Up to the 24th

I dont know what possessed me, but I went to even more April 24th events this year than last. As a balm for my sanity, lets just say I did it for the purposes of writing this article, to provide a chronicle. I got to twelve. So today, Ill cover anything before the 24th, and next week the remainder, plus overall observations, concerns and commentary. It all started in Burbank. I attended the Burbank High School Armenian Clubs event on Friday April 6. Some aspects were traditional, the dance and song. Others were more modern, with R-Mean appearing with his Genocide related rap song. The speakers were local (Assemblymember Paul Krekorian, Sdepan Boyajian from the ANC of Burbank, Sdepan Partamian of cable TV fame, and the co-chairs of the event. It was substantive and well organized, though attendance was a bit weak. Its being Good Friday probably hampered the turnout. On the positive side, this year, learning from last, conflicting with the Proclamation received from City Council was averted. Attendance, as might be expected, was largely composed of parents and other students. On April 15, at USCs Bovard Auditorium, the campus Armenian and ARF-Shant Student Associations of the LA basins colleges put on Silenced Cries, billed as a concert for humanity, with the proceeds being donated to the ANCA for Genocide recognition and Darfur prevention efforts. The performers were Aviatic, Jacob Armen, One Side Zero, and R-Mean. The speakers were interesting. Rabbi Jonathan Klein from the USC campus, involved in outreach through music, had an interesting presentation addressing issues of universality and activism. Father Vazken Movsessian, ever the activist, told a poignant story of a visit to Rwanda. Visiting a museum dedicated to genocide, he noticed that Armenia’s were something of heroes there with a room dedicated to our genocide. He proceeded to contrast that with the absence of appropriate presentation in U.S. venues, particularly the so-called Museum of Tolerance. The crowd of over 400 was almost exclusively composed of students, a good sign. Another good sign was the booths at the entrance, both Armenian and non-Armenian concerns were represented. April 20 found me still attending youth organized events, this time the Shant/AYF Vigil, held in Pasadena this year. The program included music and recitation, as traditional, and also Daniel Decker, an Armenian by choice, who sang Giligia and his composition, Adana. Mourad Topalian was the keynote speaker and did a good job of integrating our struggle trans-generationally by tying in his fathers words of being accountable to our martyrs for what he did for them while still alive. The AYF-Central Executives speaker made an interesting remark, ammunition replaced by education. It closed with national and revolutionary songs sung by all. It was clearly a very organizational crowd, given how many people knew the lyrics. The program was lackluster. Attendance was markedly decreased over recent years, with only about 350 present. The next three nights were community affairs. On Saturday the 21, the San Fernando Valley Chapter of the AGBUs Armenian Youth Association held a commemorative program for the first time. It was a mix of performances- bands (Silent Noise and Sight of Sound), Daniel Decker, and traditional cultural forms, speakers, electeds (Paul Krekorian, Eric Garcetti, and Wendy Greuel), and a video tribute to Hrant Dink. Paul integrated the personal and political by tying in family history with the necessity of ongoing action. Osheen Keshishian, the keynote speaker, surprised me by mentioning deman’s for Western Armenian lands. I had not expected such good news coming from this segment of our community. Interestingly, I was told the AGBUs Southern California District Committee had ordained that this program should not be political, i.e. no electeds. One has to wonder why. It is certainly not a necessity, but having those officials doesnt hurt either. The program was followed by a candlelight prayer, outdoors, amid a model of the Dzeedzernagapert monument the scouts had built. It was a nice touch. Something under 300 people were present. The SF Valley Rosdom Gomideh held its annual vigil Sunday. I arrived late, missing the English speaker, Steve Dadaian. He modestly demurred when I asked what his message was. Hovig Saliba, the Armenian speaker, started on an interesting note. He gave an example of what it is not to be on our homeland, then, based on his sons request, sought to demonstrate the relevance of the Armenian Cause to our lives today. Though he had the pieces, somehow, he never brought them together. His emphasis on our lands was heartening though. The AYFs representative, Vanna Kouyoumji, delivered a potent, short speech. She started with Nelson Mandela, ended with Margaret Mead and in between emphasized the importance of knowing our origins, towns and villages in the homeland. May we have many more like hers. The rest of the program consisted of the standard fare of music and dance. Some 500 people were present. The Montebello Tro Gomidehs annual vigil at the monument was also fairly standard: a video presentation, a few electeds, and keynotes by Raffi Hamparian and Seto Boyajian. Raffis message of the price of inaction leading to the loss of our lands was very germane. But at that point, many had left their seats and it probably didnt reach and resonate with the people as much as it ought to have. Likewise for Seto, whose emphasis was on the presentation of a complete case. He explained why we cant put our deman’s forth piecemeal in the international arena. Thus, if we dont include lands in our deman’s now, focusing on Genocide recognition only, we may foreclose on the possibility of repatriation permanently. I missed some of the program since I was at the next function described below. Attendance stood at 400-500 judging by the chairs. Its always nice to have a memorial prayer right beneath the monument. But the highlight was the arrival of the 70 youth who had marched from Pasadena and environs on this occasion. They arrived and were recognized, quite appropriately interrupting the progress of the program. Earlier the same night, the seventh annual memorial organized by the Glendale High Schools Armenian Clubs was held. Attendance was better than Ive seen it before, close to 1000 parents and students. Unfortunately, since the program was organized late, the substance was missing. Other years were more impressive. However, their seemed to be an effort at integration of Armenian and Latino culture. This is important given the tensions that have flared periodically among Armenian and Latino students. A Latina student performed a traditional Armenian dance, while an Armenian couple danced in Latin style to Armenian-based music. They were very impressive and the audience loved it. R-Mean performed here too. Greg Krekorian, school board member and driving force behind this event, used the Turkish Defense Ministers remarks, on video, from last years World Affairs Council luncheon to good effect demonstrating denial in its harshest form. He also noted the struggle for our lands. More next week. Meanwhile, keep up your efforts to secure Congressional passage of the Genocide reolutions, in both chambers of congress.

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