MONTEBELLOMore than 1,000 community members attended a political rally/candlelight vigil commemorating the 92nd anniversary of the Armenian Genocide at the Armenian Martyrs Memorial Monument in Bicknell Park on April 23. The event was organized by the Armenian National Committee of San Gabriel Valley and the Armenian Revolutionary Foundation Dro Gomideh, and included the participation of affiliated organizations and local political officials. Keynote speakers at the event were Raffi Hamparian, Chairman of the Armenian National Committee, Western Region, and Seto Boyadjian, Esq., a former executive director of the Armenian National Committee of America, and a member of the Dro Gomideh. Hamparian spoke to the attendees regarding the importance of grass-roots activism in advancing the ANCs agenda on both local and national levels. He also updated the gathering regarding recent anti-Armenian activities by Turkish organizations, including the outrageous claims recently advanced by Turkish activists that Armenia’s had committed genocide against the Turkish people. Boyadjian stressed one of the central precepts guiding the work of the ANC and ARF. That is the fact that recognition of the Armenian Genocide is only the first step in the organizations aims. He emphasized that recognition without reparations would be an empty gesture as no serious doubt exists regarding the historical fact of the Armenian Genocide. The guest speaker for the evening was Montebello Mayor, Norma Lopez-Reid who spoke about the close relationship between the City of Montebello and the local Armenian community and the importance of remembering the Armenian Genocide. Mayor Lopez-Reid was joined at the commemoration by three other members of the Montebello City Council, Rosemarie Vasquez, Jeff Siccama and Robert Bagwell. Other guests attending the commemoration included representatives of Congresswoman Hilda Solis, State Senator Ron Calderon, State Assemblyman Charles Calderon and members of the Central Basin Municipal Water District (which generously donated 1,200 bottles of water for the various commemorative activities at the Montebello Martyrs Monument on April 23rd and 24th). The program was opened by Levon Kirakosian, Esq., who served as Master of Ceremonies. Kirakosian, a member of Californias Trade Office in Armenia, also serves on Californias Taskforce on the Holocaust, Genocide, Human Rights and Tolerance. After a flag ceremony conducted by the Montebello Homenetmen’scouts, ANC San Gabriel Valley Chairman Viken Pakradouni, Esq., delivered the opening remarks. He called on those in attendance to become activists involved in the grass roots efforts of the ANC. He also noted that Montebello had established a sister-city relationship with Stepanakert in Karabagh, despite active opposition from the Azeri government. Araz Harboyan, a member of the Armenian Youth Federation Vahan Cardashian chapter and a senior at Armenian Mesrobian School, then recited a poem. Her recitation was followed by a presentation of i-Witness, a photography exhibition of Genocide survivors prepared by The Genocide Project, featuring photography by Ara Oshagan and Levon Parian. Harboyan was joined by Razmig Sarkissian, a 10th grader at Mesrobian and a member of the ARF Badanegan Vahan Cardashian chapter, in reading portions of the oral histories of the Genocide survivors featured in the i-Witness presentation. Following that, Nazareth Sadorian, Chairman of the ARF Dro Gomideh, spoke regarding the steps that would follow recognition of the Armenian Genocide, namely, reparations and return of the Armenian homeland. Sadorians remarks were followed by a video presentation regarding recent activities by the ANC-Western Region. A large contingent of Homenetmen’scouts, AYF members and other community activisists who had marched from Pasadena to the Monument, a distance of over ten miles, then arrived and marched solemly to the base of the Monument under candlelight and to the applause of the audience. The evening concluded with a Hokehankisd (requiem service) presided over by the pastors of the Holy Cross Cathedral, Fr. Nareg Pehlivanian and Fr. Ashod Kambourian, along with Fr. Khoren Baboshian from Pasadena. They were joined in a candlelight procession by the audience which paid its respects to the victims of the Armenian Genocide.