Commemoration 2013: An LA Chronicle

The Day of and Beyond

This year, April 24th started quite early in the day, with a 6:30 a.m. meeting for a commemorative hike organized by AHA (Armenian Hiking Association), which is just getting off the ground. Seventeen participants started in Glendale’s Brand Park and hiked up to the “Seven Trees” area. A brief presentation, focusing on the necessity of assisting the republics that we have and the lands under our control, was followed by a few poems recited. A few people shared their thoughts, including a gentleman who had arrived separately. Then everyone returned to their cars to go about the rest of their genocide doings. (For full disclosure, I was an organizer of the hike.)

After a quick shower, it was off to Pasadena and the second of what I’d hoped would be a five-event day. This was a special year in that city. Catherine Menard’s winning (out of 17 entries) design of its new genocide monument was unveiled. Completion is anticipated by the 100th anniversary, and will be located in Memorial Park. The circular design, surrounded by 12 (for the number of stolen Armenian provinces) pomegranate trees, and planned 1,500,000 drops of water that will fall into a basin is quite impressive. I am glad I attended. The program was standard, and the comments by Bill Paparian, designer and organizing committee chair, were quite apt. I counted 458 people at the beginning of the program, with more arriving throughout. Easily 500 attended. Only one flaw, no fault of the program’s and monument’s organizers, marred the day: Another group had assembled just a few blocks away to unveil its own monument…

Next it was off to Hollywood via the Gold and Red lines (yes, there are now subways in the LA basin) to the annual March in Little Armenia. Unfortunately, since the Pasadena event started a bit late and ran longer than the anticipated one hour, I completed missed the march and cannot report on it, save to say that T-shirts with some good designs were being sold.

Having left my car overnight in Hollywood, next it was off to Montebello for the annual United Commemorative Committee’s program at the Martyrs Monument there. The highlight was British Judge Geoffrey Robinson, who spoke eloquently and strongly about the necessity of doing justice to the Armenian nation for the calamitous losses of life, land, and culture. He noted that at the time the Turks committed it, everyone knew a crime had occurred, but there was no law to act on. It was a crime without a name. He traced the legal developments since, including examples of progress towards separation of countries (e.g. Kosovo) and even the Safarov travesty. As usual, the program ran longer than planned because of the numerous elected officials who spoke. Getting a headcount was also difficult since many people come, lay a flower beside the eternal flame to pay their respects, and quietly depart. It did look like there was a slightly larger crowd than usual.

The final stop of the day was the most important: the AYF’s demonstration at the Turkish Consulate. Once again the sidewalk in front of the closed and tightly guarded building was full of people demanding justice. There were even some who had come to voice their concerns about Turkey’s destructive role in Syria’s current civil war. Paul Krekorian spoke eloquently, citing the example of a teacher in Turkey who was arrested at a genocide-denial training for having the temerity to ask, “What if it is recognized?” Raffi Orphali also spoke well on behalf of the organizers, giving due respect to those Turkish intellectuals who are taking steps forward to come clean and addressing the importance of political engagement. Of course, this was done from the now-traditional perch of the top of a U-Haul truck. I trace the origins of that to Scott Wildman spontaneously climbing onto a vehicle to speak at one of the demonstrations in the late 1990’s. Some 3,400 demonstrators were present.

On Sat., April 27, a conference discussing the diaspora organized by the ARF and USC’s Armenian Sturdies Institute was very appropriate. Whether the topic was the fate of Western Armenia, identity, psychological perspectives, defining what a diaspora even is or the diaspora’s relationship with the homeland, or the utilization of the latest technologies to our benefit by having those tools serve as a means to bond Armenians to one another, all were interesting. It was very informative and the whole conference was to be posted online in addition to being live-streamed. Look for it and watch it. It will be well worth your while. It was also refreshing to hear serious analysis not just in English (or as I have come to expect in most Armenian-language presentations, our Eastern Armenian dialect) but in serious, heavy duty Western Armenian. Over 200 people attended the conference.

The last event of the “season” that I attended was at the Ararat-Eskijian Museum, which has frequent and interesting lectures. This one, by Missak Keleshian, was about the orphans of the genocide: Where they ended up, how they were treated, who helped, who tried to Turkify them, the training they received, the relief work done, monies raised in the U.S., and even finding some of the facilities that housed them but have been slow to be found and properly acknowledged. It was interesting to learn that a French version of the film “Auction of Souls” (Arshalouys Mardiganian’s story, she had also passed away at the Ararat home, where the museum is) had been produced, sparking some hope that perhaps a full set of reels might be preserved somewhere in the French-speaking world, since only one of the reels in English has survived. Fifty people heard the presentation and saw the trimmed down version of an extensive set of pictures from the period that conveyed both the misery and hope experienced by those children—our predecessors.

Next week, I’ll relate patterns I noticed and issues that need to be addressed in our genocide-related work, particularly when it comes to commemorative activity.

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Garen Yegparian

Asbarez Columnist
Garen Yegparian is a fat, bald guy who has too much to say and do for his own good. So, you know he loves mouthing off weekly about anything he damn well pleases to write about that he can remotely tie in to things Armenian. He's got a checkered past: principal of an Armenian school, project manager on a housing development, ANC-WR Executive Director, AYF Field worker (again on the left coast), Operations Director for a telecom startup, and a City of LA employee most recently (in three different departments so far). Plus, he's got delusions of breaking into electoral politics, meanwhile participating in other aspects of it and making sure to stay in trouble. His is a weekly column that appears originally in Asbarez, but has been republished to the Armenian Weekly for many years.
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