LOS ANGELES—More than 700 people crowded into the El Rey Theatre on Saturday April 24 for a social justice concert featuring community artists Visa, Element, R-Mean and the Dirty Diamond. The concert, which capped off a day of emotional commemorative events throughout Southern California, will benefit the Armenian Relief Society’s “Armenia-Artsakh Orphan Project” and the Bird’s Nest Orphanage in Lebanon.
The annual “Silence the Lies! Rock the Truth!” concert, now in its second year, is dedicated to exposing the denial of the Armenian Genocide and raising awareness of this crime against humanity. This year the event was co-hosted by the Armenian Youth Federation-Western Region, Armenian National Committee-Western Region, with the participation of Serjical Strike Records, Knoup Presents, Alpha Gamma Alpha Sorority and the AGBU.
“April 24, 95 yeas ago is not just a day for us to commemorate the Armenian Genocide,” said Arek Santikian, Chairman of the AYF-WR, who took to the stage to address the crowd. “It is a day for us to stand up, silence the lies, rock the truth, because 95 years later, we as Armenians are still here, and we will continue to be here day in and day out, year after year.”
Featured speakers and community leaders during the concert were California State Assemblymember Anthony Portantino (D-44) and James Lafferty, KPFK host and Executive Director of the National Lawyers Guild, Los Angeles Chapter. Speaking to a crowd of over 700 youth, Portantino and Lafferty highlighted the importance of perseverance, determination, and activism in the struggle to end Turkey’s gag rule.
“The fact that Turkey is an ally is no excuse for immorality,” stated James Lafferty. “There are some truths that are so potent, so powerful, and so undeniable, that you can bury them for 10, 20, and even 95 years, but you can’t bury them forever. If you keep marching, if you keep raising your voices, if you keep strong, and if you remember that history is on your side, the truth will prevail.”
“The State of California officially recognizes and commemorates the Armenian Genocide,” said Assemblymember Anthony Portantino (D-44). “Now we have to get Washington to do the same thing, and we have to get Turkey to do the same. Because what affects one of us, affects all of us,” he added.
The concert took place hours after more than 10,000 Armenian-Americans poured out onto the streets as part of an AYF-organized protest that forced the closure of Wlishire Blvd at McCarthy Vista. Many participants from the protest headed directly down Wilshire following the demonstration to stand in line for the concert.
Emotion filled the El Rey the entire night, as the sell-out crowd relentlessly cheered for the artists and various speakers. Andrew Kzirian, a member of headlining band Viza and long-time activist, explained the importance of commemorating culture and activism. “Events such as this speak out to the youth and to the public very clearly, especially when the messaging is so significant to the Armenian people,” said Kzirian. “
Kzirian said the mission of the concert is to bring socially conscious people together to celebrate culture, life, activism and justice. Last year, organizers donated proceeds to the Orran Charity, which works to prevent the spread of destitution and begging among Armenia’s children and elderly.