Armenstock 2004 Music Festival Shows Armenian Support for John Kerry

–Kerry Vows to Continue to Fight Denial of the Armenian Genocide

WATERTOWN–In an unprecedented event held by the Armenian-American community in support of an electoral campaign for the presidency of the United States–hundreds of activists gathered at Camp Haiastan in Franklin–MA for the all-day music festival Armenstock 2004.

People from as far as Austin–TX and Racine–WI trekked to the camp to show their support for presidential candidate Senator John Kerry (D-MA).

The music festival–"Kef for Kerry" was organized jointly by Armenia’s for Kerry and Pomegranate Music. Over 800 people came out to support the candidate who–as president–is expected to positively address issues pertinent to Armenian-Americans.

Combining a celebration of Armenian music with political activism–Armenstock also featured several guest speakers who touched on the importance of the 2004 presidential elections–and the need to guarantee Armenian-Americans get out and vote on November 2.

POLITICS

A long-time supporter of Armenian issues–US Representative Barney Frank (D-MA thanked the Armenian community for its perseverance in demanding justice for the Armenian genocide–as it has heightened public awareness for the need to rectify all human rights violations. Congressman Frank compared the records of Senator Kerry and the Bush Administration on Armenian and non-Armenian issues and urged the audience to get actively involved in the campaign for the next two months. He concluded by reading a strongly-worded statement that John Kerry had sent to Armenstock attendees.

In his statement–Senator Kerry publicly committed that a Kerry-Edwards administration would "fight against the denial of the Armenian genocide." Kerry explained that it has been his "privilege–over the past two decades–to work with the Armenian community on important issues including US recognition of the Armenian Genocide–strengthening US-Armenia relations and trade–lifting the devastating blockades of Armenia–and working for a fair and lasting peace in Nagorno Karabagh." He added that he is "honored to have the endorsement of the ANCA," and appreciates the organization’s "work to encourage Armenian-Americans around the country to go to the polls in record numbers for the Kerry-Edwards ticket on November 2nd."

US Congressman James McGovern–who represents Worcester–as well as Franklin (where Camp Haiastan is located)–stressed the importance of the upcoming election for the future of US foreign policy. McGovern–a leading human rights advocate in Congress–praised the ANCA for working to combat all cases of genocide–most recently by joining protests against events in Sudan. He emphasized that a Kerry Administration would mean a more virtuous US foreign policy–based on principle and human rights.

Massachusetts State Representatives Rachel Kaprielian and Peter Koutoujian pointed out the importance of grassroots–people to people contacts with potential voters–especially in the electoral battleground states.

Pursuant to this goal–the ANCA distributed postcards as part of its recently launched "Hye Voter Turnout" campaign. Over one thousand postcards–addressed to Armenia’s-Americans in various swing states–were signed at Armenstock encouraging them to vote John Kerry for President. The postcards compare Bush and Kerry on 5 key issues: genocide recognition–aid to Armenia and Karabagh–US-Armenia trade and investment–military aid parity between Armenia and Azerbaijan–and ending the blockade of Armenia.

Rep. Koutoujian reflected on the importance of the election from his perspective as both an Armenian-American and as an elected official. He read a statement by Congressman Frank Pallone of New Jersey–co-chairman of the Congressional Armenian Caucus.

In his statement–Pallone noted that Armenian-Americans would have a clear choice come November: "On the one hand–they will have President Bush–who has walked away from his commitmen’s to the Armenian community. On the other–they will have Senator Kerry–a leading advocate of Armenian issues who has proven himself time and again as a friend of the Armenian community."

THE MUSIC

Armenstock showcased performances by some of the finest Armenian musicians in one unique venue. One of the stars popular to most Armenian-Americans–oud virtuoso John Berberian–was featured in many of the festival’s musical sets–playing with Night Ark founder Ara Dinkjian–folk musician Gor Mkhitarian–and in a special dueling performance alongside oudist John Bilezikjian. The latter was a historic pairing; the first public performance together of oud masters Berberian and Bilezikjian–and also John Bilezikjian’s Boston area debut.

The festival opened with performances by the Arev Armenian Folk Ensemble–displaying their continued dedication to creating music using authentic Armenian folk instrumen’s–and jazz pianist Vardan Ovsepian and his group. The vocal group Cascade Folk Tri took to the stage in mid-afternoon showcasing Ohanna Mtghyan–whose stunning voice reverberated throughout the campgrounds.

The highlight of the festival however was the closing solo performance by percussionist Arto Tuncboyaciyan–who played in the camp’s Great Hall. The founder of the Armenian Navy Band and frequent guest studio musician mesmerized the entire audience with his mastery of the various percussion instrumen’s and his extraordinary vocalizations in a unique language of his own invention.

KERRY’S POLITICS

Armenia’s for Kerry was formed to support John Kerry’s presidential bid in the 2004 elections. Based on his strong record on various Armenian-related issues–various constituents and supporters alike from all Armenian-Armenian communities combined efforts to unite their advocacy.

This summer–the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA)–the leading Armenian-American grassroots lobbying organization–endorsed Senator Kerry. The ANCA is confident that the message in support of Kerry is getting across without delay–and that Armenian-Americans are cognizant of what is at stake especially when comparing John Kerry’s record on Armenian issues with President George W. Bush’s.

"Armenia’s living in the US understand what needs to be done regarding the issues of Armenian Genocide recognition–increased financial assistance to Armenia–and increased pressure on Turkey to come to terms with its past as well as the present." said Sevag Arzoumanian–chairman of the Armenia’s for Kerry committee in New England and co-director of Armenstock.

Senator Kerry has a long history of fighting for Armenian Genocide recognition in the US Congress. In 1990 he stood alongside former Senator Bob Dole in support of dedicating April 24 as a day of remembrance. He is also a current cosponsor of the Senate Genocide Resolution (S.Res.164)–which marks the 15th anniversary of the US implementation of the UN Genocide Convention and calls on the United States to learn from the lessons of past genocides–including the Holocaust and the Armenian–Cambodian and Rwandan genocides–to prevent future atrocities.

Additionally–few know that he is the author of Section 907–an amendment to the Freedom Support Act of 1992–which placed restrictions on US economic support to Azerbaijan as a result of its continued blockade of Armenia and Mountainous Karabagh Republic. Lately he has taken strides for improving trade relations with Armenia.

As part of its drive to mobilize Armenian-American voters–the Armenia’s for Kerry have established chapters in states throughout the United States. Armenstock 2004 – Kef for Kerry was organized by Armenia’s for Kerry chapters in Massachusetts–New Hampshire–Rhode Island–and Connecticut. Also attending were representatives of the Armenia’s for Kerry chapters in Wisconsin–Virginia–Pennsylvania–New York–and New Jersey.

The musical portion of the program was sponsored by Discover Armenian (www.discoverarmenian.com)–the makers of an Armenian language interactive DVD based in Providence–RI. The political portion was sponsored by the Armenian National Committee of America–Armenian-Americans for Kerry–the Armenian Youth Federation and the Armenian- American Democratic Leadership Council. Further information about the festival–as well as a photo album of the event–can be found at www.armenstock.com.

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