By Joyce Yeremian
PROVIDENCE, R.I.—On Sun., April 24, the Armenian Martyrs’ Memorial Committee of Rhode Island commemorated the 101st Anniversary of the 1915 Armenian Genocide at the Armenian Martyrs’ Memorial Monument at the entrance to North Burial Ground, Providence, R.I.
The program opened with the presentation of the flags by the Homenetmen Scouts and the placing of wreaths by the Armenian Relief Society (ARS) “Arax” and “Ani” Chapters, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF), the Armenian Youth Federation (AYF), Homentmen, Hamazkayin, and the Daughters of Vartan in front of the monument.
Archpriest Rev. Gomidas Baghsarian and Rev. Kapriel Nazarian of the Sts. Vartanantz Armenian Church., Rev. Shnorik Souin of the Sts. Sahag and Mesrob Armenian Church, Rev. Dr. Ara Heghinian and Reverend Hagop Manjelikain of the Armenian Evangelical Church performed a special service in memory of the 1.5 million Holy Martyrs who were canonized last year in Holy Etchmiazin.
The combined choirs from the Armenian churches and chorale sang Armenian hymns under the direction of Maestro Konstantin Petrossian.
Governor Gina M. Raimondo, U.S. Senator Jack Reed, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, Congressman David N. Cicilline, and Congressman James R. Langevin each offered their remarks.
City of Providence Mayor Jorge O. Elorza addressed the crowd. State Representative Katherine Kazarian, Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea, Attorney General Peter Kilmartin and General Treasurer Seth Magaziner were also present. All of our state and federal officials of Rhode Island are always actively working for the Armenian cause. They all expressed concern about Turkey’s denial of the genocide, as well as about what is happening in Artsakh today. Former lawmaker and great supporter of Armenian causes Aram Garabedian also spoke; and the committee thanked him for sponsoring the 12 busses to go to the New York Times Square gathering last year.
Pauline Getzoyan and Esther Kalajian, who represent the Genocide Education Project, R.I. Branch, announced the 2016 Genocide Educator of the Year Dr. Catherine Sama, a professor at the University of Rhode Island. She teaches a class each year to students about the Armenian Genocide and the Holocaust. This award includes a $500 stipend, which is made possible through the donations of the Armenian Martyrs’ Memorial Committee of R.I. and the Armenian Cultural Association of R.I. Dr. Sama accepted her award and brought several of her students to participate in the event and learn more about the Armenian Genocide. The students and Dr. Sama are very engaged in this class and she has brought much enthusiasm to the students about learning about the Armenian Genocide.
Emiliya Bagdaasarian, representing Memory, Dignity, Justice organization, told the story of her grandparents and parents who were targets of the Azeri torture, losing their lives and home starting in 1918 and then again in 1988 in Sumgait. They seek justice for the Baku community.
A beautiful rendition of “Dle Yaman” was played on the duduk by David Gevorkian.
The event’s guest speaker was Dr. Barbara J. Merguerian of Wellesley, Mass. She is a historian, writer and editor. She is co-founder and past president of the Armenian International Women’s Association (AIWA), and directs its Armenian Women’s Archives. A native of Cranston, R.I., and a graduate of Cranston High and Brown University, she earned her Masters’ Degree and doctorate in Modern European History from Harvard University. She has taught at Tufts University, Yerevan State University, and California State University in Fresno, Calif. She is former editor of the Armenian Mirror-Spectator newspaper and of the Journal of Armenian Studies. She serves on many boards, and is currently on the board of Armenian Museum of America and the Armenian Cultural Foundation.
The Honor Guards for the day included the Armenian Masonic Degree Team, the Knights of Vartan, and the Homenetmen Scouts. It was another heartfelt day that reminded us all to never forget our Holy Martyrs and survivors and what the Turkish Ottoman government did to our people.
The Armenian Martyrs’ Committee also sponsored its 18th Annual Armenian Youth Day on April 19, at Egavian Cultural Center in Providence, during school vacation week. Pauline Getzoyan gave information about the Genocide Education program. Margaret Chevian presented a power point about her trip to Jerusalem in January. Jane Zobian and Hasmig Phillips provided materials for a craft class where children made braided placemats of felt similar to how rugs are made. A session was also held where the four clergy spoke to a group of students.
Raffi Rachdouni gave a demonstration on how to read music notes and then played them on a recorder, teaching the song “Gagavik.” After a short practice, the students all played the song together while singing and dancing. Lunch was provided free of charge to everyone.
The event was made possible through a donation by the Ararat Association.
Joyce Yeremian is a member of the Armenian Martyrs’ Memorial Committee of Rhode Island.