LOWELL, Mass.—Newly-appointed Mayor Ed Kennedy and a number of City Councilors joined Armenians from throughout the Merrimack Valley in commemorating the 101st anniversary of the Armenian Genocide on April 23.
More than 100 observers turned out for the commemoration, despite the rain which prevented a planned procession through the downtown sector as done in previous years.
The event was co-sponsored by the Armenian National Committee (ANC) of Merrimack Valley and the Armenian Genocide Commemorative Committee of Merrimack Valley (AGCCMV), bringing together a number of children with their banners accompanied by adults.
“Our voices were heard for genocide recognition and justice,” said Sossy Jeknavorian, AGCCMV chairwoman. “We’ve joined together in celebrating our priceless Armenian heritage.”
Much of it was expressed in a cultural program Jeknavorian organized for the reception in which children from churches in the community sang songs and performed together.
The cultural program was dedicated to the memory of the lost generation of sainted children who suffered during the genocide.
Mayor Kennedy offered some pertinent remarks before reading a proclamation from the city. He pointed to the persecution of Armenians “as a gross injustice for all humanity.”
“We come together as a community to raise the Armenian flag,” Kennedy said. “It reminds us all of how this day in history changed everything.”
“Immigrants from Armenia who settled in our city have formed a proud ethnic community by helping and supporting one another,” he added. “The Armenian National Committee represents our views, values, and the voice of Armenian-Americans across the region.”
The mayor reiterated the value of raising the Armenian Tricolor at City Hall, adjacent to the striking genocide memorial called “The Mother’s Hands,” which was designed by artist-activist Daniel Varoujan-Hejinian for the Centennial.
“It is an honor to raise your flag,” he said, noting the three colors of red, blue and orange for their symbolism.
Middlesex County Sheriff Peter Koutoujian, who served as honorary chairman of the monument committee, captivated the crowd with another inspiring message.
He lauded members of the Armenian Genocide Education Committee for being recognized at the State House the day before by Governor Charlie Baker and both the Massachusetts Senate and House of Representatives.
Koutoujian also applauded artist Hejinian for his 20th year of financing genocide billboards in prime localities throughout the state, including one in nearby Methuen off Route 495.
In addition, he marveled at the quick action in removing a billboard from Boston’s Heritage Park which refuted the genocide. The action took place within 12 hours of the billboard being erected.
“At a time in this country when so many are focused on issues that divide us, the incredible response of this billboard reinforces to me that there is so much more that unites us,” Koutoujian said. “And that is the most potent antidote to all who seek to deny and divide.”
City Councilor Rita Mercier, an ANC Freedom Award recipient, was critical of the present administration for its failure to recognize the crime properly.
“Our city of Lowell proved its sincerity to Lowell by providing a place on government soil upon which to erect their monument,” Mercier said. “I plead with President [Barack] Obama to formally recognize the genocide before his term expires. Only then will we see proper justice served to Armenians.”
Mistress of ceremonies Muriel “Mimi” Parseghian opened the program by introducing the political elite of Lowell, and thanking them for their continued support.
“As offspring of generations before us, we are not only commemorating the victims but celebrating our collective existence and the burgeoning Armenian nation,” she noted. “The forces that attempted to eliminate us are still at work, whether inside the villages of Artsakh or on billboards in Boston. Let there be no doubt Armenians are united and determined in their quest to seek justice.”
The day also belonged to the youth. Student speakers included Lucille Barberian, a member of the North Andover Armenian Youth Federation (AYF), and Sophia Manukian, representing Sts. Vartanantz Armenian Church Youth Organization of America (ACYOA).
“As a voice in this community, I’m here to spread awareness for your ancestors because you are alive today,” said Barberian. “Spread awareness so history won’t be forgotten. A nation that refuses to die will live on forever.”
Manukian touched upon life after the genocide when immigrants filtered to unknown lands in an effort to cultivate a new world.
“Through my parents, I’ve learned about diligence and what it means to be an Armenian,” she said. “I think of my Sunday School classes and what I’ve learned in my church. It is up to the youth to preserve the memory of a valiant nation.”
Prayers were offered by Rev. Fr. Stephan Baljian, pastor, St. Gregory Church of North Andover; Rev. Fr., Vart Gyozalian, pastor, Armenian Church at Hye Pointe, Haverhill; and Rev. Fr. Khachatur Kesablyan, pastor, Sts. Vartanantz Church, Chelmsford.
Members of Sam Manoian Post 1, Armenian-American Veterans of Lowell, formed an honor guard.