Maybe I Am

NJ Arsen senior executive members Victoria Ezgilioglu, Nerses Kupelian and Hagop Jamgotchian participate in writing activity.

A new social media challenge has surfaced in response to recent tensions among Armenia, Azerbaijan and Turkey. The #MaybeIAmChallenge was created on the digital safespace and educational platform known as Kooyrigs by founder and executive director Karine Eurdekian. The challenge is a call to action, urging participants to amplify their voices and raise awareness about the Armenian culture to non-Armenian audiences. Participants, mainly on Instagram, have been authoring and spreading personal and informative statements about being Armenian, its misconceptions, its geopolitics and its oppressive history beginning with some variation of “maybe I am.”

The New Jersey Armenian Youth Federation (AYF) “Arsen” Chapter accepts this challenge, and, well, maybe we have a few things to say: 

AYF members Theresa Jelalian, Alex Derian, Armen Alashaian, Katia Ariyan and Ema Bandazian brainstorm ideas.

Maybe you know I am Armenian “…or Albanian—something like that.” 

Maybe I am the only person you know who is a direct descendant of Genocide survivors. 

Maybe you didn’t know I missed every football game in high school. I had Armenian dance class Friday nights. 

Maybe you didn’t know my dad escaped Turkey so my sisters and I wouldn’t have to.

Maybe you didn’t realize that although I am Armenian, my parents were born and raised in Syria. Their parents were forced to leave our ancestral home as a result of genocide.  

Maybe I am teaching the Armenian culture through lahmajun—food is our love language. 

Maybe by the end of every Uber ride, I’m sure to ask the driver two things: how long have you been driving for Uber? Have you heard about the Armenian Genocide?

Maybe I’ve asked every single history teacher I’ve ever had to teach Armenian history in class. Maybe they’ve said no. 

Maybe I never attended sleepovers as a kid, but I did take a bus for eight hours to spend a weekend in the middle of nowhere—no parents, but there were other Armenians there. 

Maybe I am the sole heir to my last name. If I don’t have sons, it will be lost forever. 

Maybe there is a school in Istanbul named after the man responsible for killing 1.5 million Armenians—members of my own family included. My cousins live across the street from it. 

Maybe you didn’t know that I spend most American holidays at Armenian events. 

Maybe I am the only person you know who has a difficult name to pronounce. Maybe I mispronounce it myself now knowing it will fit more comfortably in your mouth that way.   

Maybe my family fled Aleppo because of the same anti-Armenian violence that drove them from Western Armenia only a generation earlier. 

Maybe the only thing scarier to me than spiders is a world without the Armenian language. 

Maybe you didn’t know my great-grandfather was orphaned by Ottoman Turkey. 

Maybe I am racially ambiguous—it helps and it hurts depending on who’s around. 

Maybe you don’t know that my last name was once Dermenjolu. It changed after my family escaped the Armenian Genocide.

Maybe I’m angry. A history of unrecognized genocide is infuriating, but I use my faith and my culture as a compass to guide me towards forgiveness. 

Maybe you don’t know that I meet with, compete against, party with Armenians as a way to keep our heritage strong and growing. 

Maybe I’m tired of explaining why my last name ends with -glu instead of -ian. Maybe I will continue to explain anyway.  

Maybe I met my fiance in Armenia. We weren’t looking for each other, but God has a way of keeping us together. 

Maybe you’ve never felt instantly connected to those who share a history the same as your own.  

Maybe you’ve never met the children of Akhalkalak, Georgia. Never known what it’s like to watch two diasporas yearn for the same homeland. To stare into sets of eyes that yield the same pain and struggle. To carry the weight of creating a new Armenia.

Maybe you haven’t considered that just because someone isn’t 100-percent Armenian doesn’t mean they can’t be 100-percent involved. 

Maybe you didn’t know my great-grandmother’s oldest sister was kept captive by a wealthy Turkish family. She lived her youth with them until finally being set free.

Maybe I haven’t told you that I spend my summers at Camp Haiastan. It’s the best place on earth. 

Maybe I am not Armenian, but I am the mother and wife of Armenians. Maybe I was left heartbroken after hearing about Armenian history—I, too, was forced to give up my own culture. 

Maybe the day I had to explain to a judge why I wanted my name legally changed is forever etched in my mind, in my heart. 

Maybe you didn’t know that my great-grandfather has only shared his traumatic story of genocide once in his life. How could he relive it more than that?

Maybe you didn’t know that my grandfather was born during a death march from his native province of Marash. 

Maybe I grew up in Armenia with children who are now grown like me, except they wake up everyday not knowing if it will be their last.

Maybe you didn’t know that every time I introduce myself, I get asked what I am—as if being a human being just isn’t enough. 

Maybe we are proud. Maybe we are resilient. Maybe we have felt tired and beat down and burdened by the weight of keeping a culture alive. But maybe, just maybe, there is comfort in knowing we are not alone.

Maybe we are Armenian. 

AYF members Jacqueline Fales, Katia Ariyan and Knar Alashaian proudly display their statements.
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Founded in 1933, The Armenian Youth Federation is an international, non-profit, youth organization of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF). The AYF-YOARF Eastern United States stands on five pillars that guide its central activities and initiatives: Educational, Hai Tahd, Social, Athletic and Cultural. The AYF also promotes a fraternal attitude of respect for ideas and individuals amongst its membership. Unity and cooperation are essential traits that allow members of the organization to work together to realize the AYF’s objectives.
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