Detroit Marks 126th Anniversary of the ARF

This is to put Turkey on notice—you will never kill the Armenian Spirit.

The youth sing patriotic songs at the 126th anniversary event

If just one of you had been witness to the Nov. 19, 2016, celebration of the Detroit Azadamard Gomidehutiun 126th anniversary of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) you would have been aghast at your enormous, unprecedented but well-deserved failure of eliminating the Armenian Nation.

Three-hundred-fifty guests attended this always highly successful annual gala event to demonstrate love and never dying devotion to their Armenian homeland and our Mount Ararat with unabashed Armenian spirit. Hundreds filled Burton Manor banquet center in Livonia Mich. to dine, drink, and dance.

A scene from the event

Yes, Armenians rose up from the ashes of Der Zor, celebrating their peaceful, safe life in the Diaspora. These are the generations form of the exiles and deported Armenian Genocide survivors attributed to your brutality, the likes of never seen before in the civilized world.

The spirit of Armenia through the effort of the ARF has filtered to the youth. The flag was respectfully presented by the Detroit Homenetmen Scouts. Ungerhouhis Helena Bardakjian and Araxie Tossounian sang the National Anthem of the United States a and Armenia. Welcoming remarks, in Armenian, were by Sevan Markossian, and in English, by Raffi Vandevelde.

The Armenian Youth Federation’s (AYF) message was delivered by ungerouhi Karoun Tcholakian, exclaiming, “the ARF has been paramount in the lives of many youths. It has increased my passion for my Armenianism and it offers many opportunities to succeed. We thank the Azadamard gomideh for the opportunity to be better Armenians.”

Unger Raffi Ourlian, in both Armenian and English, delivered the ARF’s message. Under his leadership the Detroit Gomidehutiunhas made great strides in its accountability to the Armenian Nation. His remarks included a generous welcome to its membership, faithful hamageers (supporters) and friends.

A scene from the celebration

Against an impressive stage featuring a large draped background centered with a full-length flag and emblem of the ARF, unger Ourlian stated, “what distinguishes us from other organizations is our continued belief in a free, independent and united Armenia with Karabagh (Artsakh/NKR) under our strong umbrella of organizations. We are the ones who kept the tricolor displayed in our churches and our community centers even after the brief existence of the Free Republic of Armenia. The rebirth of our next agoump will be a reality soon.”

Unger Mourad Topalian was the evening’s guest speaker. The Cleveland native, now resides in California, but has obvious affection for Detroiters and their city.

Unger Topalian can still electrify a room with his passionate political oratory. The walls reverberate when he unleashes his respect for the ARF and their accomplishments as in the past with others such as Kopernik Tandourjian, Hagop Mouradian, and Arthur Giragossian.  Like them, Topalian with his words puts fear back in your belly to demand justice of the Armenian Genocide.

It is under the umbrella of the ARF that the following organizations thrive: The Armenian Relief Society (ARS), The Armenian Youth Federation (AYF), Hamazkayin Educational and Cultural Society, The Armenia National Committee of America (ANCA), The Homenetmen, our churches, community centers, folk dance groups, research centers and university chairs.

“Honoring the ARF on its anniversary since its birth in 1890 in Tiflis, Georgia also honors the memory of the men who instituted it—Kristapor Mikaelian, Rosdom (Stepan Zorian), and Simon Zavarian. Not alone but with a number of their political parties with the aim of leading the liberation of Western Armenians whose lives were being destroyed by Turks, Kurds, and Chetes,” Topalian said.

Unger Topalian was adamant about the ARF’s contribution to Armenians’ wellbeing. He visited Karabagh and spoke with the young soldiers who have sacrificed their former lives to defend Karabagh saying, “I am a piece of these young people… The ARF fight goes on willingly.”

A scene during the singing of patriotic songs

Everyone rose to sing “Mshak Banvor”—the ARF anthem. Rev. Dr. Vahan Toutikian of the Armenian Congregational Church, Rev. Fr. Hrant Kevorkian of St. Sarkis Armenian Apostolic Church, Father Mikael Bassale of St. Vartan Armenian Catholic Church blessed the evening, leading the guests to the singing of The Lord’s Prayer.

The celebration continued with guests being serenaded by Garo Gaboudagian from Beirut, Lebanon, and Vicken Makoushian from New Jersey. Garo’s marvelous voice was but another highlight on the evening of much pleasure.

Quoting Manouk and Sona Derovakemian, “the ARF was born from its people for its people.” Sona Mishigian proudly represented her late husband Avetis, a very dedicated ARF member. She said, “I am here tonight out of respect and to the memory of my late husband and both our believes in the work of the ARF.”

Proceeds from the evening were designated for the ARF affiliated youth organizations, a magnanimous gesture to further and to enhance youth programs.

It was the attraction of the evening, Karnig Sarkissian and his band from L.A., who serenaded the audience till wee hours. Once he hit the stage singing patriotic and revolutionary songs, young adults who love him surrounded the stage. They knew the words to every song as they sang along with Sarkissian. And this display of adoration coupled with unquestionable Armenian spirit amazed on-lookers as the young people treated him like the Hyegagan star that he is, shouting “Karnig, Karnig!”

Raffi Ourlian presented the prestigious “Hamageer of the Year” award to Mrs. Hermine Manoogian saying, “she is one of the hardest working people serving on many committees. Her leadership in Hamazkayin is unparalleled—We thrive because of people like Hermine.”

Yes, we died on those death marches because of Turkish criminal madness—one and a half million of our ancestors perished needlessly—but this evening we witnessed immense talent, though we often look backward as a reminder, we look forward demonstrating the indomitable spirit that forever lives on in the Diaspora and in Hayastan.

Getzeh ARF!



The Organizing Committee of the 126th Anniversary event: unger Shant Jamgotchian, ungerouhi Krista Tossounian, ungerouhi Araxie Tossounian, Arev Tossounian, Suzy Mardoyan, Sanan Malkadjian, Helena Bardakjian, and Sossi Palanjian.

Betty Apigian-Kessel

Betty Apigian-Kessel

Betty (Serpouhie) Apigian Kessel was born in Pontiac, Mich. Together with her husband, Robert Kessel, she was the proprietor of Woodward Market in Pontiac and has two sons, Bradley and Brant Kessel. She belonged to the St. Sarkis Ladies Guild for 12 years, serving as secretary for many of those years. During the aftermath of the earthquake in Armenia in 1988, the Detroit community selected her to be the English-language secretary and she happily dedicated her efforts to help the earthquake victims. She has a column in the Armenian Weekly entitled “Michigan High Beat.”

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