The 24th and after

Ninety-two years after it all started I was in Hollywood for the march. Im happy to say participation had grown this year, to somewhere in the 7500-8000 range. The slogans were mostly rehash. The banners and placards were improved there were more of them and the topics addressed varied, including Azerbaijan. Too bad I didnt notice any demanding lands, though I might have missed those. Daniel Decker sang here too, and along with a piano performance and recitation, constituted the cultural program it was mercifully minimal. Others would do well to learn from this political rallies should be that, unless the performance is very directly relevant. An interesting minor glitch was the program starting before all the marchers had arrived at the stage. This activity has suffered, from its inception, from insularity. I had written three years ago that it was a means for the most recently arrived segment of our community to affirm its presence and voice. But now, in its seventh iteration and with a broader mix of participants, it should have evolved to something more. Unfortunately, it seems clear that some among the marchs organizers have a hidden agenda. Why would one speaker get up and claim that 100,000 people were in attendance? Why would the two spoilers from Glendale be given a platform? Why would a community dividing publisher be granted time? The irony is that these and a few other speakers, who do the most to disrupt our communitys cooperation, all stood and advocated unity. The most substantive speaker was probably Greg Krikorian (Glendale Unified School District Board Member), who was the only one to mention our lands. Eric Garcetti (LA City Council President) was there too, which is progress. The most interesting touch was Hrant Tomasian, a handicapped Artzakh veteran who spoke very briefly and effectively of his pride in the communitys participation in the event. From Hollywood, it was off to Montebello and the Martyrs Monument. As different from other years, there was no boring program of electeds mouthing platitudes. Taking a page from Yerevans Dzeedzernagapert monument, flowers were available to lay. A hokehankeesd was held with busses ferrying some of the attendees from other communities. I think this is a good first step towards having something meaningful and solemn happening at the monument with internal, community, Armenian value. Well in excess of 2000 people came and went since that many flowers had been delivered. Clearly, this approach has found some resonance since not many more than that number used to come to the older format. However, what we should do, is work in the electeds at the AYFs demonstration at the Turkish Consulate. Imagine putting the Turks and building owners in a position of denying entry to a governor, senator, congressman, mayor, etc. or a delegation composed of several of these folks. Now picture (a VERY few of them) briefly addressing the demonstrators, outdoors, audible to the broader public. After a brief hiatus and picking up two other participants, it was off to the most relevant activity of our April 24 doings, the AYFs demonstration. I was very pleased to see the turnout. I counted roughly 4000, but had to leave early, so I wouldnt be surprised if it approached 5000 since people were still arriving as I departed. Eastbound Wilshire Blvd. was closed off by the police. All this is excellent on a major thoroughfare at rush hour. The unity sought above was evinced in the people demonstrating, they represented many factions in our community. I can only hope that some internal compass is guiding ever more people to this action. Lets shoot for 10,000 next year and start making some news. From the demonstration, I rushed to the Burbank City Council meeting where we received our annual proclamation. Two of our high school students accepted it and spoke briefly but eloquently. The outgoing Mayor, Todd Campbell, of his own accord, requested that staff draft a letter for his signature to George Bush advocating proper recognition of the Genocide. The other City Council members joined him. But, unquestionably the most interesting and arguably most important development was the series of three programs Jewish World Watch (JWW) currently heavily involved in Darfur related efforts has organized to advocate Genocide recognition at the Valley Beth Shalom Synagogue. The first was a showing of J. Michael Hagopians Voices from the Lake. Though I missed the show, I did go to the dinner (over 400 people) followed by Friday Shabat services (even more attending) on April 27. Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa spoke at the dinner followed by Armenia’s Consul General to LA, Armen Liloyan, who did not shy away fromaddressing Israels stance regarding Genocide recognition. Daniel Decker sang here too, but not his own piece, just Giligia (one of his standards) and another traditional piece. Our clergy were there too, though unfortunately only from the Diocese, and Primate Hovnan Derderian spoke during the service. Both founders of JWW, Rabbi Harold M. Schulweis and Janice Kamenir-Resnick along with the Executive Director, Tzivia Schwartz-Getzug spoke as well. The Rabbis observations were very poignant. This is a serious effort to join the efforts of two communities with like interests in the United States. It also serves to place in stark contrast the principled position of the Jewish community and the soulless cynicism of Israels (and its U.S. lobbys) support of Turkeys denial. I am pleased. Its good to have this outfit on our side as genocide preventions human dimension becomes ever more important. Still, I have no doubt some in our community will waste their time seeking a grand conspiracy in JWW efforts. In addition, on May 15, JWW will honor Hagopian and Richard Hovanissian. If you can make it, attend, lets build this alliance. Clearly, this was a good April 24th season. We can and must do better, but it seems were entering a new era. Our lands are being demanded once again. Alliances are developing with other groups and we should engage in many more. The events I attended account for some 20,000 peoples participation (lets disregard multiple attendances by a small but significant number group of people). Lets say that as many again attended other events in the greater LA area for a total 40,000. While not an insignificant number, ten percent of the areas Armenian population is hardly something to brag about. Also, the question arises: Is it better for all these people to attend one event or to have these multiple activities? Another positive development is currency. As our activism increases, more things happen in the here-and-now, making our struggle more timely and relevant to peoples lives. Whether its the Turkish defense minister a year ago, JWW last week, or Mark Arax and the Los Angeles Times today, efforts to integrate these realities into our programming is evident and to be encouraged. We may be at the beginning of a virtuous spiral. Another seemingly odd, but I suppose understandable phenomenon is apparent. We latch on to one person or presentation, and they appear at multiple events. Witness R-Mean, Daniel Decker, and young bands of varying musical styles. Last year it was the Turkish publisher, Ragip Zarakoglu. But we have to be careful too. The song Decker (who, I was informed, did his thing in New York last year) has written and performed, Adana, given its lyrics, seems like the product of the Christian movemen’s in the U.S. While I have no qualms about cooperating with virtually any community, this particular grouping is always worrisome because of its proselytizing proclivities. We should be certain were not being used and the benefits of providing a platform to someone are not outweighed by attendant negatives. Regarding the bands, R-Means piece about the Genocide is clearly appropriate to our commemorative programs. This is true of any band and any song they present about the Genocide. However, when their lyrics are not discernable (at least to me), whats the point? Worse, if the songs have nothing to do with the Genocide or some related, serious, societal issues, why should they be performing at April 24th events? Is it appropriate to use bands as a lure to get turnout, especially by the young? This is the dilemma I was told organizers of the USC event (see last weeks piece) faced. And they are clearly not alone. I fully endorse providing forums for our young talent, but theres a time and a place for everything. In this case, I think the gravity of this time of year calls for more discretion and am cautiously opposed to the presence of these bands at our gatherings. A few observations of negative phenomena are also necessary. Most of our events have started unduly late were not talking about just ten minutes. On the other end of the spectrum, many people leave early. Either their part of the program (a child, a band, or beloved speaker) is over, or, the programs run too long. Both are probably true. Especially since most programs lacked real gusto, I must say the speaking/performing parts of them were too long. Continuing in this vein, keynote speakers should probably be placed earlier in the program so their message is not lost to people who are already restless and bored or who have left entirely. Lets keep up the good work, improve the faulty, and discard the unacceptable in our pursuit of Recognition, Reparations, and Return of our lands. Most of all, lets keep it up year-round.

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