HAVERHILL, Mass.—Everything from the filming of a TV special to increased genocide education in public schools highlighted the Armenian Centennial observance this year in Haverhill.
Members of the Armenian Genocide Education Committee of Merrimack Valley addressed 100 Advanced Placement students recently at Haverhill High School, which made such an impression with the staff and administrators that word spread quickly throughout the school.
The assembly was encouraged by instructor Tom Jordan, who arranged for TV crews and Armenian students to participate.
“So long as I’m district supervisor of social studies and world languages, the Armenian Genocide will be taught in our schools,” said Rashaun Martin. “No longer will it take an obscure place in our curriculum. “
Among those attending the program was School Superintendent James Scully. He was so enamored by the presentation that he sent a memorandum to 1,300 members of his department that same afternoon.
“Earlier today, I sent you a note about significant moments in our lives here in Massachusetts,” he wrote. “Moments ago, I left a wonderful presentation by our Armenian brothers and sisters at Haverhill High on the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide.”
“I salute the presenters and those associated for keeping the message and lessons of this tragic time in history alive in our minds and hearts,” Scully continued. “I’d like to thank the History Department for bringing such informative speakers to our students. I’m sure all of us salute the persistence and faith of our Armenian sisters and brothers.”
Students Sarah Tavitian, a sophomore, and Emma Kaloostian, a senior, played an assertive role by giving their personal reflections of the genocide and sharing family histories. Both girls donned striking T-shirts showing the genocide memorial in Yerevan that they had specially made for the occasion.
Brochures detailing the genocide were distributed to attendees, which included several residents from the community sector.
Earlier in the week, a city-wide commemoration took place at Armenian Church at Hye Pointe, where a proclamation was issued by Mayor James Fiorentini and read during a televised meeting of the City Council. The Armenian tricolor was flown on April 24.
Attending the observance were members of the Haverhill Kiwanis Club who were motivated by a luncheon talk.
“The Armenian Genocide was a massacre that impacted the world, not only Armenians,” said Duncan Farmer, a prominent funeral director in the city. “We sympathize with Armenians throughout the community and the outside world. The Armenians are to be commended for keeping their history alive, and we join their cause as Kiwanians.”
Rev. Fr. Vart Gyozalian, pastor, led a service by the memorial (khatchkar) and was joined by two neighboring pastors, Rev. Frank Clarkson of Universalist-Unitarian Church and Rev. Jane Bearden of Trinity Episcopal Church.
A two-hour program was given at Northern Essex Community College featuring a discussion and showing of the film, “Orphans of the Genocide.”
The hour-long film has been shown repeatedly on Haverhill Community TV, prepared by local residents and led by Rev. Gyozalian. He was joined by centennial committee chairwoman Barbara Sarkisian Arthur and Dro Kanayan. Arrangements are being made to turn the segment into a series featuring Armenian culture and history beginning in the fall.
Presentations to local service clubs also generated considerable interest. Taking part were Kiwanis, Rotary and Exchange. Other visits were made to the AHEPA Apartments and Monday Night Discussion Group.
An exhibit on Armenia is taking place throughout April at Haverhill Public Library, featuring scenes of current life in that country.
Residents from the city also turned out for commemorations in Boston and New York City this month, with many traveling to Washington, D.C., for the national centennial observance in May.