with 75 students and community members who gathered for a moment of silence honoring those who were massacred at the hands of the Turks–and listened to speeches and presentations from members of the Armenian Student Association–Jack Weinstein (Facing History and Ourselves)–Jesse Gabriel (ASUC President)–and the Californian Golden Overtones.

A day-long workshop on the Armenian Genocide was hosted by the AGBU of Northern California and St. John Church on April 26–including presentations by Prof. Stepan Astourian–Executive Director of the Armenian Studies Program at UC Berkeley–Prof. Kevork Bardakjian–Prof. Vahakn Dadrian–Dr. Rita Kuyumjian–Dr. Barbara Merguerian–and Suzanne Moranian.

Dr. Kuyumjian was also the featured speaker on April 27; she discussed her book on Gomidas Vartabed–Armenia’s great musical hero who survived the genocide–but eventually fell to insanity.

Finally–on April 30–the Bay Area Armenian National Committee hosted a screening of the BBC documentary–"Armenia: The Betrayed," presented by producer Phillip Wearne. Wearne–who produced the section of the film dealing with the attempts to pass the Armenian Genocide resolution in US Congress–spoke about the obstacles in the making the documentary–and the Turkish opposition to it.

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