By Garen Yegparian
It was a "0" year–you know–60th–70th–80th anniversary. For some reason–these seem to become big deals in the human mind. Though it does seem to have helped the turnout at some Genocide commemorative activities–things were–otherwise–pretty typical–usual–boring–even counterproductive in some cases.
Once again I made it a point to attend as many events as possible in the Los Angeles area. In the process–I may well have missed two of the most interesting ones–the System Of A Down concert and–performing at the Hard Rock Cafe in Universal City–Gor Mkhitarian–Echocell–and Slow Motion Reign. I won’t pretend to be able to address the March for Humanity–for better or worse–as I was neither observer nor participant–but have heard both raves and pans of the whole effort.
Being a Burbank boy–I did attend the Burbank ANC’s activities–so let’s cover them first. The best was an April 16 presentation of J. Michael Hagopian’s film Voices from the Lake at the Burbank public library. Over 80 people–a significant portion under 30–attended–bringing some non-Armenian friends. On April 19–for the first time–a short march of some 100 Homenetmen’scouts and others from McCambridge Park’s eternal flame (in memory of American veterans) led to the city hall’s steps. There–some 200 people gathered for a brief program after the City Council issued its annual proclamation about the Genocide and recognized the ANC for its "Books for Burbank" program that netted hundreds of Armenian books for the public library.
Not a bad showing–but hardly exceptional overall. However–it might be worth considering the aggregate benefit of events organized at the local level like those above–in Glendale–organized as official City events–and elsewhere. The question forces itself. Is it better to have one–maybe two–large–LA-basinwide events or numerous smaller ones? The value of the former lies in potential media coverage and of the latter in more individuals engaged in the process and inviting personal–non-Armenian friends to join.
The Armenian Clubs of Glendale high schools–again organized an event on April 21–in a very short time I was informed. For all that–the program was good. It lacked inclusion of another instance of Genocide–ethnic cleansing–or massacres which was a good "ecumenical’ touch included during last year’s. A young Armenian rapper R Mean’s–inclusion was a strong–contemporary touch and rounded out the traditional dance and musical fare. Like last year–attendance was poor. It’s too bad that teenagers go through all that effort and are not sufficiently rewarded by our community’s (and others’) attendance.
The now annual youth rally–held April 22 by the AYF and ARF Shant Students Association–drew a good crowd–though less than last year’s. The program was good–including R Mean again–and an excellent rendition of some very haunting songs of longing for our homeland–"Keleh Lao" among them. Samantha Power’s presentation was poignant and to the point–tying in the Darfur genocide. She pointed to the effectiveness our lobby is in DC–by relating that the ANCA’s website had been hacked and crashed from Khartoum–Sudan–presumably for addressing the Darfur issue. Interestingly–in some younger minds she was eclipsed by Greg Krikorian’s fire-and-brimstone speech. What stood out most starkly though was the band Freeway People. They closed the program–what a disaster.
The singer began with a prayer–redolent of Christian rock’s extremism and the songs continued in the same vein. They then performed a few numbers with most of the lyrics unintelligible–though what slipped through matched the earlier stench. Many people left the hall at this point. A look at the lyrics on the CD they distributed gratis in the foyer–confirmed their extremist bent. Just to remove all doubt–I visited their website. It was replete with links to various religious websites. Among the most telling–Paz Naz is the Pasadena Church of the Nazarene’s web presence. This church is a fundamentalist one–back from the days when it wasn’t even fashionable to be fundamentalist Christians. A minister I queried likened them to the Church of the Brethren–familiar to many Armenia’s as "beeraderner"– clearly a twisting of the English word.
The worrisome part of this group’s presence is–as a friend pointed out–"They sound a lot like System Of A Down." Their musical appeal will help them disseminate the toxic version of Christianity such groups espouse–ultimately alienating many of our youth from involvement in Armenian affairs. In fact–a member of the audience recognized T-shirts worn by fans of this band as the ones worn by individuals distributing leaflets with the same type of propaganda at the AYF’s Turkish consulate demonstration in 2004. The organizers made a TREMENDOUS mistake by inviting Freeway People to perform.
April 23’s "united" march from the Dikranian School to the Turkish consulate was nothing but pathetic. Monitors almost outnumbered participants. Altogether some 200 people walked–with a surfeit of banners–given the attendance.
The demonstration at the consulate itself was successful. Once again–numbers increased over last year–though estimating how many attended is very difficult because of the demonstration’s nature. Anything up to 2000 is probably accurate. Three TV news cameras and one helicopter were there. At least one station aired coverage. The closing commen’s were weak again. Somehow the connection to why we’re there–a direct link to the consulate’s symbolic value in our deman’s from Turkey just wasn’t made. It seems to me this leaves demonstrators less than satisfied for participating.
April 24 marked the fifth march and rally in Little Armenia (see elsewhere)–though an arguable numeric success–was again a divisive factor. To my understanding–the organizers refused to work with everyone else. Net result–while they got better turnout–it was counterproductive. The proof of the organizers ill intent is the ludicrous news they conveyed to Armenia that 100,000 people participated in the Little Armenia gathering. Clearly a case of one-up-manship. Also–a lead organizer is none other than one of the electoral idiots who played the spoiler in the Glendale elections–derailing other–substantive Armenian candidates’ ability to get elected. Obviously this man has poor judgment–at best. So what can be said of his motives for organizing this event? And his partner in crime has other issues–more on that as I can substantiate what I’ve heard.
The "united" gathering at Glendale High School’s football field–supported by all community organizations–for all the hype–was a flop. Only 3000 were in attendance. Cooling weather drove many to leave early–adding to the lousy results. It seems to have replaced the gathering at our monument in Montebello–a bad decision. It was the same parade of electeds and their platitudes–without the symbolic value of the monument. This doesn’t go over too well when many in attendance–to this day–have trouble with English–thus making it just an obligation to attend–rather than an inspiration. Reports reached me of a few hundred people gathering in Montebello at the very same time–though I cannot confirm this.
What all this tells me is that people want to go to the monument. People want to walk in honor of our martyrs. People obviously want to see results for their efforts. So how do we proceed?
Conclusion: Unless we gather at the monument in Montebello and march–bike–and/or drive in a huge procession to the Turkish consulate for a big-shut-down-Wilshire-Boulevard demonstration–(or vice-versa) the large gatherings we organize are almost meaningless. So let’s do it next year–everybody rallies at the monument–lays flowers then proceeds to the consulate to demonstrate. Remember–April 24 is a Monday next year–such a gathering will have major impact.