BY FLORA ADAMIAN
Special to Asbarez
GLENDALE–The Armenian National Committee of America-Glendale chapter held a press conference at the Americana at Brand at 11 a.m. Thursday to update the community on the status of the shopping center’s refusal to provide space for an advertisement for the upcoming Armenian Genocide documentary, “Architects of Denial.”
The original purpose of the press conference was to announce an official boycott of the Americana at Brand and Caruso Affiliated due to their lack of sensitivity toward the Armenian-American community, their decision to reject the “Architects of Denial” billboard and the claim that the billboard was “too political.”
All that changed hours before the press conference when Caruso Affiliated Executive Vice President of Operations Jackie Levy sent a letter to ANCA-Glendale addressed to the Glendale Armenian community announcing that the Americana at Brand would allow advertising and screening of the film at no cost to the producers, ANCA-Glendale decided not to move forward with the boycott, but decided, nevertheless, to hold the press conference.
Speakers included Co-Executive Producer of “Architects of Denial” Dean Cain, California State Senator Anthony Portantino, Glendale Mayor Vartan Gharpetian, ANCA-Glendale Chair Artin Manoukian, former Chairman and current board member of the Armenian Bar Association Garo Ghazarian, Esq. and former Executive Director of the ANCA-Western Region (ANCA-WR) Elen Asatryan. Also in attendance were Glendale City Council members Zareh Sinanyan, Paula Devine, Vrej Agajanian and Ara Najarian, Glendale Unified School District Board Members, Armenian Youth Federation members, among other elected officials and community leaders.
“This is a first step in the healing process in appropriately advertising a movie about the Genocide, but it’s also a lesson to all of us for why we have to continue to educate the public because the Genocide happened,” Portantino said. “It’s not a disputed historical fact, and California says so, and the businesses in California should be on the same page with the State of California, which appropriately recognizes the Genocide. But, it underscores that we have to continue to educate the non-Armenian community as much as possible, and that’s why movies like ‘Architects of Denial’ are so important and why they need to be publicized.”
“It’s like Little Armenia here, and the fact that they wouldn’t let us advertise here because it was ‘too political’ is what really set us off because this is not a political issue,” Cain said. “Genocide is not a political issue, it’s a human rights issue, it’s a documented historical fact that took place. Denying it is ridiculous, and that’s what they were, in a sense, doing. So, they were complicit in denying that this took place in calling it ‘political,’ and they realized the error of their ways because there was so much community and grassroots action against it.”
ANCA-WR board members, interns and staff were also present at the event. ANCA-WR Chairwoman Nora Hovsepian echoed Cain’s emphasis on the importance of grassroots activism as an effective way to combat genocide denial.
“We’re very grateful for our grassroots for coming out and making our collective voice heard on this issue,” Hovsepian said. “We’re happy that Caruso Affiliated has agreed to meet with us and has agreed to advertise the ‘Architects of Denial’ film, which is an important Armenian Genocide documentary which should be seen by everyone.”
Hovsepian thanked elected officials for their presence, especially Senator Anthony Portantino, who she said stepped up from day one and was on the ground with ANCA activists every step of the way during their efforts to resolve the Americana’s denial of advertisement space.
Although the ANCA-Glendale is content with Caruso Affiliated’s response and decision to allow free advertising and screening of ‘Architects of Denial,’ ANCA-Glendale Community Outreach Director Margarita Baghdasaryan emphasized that this marks the first step in a long-term process toward reconciliation. Baghdasaryan stated that Caruso Affiliated must work with the Armenian community, and especially the ANCA, to adopt culturally sensitive policies and ensure that such instances never occur again.
“We look forward to working with Americana at Brand and Caruso Affiliated to further address the community’s needs and develop a positive and constructive relationship moving forward,” a statement by the ANCA-Glendale said.