Flag Raising in N. Providence
On Fri., April 20, the Armenian National Committee (ANC) of Rhode Island hosted the annual North Providence flag raising. A crowd of close to 100 gathered to pay respect to our martyrs. North Providence was the first town in the state of Rhode Island to officially raise the flag in memory of the martyrs—and has continued to do so for 16 years.
The following elected officials were present: Senator Jack Reed, Cong. David Cicilline, Secretary of State A. Ralph Mollis, Attorney General Peter Kilmartin, Warwick Mayor Scott Avedisian, Cranston Mayor Allan Fung, the Honorable Aram Garabedian, State Rep. Raymond Hull, and the host, Mayor Charles Lombardi. Numerous town council and department heads from the town were also in attendance.
Richard Shadoian was this year’s honoree. He was chosen by the local ANC to receive the citation from Lombardi on behalf of the Armenian community of North Providence. He is a retired 40-year veteran of the North Providence School Department, serving as a teacher and rising all the way to the rank of superintendent. He spoke of the loss of his grandmother during the death march through the Syrian desert, which brought tears to the crowd’s eyes.
Clergy present were Rev. Hagop Manjelikian of the Armenian Evangelical Church, who gave the blessing, and Arch Priest Gomidas Baghsarian of Sts. Vartanantz Armenian Apostolic Church, who closed with a final prayer.
A message from the local ANC was given by emcee, Stephen Elmasian. Refreshments followed in the council chambers.
Annual ARS Blood Drive
On Sun., April 22, over 20 people gave blood at the annual ARS blood drive done memory of our martyrs. The drive was organized by the Providence ARS “Ani” and “Arax” Chapters. This tradition has been going on for years and will continue next year.
Flag Raising in Cranston
On Mon., April 23, Cranston City Hall was the sight of the ANC’s flag raising ceremony. The first floor lobby was full beyond capacity as 200 people were hosted by Mayor Allan Fung. The event began with the singing of the American and Armenian National Anthems by Joanne Mouradjian and Debra Pjojian, respectively. Elected officials present and speaking were Warwick Mayor Scott Avedisian, House Leader Nicholas Mattiello, State Senator Hanna Gallo, and the Hon. Aram Garabedian. Der Hayr Shnork Souin of St. Sahag and St. Mesrob Armenian Apostolic Church gave a moving message and blessing. Badveli Hagop Manjelikian of the Armenian Evangelical Church shared his comments as well. Arch Priest Gomidas Baghsarian of Sts. Vartanantz Armenian Apostolic Church closed with a message and final prayer.
Two youth from the community, Cory Garabedian and Harout Tashian, also read. Both did admirable jobs representing our future when it comes to getting the Armenian Genocide its proper recognition.
Mayor Fung shared his thoughts on why we were at city hall, and read a citation to this year’s honoree, Souren Mouradjian, a World War II veteran who received the Purple Heart and Bronze Star while serving his nation. He has served in the choir and as choir director at Sts. Vartanantz Church for over 60 years. He spoke of his own adversity during the genocide, where he lost a number of his own family members. The Homenetmen Scouts escorted Fung and Mouradjian outside to the flag pole where the Armenian flag was once again raised in honor of our martyrs while the scouts stood as honor guards at attention singing “Mer Hairenik.” Refreshments followed.
Events at RI State House
On Tues., April 24, at the Rhode Island State House at the rise of the House, Arch Priest Gomidas Baghsarian of Sts. Vartanantz Armenian Apostolic Church gave the opening prayer at the start of the proceedings in the House of Representatives. At the same time, Debra Pjojian sang both the American and Armenian National Anthems on the Senate side, where a number of Armenians were present on the Senate floor and recognized by the elected officials. Also present on the Senate side was Der Hayr Shnork Souin of St. Sahag and St. Mesrob Armenian Apostolic Church. The Honorable Chief Judge of the Family Court, Haiganush Bedrosian, shared her comments to both the House and Senate. Both houses went on to read their annual resolutions recognizing April 24 as Armenian Genocide Day. A proclamation had previously been written by Gov. Lincoln Chafee recognizing April 24 as Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day.
The Armenian flag hung from the gallery in both the House and Senate and flew outside of the building as it does every year.
Sen. Hanna Gallo of Cranston read moving words and was joined by a number of other members of the Senate, including Sen. Maryellen Goodwin. A reception followed at the conclusion of the program on the Senate side. Representatives also rose and spoke regarding the importance of recognizing what happened to our ancestors and calling it by its proper name: genocide.
On the evening of April 24, at Sts. Vartanantz Church, a brief memorial mass for the martyrs was followed by the showing of the documentary film titled “Grandma’s Tattoos.” The event was hosted by the Providence ARF and the two Providence ARS Chapters. An overflow crowd was present to hear messages from Sarkis Tarpinian of the ARF, Pauline Getzoyan of the ARS, and Sarah Varadian, AYF president, whose moving opening remarks provided an appropriate transition to the movie. Arch Priest Der Gomidas Baghsarian gave closing remarks. A reception followed.
On Wed., April 25, two ANC-RI members, Stephen Elmasian and Stephen Mesrobian, attended the annual ANCA Capitol Hill Genocide Commemorations and Observances. They visited the offices of Sen. Jack Reed, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, Cong. Jim Langevin, Cong. David Cicilline, Cong. Barney Frank, and Sen. Scott Brown.
“We here in Rhode Island are blessed to have all four of our federal representatives backing our cause for genocide recognition,” said Elmasian. They were accompanied throughout the day by several others, most notably Archbishop Oshagan Choloyan, who spoke movingly on genocide recognition and the return of Christian churches in Turkey.
Archbishop Choloyan gave the opening prayer in the Senate. He was followed by opening remarks by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and then Sen. Reed.
Elmasian and Mesrobian were escorted around the nation’s capital by Providence natives, Rosanne Haroian of Reed’s office and Lisa Sarkisian Tatarian of Cicilline’s office.
The evening concluded with a reception in the Kennedy Room in the Senate, where a crowd of 250 gathered to hear words of encouragement from many of the nation’s lawmakers including Sen. Reed and Cong. Cicilline, who once again affirmed their commitment to our cause.
Flag sponsorship program
For the past 14 years, every city and town hall in the state of Rhode Island, along with the Rhode Island State House, have flown the Armenian flag in memory of our martyrs. The local ANC started a flag sponsorship program 7 years ago that began with 29 flag sponsors. This year a new record of 81 community members and organizations sponsored a flag at a city or town hall of their choice and had the flag flown in memory of a loved one. Each flag sponsor will be recognized at the ANC Meet the Candidates Picnic in the fall and presented with a citation and a 3×5 foot flag.