BOSTON, Mass.—Waves of emotions flooded the streets of Boston as hundreds marched in memory of the martyrs of the Armenian Genocide and in celebration of President Joe Biden’s historic recognition on its 106th anniversary.
“The American people honor all those Armenians who perished in the genocide that began 106 years ago today,” read the formal recognition released by the White House on April 24—the first of its kind from a sitting US President.
Generations of compatriots amassed the Parkman Bandstand in the Boston Common on Saturday evening, proudly waving the Armenian tri-color flag and holding posters to educate spectators. Led by Boston’s Homenetmen scouts and members of the Armenian Youth Federation, the crowd marched for one-mile to Armenian Heritage Park.
“This past year, we saw what happens when genocide goes unrecognized and the perpetrators go unpunished,” said Watertown native Ari Kazanjian, referring to the 2020 Artsakh War. “Today showed how important it is to continue these events and to continue spreading awareness in America,” added his brother Raffi, donning an ‘Artsakh Strong’ mask.
Several local media outlets were on hand to document the community’s reaction to news from the nation’s capital. At sunset, the stage lights were beaming as Ani Zargarian opened the program with the singing of the Star Spangled Banner and the Armenian national anthem (Mer Hairenik) and local reverend clergy offered their commemorative prayers.
Solemn musical interludes by Mher Mnatsakanyan (duduk), Zori Babroudi (bass duduk) and Lucia Papikian (vocals) sent healing ripples through the attentive crowd.
The program was led by State Rep. David Muradian and also featured non-Armenian representatives, who took to the podium to testify to the horrors of the Armenian Genocide.
“When I heard President Biden speak out on this today, I thought of those times I’ve been in Armenia and I’ve seen the look of anguish when the people and their families who are victims of genocide weren’t even acknowledged by some of the countries of the world,” recalled former US Ambassador to the Holy See and former Boston mayor Raymond Flynn. “Well, let them look to Boston, let them look to the United States,” he proclaimed to a roaring applause.
Biden’s statement carried a lot of weight during yesterday’s commemoration, but as longtime AYF member Nina Vosbigian stressed, recognition is only the first step. “We are going to keep fighting until we have a free, independent and united Armenia, including Artsakh and Western Armenia. We are going to keep fighting until we have reparations and restitutions.”
Dozens of flowers adorned the annually reconfigured sculpture dedicated to the 1.5 million martyrs of the Genocide.
Many in attendance were descendants of Genocide survivors, including Berj Najarian, Director of Football/Head Coach Administration for the New England Patriots. “I take it as a responsibility towards all of our ancestors who came before us, who struggled to allow us to have a life, identity and purpose. I also take it as a responsibility to all the people in Armenia and Artsakh the 18 and 20-year-old boys that volunteered to go fight. We’re here, and they’re there but we’re going to do whatever we can to support the efforts and to raise awareness,” said Najarian in his emotional comments to the Weekly. Najarian, who brought his two sons to the commemoration, has actively used his public platform to raise awareness about the Armenian Cause. He hopes more countries will follow President Biden’s commitment to human rights. “It’s not just about Armenians; there are oppressed minorities, races and ethnic groups all over the world and hopefully this is the step in the right direction for a more peaceful, unified world,” said Najarian.