WATERTOWN, Mass. – The Armenian National Committee of America Eastern Region (ANCA-ER) hosted a virtual three-day commemoration in response to COVID-19 regulations on its Facebook page honoring the victims of the Armenian Genocide, saluting Congressional recognition and demanding justice for this crime against humanity.
On Friday, April 24, U.S. Senators including Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) joined with their colleagues from the U.S. House including House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel (D-NY), Representative Frank Pallone (D-NJ), Representative Jim McGovern (D-MA), Representative Chris Smith (R-NJ), Representative Lori Trahan (D-MA), Representative Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) and Representative Haley Stevens (D-MI) to share their sentiments with their constituents and viewers commemorating the 105th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide.
These statements not only commemorated the anniversary of the Genocide, but also touched on the importance of the region’s work, which aided in securing passage of Armenian Genocide resolutions in both the U.S. House (H.Res.296) and U.S. Senate (S.Res.150) in October and December 2019. The region’s activists engaged in digital advocacy campaigns, meeting with congressional offices in their respective districts and on Capitol Hill.
“This year the administration should follow the Senate’s lead in recognizing this tragedy as what it was – a genocide,” said Senator Menendez. “Acknowledging the truth of this genocide is necessary to prevent it from happening again and I call on President Trump to join us as we work to place real meaning in the words never again,” he continued.
Longtime member of the Congressional Caucus on Armenian Issues and Republican champion of the Armenian Genocide Resolution (H.Res.296) in the U.S. House of Representatives, Congressman Smith added, “The appalling and well documented facts speak for themselves… Shockingly the government of Turkey continues to trivialize, rationalize and deny the genocide, a cruel slap in the face of the Armenian people, hindering reconciliation and healing.”
Representatives from the Hellenic American Leadership Council, A Demand for Action, In Defense of Christians, as well as the Armenian Youth Federation (AYF) Eastern Region, Armenian Relief Society (ARS) Eastern Region, Hamazkayin Eastern Region and Homenetmen Eastern Region offered their remarks.
While the commemoration of the Armenian Genocide was of utmost importance throughout the weekend, education and raising awareness were also significant – exhibited by the conversation on genocide education hosted by Dikran Kaligian, Genocide Education (GenEd) Project board member; Lara Nercessian, ANC of Michigan; Weekly editor Pauline Getzoyan, ANC of Rhode Island and GenEd Project’s Roxanne Makasdjian and Sara Cohan. They not only provided an overview of the resources available for teachers, but also the steps taken to ensure that genocide education is taught in all schools.
“As soon as I saw that genocide education was a part of the program, I immediately thought yes… this is proactive and tangible,” said Meliné Topouzian. “As we move through the generations, the challenges of cultural and historical preservation evolve. While I have distinct memories of arguing with teachers who denied the Genocide, I grew up hearing my family’s stories and it never occurred to me to question the legitimacy of those experiences. I did question why our history wasn’t in my textbooks and that weighed on me. I felt that much more responsible for educating others about the Genocide, and let’s be real, that’s a huge and exhausting responsibility. Genocide education gives our communities both a sense of nearing closure as well as the long awaited opportunity for us to be proactive about our identities beyond the Genocide,” she concluded.
New York Times’ Best Selling Author Chris Bohjalian hosted the Friday evening program which featured a regional message from ANCA Eastern Region Communications Director Tamar Gregorian, a keynote message from ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian and a conversation on reparations from New Jersey City University Chair of African and African American Studies Jermaine McCalpin, PhD.
McCalpin laid out the necessary steps with regards to the demands for justice for the Armenian Genocide, which includes global recognition. “When we talk about justice, I want you to think of six R’s… recognition… rectification… restoration… rehumanization… reparations… redemption.” He concluded his message, “Justice delayed should not be justice denied…if you are a friend of truth, then you must be a friend of justice because truth and justice are melded together. There is a synergy that is inseparable,” McCalpin emphasized.
His Eminence Archbishop Anoushavan Tanielian, the Prelate of the Eastern Prelacy of the Armenian Apostolic Church of America, concluded the evening program with a prayer and special message.
The AYF Eastern Region took over programming on Saturday with first, a message to the current presidential administration demanding recognition of the Armenian Genocide, second, a video highlighting continued Turkish aggression and crimes, third, a powerful testament to the Armenian people’s survival and finally, a call to action from AYF members from around the world.
On the third and final day of the region’s commemorative program, Major League Soccer (MLS) Cup Winner and MVP Alecko Eskanderian and ANCA Executive Director Aram Balian revisited the regional commemorations from the past six decades narrated by Tatul Sonentz Papazian, ANC of Eastern Massachusetts; Joe Dagdigian, ANC of Merrimack Valley; Ani Haroian, ANC of Rhode Island; Dikran Kaligian, ANC of Eastern Massachusetts and Karine Birazian Shnorhokian, ANC of New Jersey.
Viewers were then taken on a journey through Western Armenia with footage curated by George Aghjayan, ANC of Central Massachusetts and narrated by ANC of Greater Washington’s Nairi Balian. The final piece of programming was a powerful message to the world—a message from more than 80 of the region’s activists answering the question, “What does justice for the Armenian Genocide mean to me?”
“The unprecedented shift to commemorate the 105th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide through a series of virtual events made one thing crystal clear – we won’t be silenced,” said Nora Kizirian. “If there is any silver lining in this pandemic, it’s being granted the gift of time. Time to reflect and celebrate how far we’ve come in our grassroots efforts that resulted in the passage of H.Res.296 and S.Res.150, formally recognizing the Armenian Genocide. Time to leverage all social channels to continue educating the world until we see it taught in every school across the country. And lastly, time to stand united and demand absolute recognition and reparations. While we are physically apart, we have never been more connected – and that is how we will get justice for the Armenian Genocide,” she continued.
This weekend’s virtual event was not only an opportunity for ANCA-ER activists to come together to commemorate the Armenian Genocide, but it was also a reminder that the work of the region continues.