For a time of year that is typically slow as far as activities/events/developments go in the Armenian community, the last few weeks seem to have been fairly energetic. I thought it might be worth sharing a few items.
The Armenian Bar Association and USC Armenian Alumni Association (I’m neither a lawyer nor USC graduate) held a well-attended picnic. Besides being enjoyable and an opportunity to chat with friends, I had the honor of meeting Nick Koumjian. He is one of the prosecutors in Charles Taylor’s (former president of Liberia) war crimes trial, probably the only Armenian to be involved in such a proceeding. It’s great that the generation of lawyers that we produced three-four decades ago did not all become ambulance chasers or corporate hacks. Not only is this heartening, but Nick’s experience may even provide insights as to how we might proceed in any future trials against Turkey (though the situation is obviously different in that none of the actual perpetrators are still alive). He seems like a very humble guy, and thus very appealing. Plus, he used to work in the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office in the public integrity division. Of course it didn’t hurt that he grew up in Monmouth County, N.J., just north of Ocean County where I grew up, and even competed against his high school on our chess team.
An effort coming to fruition after months of groundwork is iArtzakh, a program to include a course of study in computer software/programming at the university in Stepanagerd. Its first fundraiser was held in the new, Northwest San Fernando Valley Community Center. This is an important program because it creates the infrastructure to integrate Artsakh with the world economy through one of the most robust fields. Get on board to support them. You can reach them out at ssecd.org.
On the economic front, a positive development for small businesses in the Burbank-North Hollywood-Glendale area, many of them Armenian owned, was a judge’s ruling in Los Angeles Superior Court on August 17. He concluded the hearing by saying he would issue an injunction or stay, whichever was appropriate, that would prevent the City of Burbank from issuing permits for Walmart to conduct work on the store it wants to open in Burbank. The hearing was the first in a suit brought by citizens suing the City of Burbank over incomplete mitigation measures around the location where Walmart proposes to open another of its thousands of huge stores that severely damage local economies.
An event I missed that I’d hoped to attend was “Armogeddon.” I gather it was a collection of skits and stand-up comedy bits. Sounded like fun. Also, it seemed like a new grouping getting into the Armenian theatre scene, to which I am very partial. Unfortunately, it was a one-night event only. Maybe they’ll run it again.
The Hyevotes registration drive is in full swing. Organized by the ANCA- Western Region, this effort will be long running and reach the countless new citizens in our community who have somehow remained unregistered. The initial focus will be during the run-up to the November 6th elections, since this is when people are most attuned to elections and voting. It will start with the low-lying fruit of the densest Armenian communities, and expand its reach outward. You can help, or even just find out how to get registered to vote yourself (or help a friend get registered) by going to www.hyevotes.org.
I had the privilege of being invited to a discussion session organized by the ARPA Institute about “Armenia-Diaspora Relations and Corruption”. This was a first attempt. Consequently, the ideas expressed varied broadly and will require some honing and focusing. Some notions were very expansive, while others were very nuts-and-bolts, specific-project-oriented. The only flaw I noticed was the absence of the younger segment of our community. When I, at over half a century, am the second or third youngest person in the room… But otherwise, the mix of people was very good. Hopefully, this type of thinking session will continue and not be unique to ARPA.