Last Thursday, December 12, along with many others, I sat and watched the historic proceedings in the US Senate with tears streaming down my face. I looked to heaven and thought of all those who were so brutally massacred, as well as those who survived through their faith, strength and dignity, especially my maternal grandmother, Margaret Garabedian DerManuelian, whose story continues to be my inspiration and motivation. Since then, understandably and appropriately, much has been and will continue to be written about the impact of the unanimous consent passage of Senate Resolution 150 (S.Res.150), along with the landslide passage of House Resolution 296 (H.Res.296) on October 29.
After it was done, I was moved to write as memories with my grandparents came to mind. Along with those precious memories, of which a book could be written, my thoughts also went to all the hardworking and dedicated grassroots activists of the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA), both in Washington, DC, and across our United States. I wanted to stand up, cheer and shout from the rooftops in appreciation to all our “boots on the ground,” for their unending determination, educational efforts—especially with members of Congress—and firm belief in a positive outcome, even after decades of fighting for truth and justice. Bravo, and bravo again. I know all our sainted martyrs and survivors are applauding.
And then my thoughts turned to the bigger picture, at least organizationally. Recently, I’ve had the privilege to attend three Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) Day events in Boston, Providence and Worcester. Consistently agreed upon at the events were the history and relevance of the 129 year-old organization. I started reflecting on the many accomplishments of the ARF, including the establishment of the First Republic of Armenia, the precursor to today’s independent republic. As I listened to the speakers at the events, I was continuously inspired by the many facets of the ARF, its robust network of organizations and what they have meant to me and my family.
Let’s face it. Without the ARF, there would be no ANCA to serve as our grassroots lobbying organization in the diaspora, educating and working for recognition of the Armenian Genocide and justice for the crime by way of reparations.
Without the ARF, there would be no Armenian Youth Federation (AYF) teaching our young people to be community leaders through its five pillars promoting the advancement of social, cultural, educational, political and athletic causes.
Without the ARF, there would be no Armenian Relief Society (ARS) serving the humanitarian needs of our people around the world and preserving our cultural identity.
Without the ARF, there would be no Homenetmen focusing on the physical and intellectual acuity of our youth while teaching them about our rich culture and heritage.
Without the ARF, there would be no Hamazkayin Armenian Educational and Cultural Society to promote the educational aspirations of our youth, while also working to preserve our national identity and cultural traditions.
And then I return to the memories of my grandparents who survived the Genocide, and I remember my maternal grandfather Giragos DerManuelian eagerly awaiting the arrival of the Hairenik Daily newspaper, also part of the ARF family, so he could devour its contents and maintain connection to his Armenian heritage and nation. I remember my maternal grandmother Margaret and her story of survival as the slave of a Turkish agha, or master, and eventual escape with the help of her only surviving sister, Mariam Mesrobian. Not only was she a member of the ARS “Arax” Chapter in Providence, but her devotion to the AYF is still the stuff of stories in Providence, as she would never miss a V-Ball, even in a snowstorm while wheelchair-bound and blind. I remember my paternal grandfather Melikof Aghjayan, his devotion to the ARF and its mission and the honor guard who stayed with him as he lay in repose in the funeral home before his services.
Memories and more memories flood my mind as my gratitude to and admiration for the ARF and our family of organizations take me back to the days when I first learned about the Armenian Genocide as a young AYF junior…all the way to the overwhelming passage of H.Res.296 on October 29, 2019 and the unanimous passage of S.Res.150 on December 12, 2019.
Now, we wait for the executive branch to respond with acknowledgement of the truth regarding the events of 1915 beyond this administration which, judging by this week’s news of the State Department standing by President Trump’s annual April 24th statement, will offer more of the same enforcement of Ankara’s imported Gag Rule. There is more work to be done towards justice and security for the Armenian people, and the ARF will continue to be there, as it has been for the last 129 years.