FRESNO, Calif.—Fresno’s Armenian-American community has come together to form the Armenian Genocide Centennial Committee, an umbrella association established to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide throughout this year and 2015. Working under the theme “Commemoration, Education, Inspiration,” the committee is made-up of representatives from the community’s religious, educational, social, and political organizations.
“The commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide is clearly a significant moment for Armenians all around the world,” said AGCC Chairman and California State University, Fresno, Professor of Armenian Studies Sergio La Porta. “As Fresno is one of the largest and most active Armenian communities in the Western Hemisphere, I think it resonates particularly strongly here. It is home to a proud and resilient Armenian community and is an especially poignant place to commemorate those who died in the Genocide and those who toiled afterwards to insure that we would have a much better world to live in.”
The centerpiece of the AGCC’s efforts will be the monument that will be constructed on the Fresno State campus. Designed by Fresno architect Paul Halajian, the structure will embody symbols of cultural meaning to the Armenian people. Built from béton brut and tufa stones, its principal components will be nine columns arranged in a circular pattern and angled inwards, reminiscent of the Tzitzernagapert monument in Armenia. The nine pillars represent the six provinces of historic Armenia, Cilicia, the Diaspora, and the Republic of Armenia. The columns will gradually descend in height around the circle, with the first measuring 19 feet high and the last 15 to underscore the significance of the year 1915. An incomplete halo will be set above the columns, symbolizing both the fracture left by the Genocide and the unity of the Armenian people.
In keeping with the group’s mission to educate, the AGCC plans several endeavors to reach out to the broader Central Valley to raise awareness about the Armenian Genocide. A San Joaquin Town Hall event entitled Man’s Inhumanity To Man—The Last Hundred Years will be held on March 18, 2015 at the Saroyan Theatre, and a dramatic play about the Genocide is in the works, scheduled to open at Fresno State on May 1, 2015.
The committee also plans to offer workshops for secondary teachers of the Fresno and Clovis Unified School districts as well as other area districts to inform them how best to educate their students about the Armenian Genocide. The proposed lesson plans not only address the Armenian Genocide in particular, but also place Armenia’s tragedy within the larger historical context of Man’s Inhumanity to Man, including the treatment of Native Americans, the Holocaust, and the more recent state-sponsored ethnic cleansings in Rwanda and the Balkans. The committee stresses that though the Genocide occurred a century ago, the crime is still very much a modern human rights issue—especially in light of the maneuverings of the Republic of Turkey to deny or revise this historical fact.
In conjunction with the Fresno Philharmonic, the committee will host a concert to be held on April 25th at the Saroyan Theatre. The AGCC hopes that the evening’s program—which will include scared, classical, and new pieces—will celebrate the spirit of the Armenian people even in the wake of the Genocide. Also as part of the centennial’s musical events will be a performance by the Khachaturian Trio for clarinet, violin, and piano at Fresno State on November 14, 2014.
These and other events and activities will supplement the Fresno Community’s traditional roster of commemorative gatherings, including the religious ceremony of the local churches, the Raising of US and Armenian flags on the steps of Fresno City Hall, the commemoration at the Ararat Cemetery, and the Fresno State remembrance in the university’s Free Speech Area.
The following organizations comprise Fresno’s AGCC: First Armenian Presbyterian Church,
Holy Trinity Armenian Apostolic Church, Pilgrim Armenian Congregational Church, St. Gregory Armenian Church, St. Mary’s Armenian Church, St. Paul Armenian Church, St. Sahag Mesrob Armenian Church, Ani Guild, Ararat Armenian Cemetery Association, Armenian General Benevolent Union, Armenian Museum of Fresno, Armenian National committee—Central California, Armenian Relief Society—Mother Chapter, Armenian Relief Society—Sophia Chapter, Fresno State Armenian Studies Program, Fresno State Armenian Students Organization, Armenian Technology Group, Inc., Armenian Youth Federation—Kevork Chavush Chapter, California Armenian Home, Charlie Keyan Armenian Community School, Hamazkayin Educational and Cultural Association, Homenetmen Scouts, Knights and Daughters of Vartan, Tekeyan Cultural Association, Triple X Fraternity—Fresno Chapter, and Triple X Fraternity—Selma Chapter.