The Black Lives Matter movement has challenged US society to recognize police violence against Blacks, as well as systemic racism in our courts, schools, businesses and cultural institutions. Four centuries of violence and systemic oppression demand exposure, action and change.
A virtual public forum organized by the Zoravik Activist Collective on July 20 will explore the Black and Armenian experience, including a shared history of subjugation, violence, exclusion and denial. But whereas, once arrived in the US, Armenians were eventually allowed to fully engage as members of this society because of their “white” race, due to a sequence of oppressive systems (slavery, Jim Crow and the post-Civil Rights neo-racist order), the race line has consistently prevented this for Blacks.
Recognizing that Armenians have a singular vantage point from which to witness anti-Black racism in our adopted home, panelists will focus on what the Black Lives Matter movement can and should mean for white Armenians and others in the US today, and will advise on how to take responsibility and action.
The panelists include Dr. Richard Reddick, Dr. Aram Goudsouzian, Kohar Avakian, Levon Brunson, Anaïs DerSimonian and Carene Mekertichyan. The forum will be moderated by Dr. Henry Theriault and Dr. Laure Astourian.
Richard Reddick, Ph.D. is Associate Dean for Equity, Community Engagement, and Outreach in The University of Texas at Austin’s College of Education. Richard Reddick is responsible for equity and inclusion-related initiatives supporting faculty, staff, and students in the college and serves as one of the college’s Title IX liaisons and chair of the college’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee. Reddick is author, co-author and co-editor of numerous books, peer-reviewed articles, chapters and opinion pieces. His main areas of research interest are the lives of Black academics, including their approach to work-life balance, service, teaching, and research responsibilities, and their experiences mentoring students. Additionally, Reddick maintains scholarly interests in diversity in higher education, African American families and educational policy. Reddick’s scholarship has been featured by NPR, the BBC, the Associated Press, and the Chronicle of Higher Education. Reddick also serves on the editorial boards of Urban Education and the Journal of Higher Education.
Aram Goudsouzian, Ph.D. is Professor of History at the University of Memphis. A historian of the 20th century United States with a particular focus on race, politics and culture, he is the author of five books, including Down to the Crossroads: Civil Rights, Black Power, and the Meredith March Against Fear (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2014); King of the Court: Bill Russell and the Basketball Revolution (University of California Press, 2010); and Sidney Poitier: Man, Actor, Icon (University of North Carolina Press, 2004).
Kohar Avakian is Ph.D. candidate in American Studies at Yale University from Worcester, MA. She graduated from Dartmouth College in 2017 with a B.A. in History, modified with Native American Studies. For her doctoral research, Kohar plans to continue her research on racial formation in the Armenian diaspora within the broader contexts of settler colonialism, slavery and Asian exclusion. Through historical photography and oral history research methods, Kohar strives to explore the palimpsestic histories of her Armenian, Black and Native ancestors in order to illuminate the intersections of race, migration and genocide in the United States at large. Kohar recently published the article Reparations in the Armenian Weekly.
Levon Brunson is an Armenian, Black American living in Newton, Massachusetts. He’s a rising senior at Brown University, studying Computer Science. After graduation, he intends to pursue a career in software development, with the goal of starting a business of his own. Outside of work, he can be found reading and writing about contemporary issues, and in his free time, he enjoys photography, playing basketball, and practicing the guitar. Levon recently published a deeply personal essay Black Kochari in the Armenian Weekly. He has also published a three-part series in Medium featuring pieces entitled The Meaning of Protest, A Better Future and Why George Floyd’s Death Matters (which was republished in the Armenian Mirror-Spectator).
Anaïs DerSimonian is a writer and filmmaker interested in the relationship between culture, media and education. Anaïs is a Clark University Alumnus (’17), who studied Culture Studies and Screen Studies with an emphasis on education. She has produced various documentary and narrative projects, including a profile on an NGO in Yerevan that provides micro-loans to cottage industries and entrepreneurs based in rural regions to help create jobs, self-sufficiency and to stimulate the post-Soviet economy. Besides filmmaking, Anaïs enjoys reading good fiction and watching sketch and stand-up comedy. Anaïs currently works at the cannabis start-up Manna Molecular Sciences, where she uses her creative background to move the company forward. Anaïs recently published Armenians Should Care About Black Lives Matter in the Armenian Mirror-Spectator.
Carene Mekertichyan is an actress, writer, singer, educator and proud Angelena. She received her training from Dartmouth College and the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (LAMDA). She explores her activism through storytelling and works to empower young voices as a teaching artist. She has performed with numerous theater companies and currently serves as Independent Shakespeare Company’s Artistic Associate for Social Justice. Her plays have been produced at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, MeetCute LA, and Sacred Fools’ We the People Theater Action.
The virtual forum will be held on Monday, July 20, at 7:00 p.m. ET. Register via Zoom or watch on Facebook Live. The public is encouraged to attend and participate in the discussion by submitting written questions and comments to the organizers and panelists.
If your organization would like to co-sponsor this event, please contact the organizers at [email protected] The list of co-sponsors will be updated regularly.