More than 400 members and supporters of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) attended the Detroit “Azadamard” Gomideh’s celebration of the ARF’s 124th anniversary.
Those who were at Burton Manor in Livonia, Mich., heard an important anniversary message from former ARF Bureau member Hayg Oshagan, witnessed ARF “Azadamard” Gomideh chair Raffi Ourlian’s heartfelt appreciation for three ARF hamagirs (supporters), danced to the music of Shiraz Yeghiazarian, and sang patriotic and revolutionary songs with Karnig Sarkissian.
All proceeds from the event were earmarked for the Syrian-Armenian Fund.
The evening opened with the singing of the American and Armenian national anthems by Araxie Tossounian, an active member of the Armenian National Committee of Michigan. The Armenian, American, Artsakh, and ARF flags were presented and posted by the Detroit Homenetmen Scouts.
Rev. Hrant Kevorkian of St. Sarkis Armenian Apostolic Church and Very Rev. Vahan Tootikian of the Armenian Congregational Church offered prayers and personal congratulations to the ARF on the occasion of its 124th anniversary.
In his keynote remarks, Oshagan observed, “There is no other organization that does what the ARF does. No organization takes on this challenge, and the ARF has been doing it for 124 years.”
About the ARF’s responsibilities in Armenia, Oshagan noted, “We work every day to try to improve civil society and we are trying to improve the political system.” In Artsakh, the ARF continues to advance a “peaceful resolution and international recognition and security, with Armenia as a guarantor of Artskah’s security through a military pact between Artsakh and Armenia. Artsakh must be an equal partner in negotiations for its self-determination.”
Regarding Javakhk, Oshagan talked about the continued, deliberate campaign by Georgian authorities to drive Armenians from the area through “fear and oppression.” He noted the ARF’s efforts to stabilize the population through various social programs, including the building of youth centers that serve as havens for hundreds of young people. “Work is also being done to target USAID economic assistance to the region.”
Closer to home, Oshagan recalled the ARF’s mission to build the communities of the Eastern United States after the 1915 Armenian Genocide, recognizing Lowell as the home of the oldest ARF Gomideh, established in 1894. Today, there are more than 15 Gomidehs located east of the Mississippi River.
In Detroit, the ARF has served to guide and lead the community for decades, with the participation and partnership of its family of organizations, the Armenian Relief Society (ARS), Armenian Youth Federation (AYF), Hamazkayin, and Homenetmen. With planning underway for a new Armenian Community Center to be built in Novi, the organization continues to prepare for the community’s future, security, and growth.
“ARF Day is a day to look back and think of what we have and have not done,” Oshagan concluded. “We have not succeeded in every endeavor, but our biggest success has been the survival of the Armenian nation, not only in Armenia, but also across our vast global nation without borders.”
“We can all be proud,” he said, raising a glass and inviting the crowd to join him in a toast.
Ourlian continued the program by calling each of the three ARF hamagirs to the stage after a brief introduction. Hagop Dakessian, Raffi Kuredjian, and Shakeh Basmajian were awarded plaques and a standing ovation in appreciation for their support of the ARF and its affiliated organizations.
“The hamagir award is one of the best awards that one can receive,” Ourlian said before inviting the recipients to the stage. “Hamagir means the following: one who supports, one who loves the organization, one who shares the same vision, one who is ready to make a difference.”
Dakessian was recognized for his ongoing financial and moral support of the AYF, Hamazkayin, Homenetmen, and other organizations. Ourlian gave an example of Dakessian’s generosity by sharing a story that occurred at the recent 2014 AYF Olympics, hosted by the Detroit AYF Chapter. “He approached me and said that 10-15 kids were turned away from the dance because they didn’t have the admission. He said he wanted those kids in the dance so they could meet other Armenian kids, and he gave a donation to pay for the kids to get in.”
Kuredjian was recognized for his active financial and moral support of the AYF, Hamazkayin, Hamazkayin Arax Dance Group, Homenetmen, and St. Sarkis Armenian Apostolic Church. Kuredjian leads the St. Sarkis Church Long-Term Strategic Committee and “he’s always delivered when asked for anything,” Ourlian said.
Basmajian was recognized for her years of service on all levels in the Armenian Relief Society. Ourlian highlighted Basmajian’s support for the ARF’s projects involving Artsakh’s self-determination and her years of work on the ACAA Heritage Cruise Steering Committee.
“Locally, she helped raise significant money for the Syrian Armenian Relief Fund by setting up phone banks and making calls,” Ourlian added. “Most recently, she helped raise money for the Detroit ARS Zavarian Armenian One Day School.”
Ourlian concluded his presentation by urging the crowd to recognize the spouses of the awardees: Aida Dakessian, Patricia Kuredjian, and George Basmajian. They were also thanked for their part in supporting the ARF with loud applause.
A concert by popular troubadour Karnig Sarkissian ended the evening. Young people stood by the stage singing every word of the revolutionary and patriotic songs, while three young men took the Armenian, Artsakh, and ARF flags from their stands and waved them on the dance floor in time to the music.
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