AYF Pushes Social Justice With Music; Joins Visa, LA Mission to Feed Homeless on Thanksgiving

VISA at the Troubadour singing to feed the needy on Thanksgiving. Photo by Jake Hagopian

VISA at the Troubadour singing to feed the needy on Thanksgiving. Photo by Jake Hagopian

HOLLYWOOD, Calif.,–The Armenian Youth Federation last month teamed with experimental-fusion rock band Visa and a host of local socially-conscious artists to put-on a special benefit concert that helped feed over 250 less fortunate families on Thanksgiving Day through the LA Mission, a non-profit serving the homeless of Downtown Los Angeles.

The concert, held at the Troubadour on November 25, came to life with the help of up ‘n’ coming local artists R-Mean, MadStory, Red Snow, and Cahn & Yang. The AYF sponsored the evening, working in the days and weeks leading up to the packed-house holiday event to promote the collaborative endeavor. The highlight of the night occurred when System of a Down frontman Serj Tankian joined Visa on stage to perform the song “Viktor”. Tankian, an AYF alumnus, brings a tremendously strong track record of speaking out on social justice issues, making his appearance all the more fitting.

“The AYF is very proud to have been a part of an event that gave back to the community, and shed light on an issue that not only affects our own communities here, but millions of people around the world,” said Arek Santikian, the AYF’s Chairman. “Our organization’s founding principle, and driving force till this day, is social justice. And we are always looking to work with as many groups and people toward that end.”

AGBU’s GenNext youth mentorship program, which worked to help promote the event, thanked Visa for the collaborative opportunity. “They’re a great band. They’ve got great music, and they attract a great crowd,” Luiza Baloyan of GenNex said, explaining how the concert gave GenNext an opportunity to promote her organization’s mission and recruit new mentors to serve as role models for underprivileged community youth. “When it comes to helping our kids, people don’t think in terms of political persuasion, country of origin or ideological tilt; they just say, “sign me up.” When it comes to helping our youth, we can all be on the same page.”

“We at the Los Angeles Mission want to thank everyone involved with the Feed the Need project and the success that it had. Seeing the young people take hold and take charge to serve the less fortunate is exactly what we need more of,” said Ivan Klassen, the Director of Community Partnerships at the LA Mission.

When it comes to working with community groups on social issues, Visa is “all about action,” according to band member and AYF alumnus Antranig Kzirian, who described the band as an eclectic mix of individuals who appreciate the importance of helping the less fortunate. 

“Working with socially conscious community organizations to be civically active is very important,” said Kzirian. “The AYF sets a strong example for today’s youth by doing more to make sure social justice issues such as genocide recognition and feeding the hungry are addressed properly in the public eye and Visa looks forward to working together again in the future.”

According to Santikian, the Visa concert was first among many such events the organization is planning for the coming months. “Over the years we have come to realize that music can be used to not only bring people together but to amplify the spectrum of causes focused on positive issues,” he explained.

The AYF, ANC and Visa teamed together this past April 24 to hold a special benefit concert to commemorate the Armenian Genocide, with proceeds benefiting an orphanage in Armenia.

“The AYF has a couple more projects in mind for the rest of year that fuse music with socially conscious endeavors,” Santikian said, adding that the AYF plans to work with popular local artists to help raise awareness of human rights violations, past, present and future. “One of our focuses for the next year will be to work with artists to connect a diverse cross-section of people with social and humanitarian causes working to end the ongoing cycle of genocide, which began with the Armenians in 1915 and continues to rage on in Darfur.”

For more information about the AYF and collaboration opportunities, visit: AYFwest.org or email: ayf@ayfwest.org


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