By Greg Minasian and Ara Jeknavorian
The ANC of Merrimack Valley (ANC-MV) recently held their annual get-together at the Watertown Agoump to review past activities and brainstorm for future programs and events. As with any organization, we were trying to figure out how to further engage our community, attract additional activists and of course raise funds. Steve Mesrobian was present and suggested following a program that has been successful for the Providence community.
Thus, the ANC-MV flag raising program was created. The project expanded upon the annual flag raising and Armenian Genocide commemoration traditionally held in Lowell, MA every April 24. More than 20 cities and towns were contacted in the Merrimack, MA and NH area, requesting that they honor the Armenian Genocide by issuing a proclamation in remembrance of our Armenian Martyrs and raising the Armenian flag at their town halls. This was no easy task, as it required numerous phone calls and emails that went back and forth with various town officials. We also wanted to encourage the community to attend these flag raisings.
From these efforts, we were successful in achieving: flag raisings with a proclamation in the Massachusetts towns of Billerica, Dracut, Haverhill, Methuen, North Andover and Westford, as well as Hollis, Manchester and Nashua in New Hampshire. Proclamations were issued by the towns of Andover, Burlington, Chelmsford and Tewksbury, MA, along with Salem and Windham, NH.
We then embarked on getting the word out to the larger Armenian community through the ANC-MV newsletter.
Words cannot describe the feeling of seeing the Armenian flag flying over these various town halls and commons over the April 23-25 weekend throughout the Merrimack Valley. Some of the flags will stay up until the end of the month. Many Armenians in attendance, filled with emotion, expressed how proud they felt witnessing the Armenian flag raised in their hometowns for the very first time.
To say that the flag raising program was successful is an understatement, as our expectations were far exceeded. We had terrific turnouts in every town with anywhere from 15 to 35 people at each location. Our annual Lowell commemorative event had over 85 people in attendance.
Every town that participated in the program has already expressed that Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day will be held annually every April 24.
The committee hopes to reach out to other towns for next year as we expand our program and let our voices be seen and heard by the American public.
An offshoot of this program was the kind donations received in support of the ANC-MV initiatives. Each donor was offered a complimentary Armenian flag and attractive certificate to acknowledge and express appreciation for their support. With the funds raised, the ANC-MV was then able to sponsor two billboards located on highly traveled roads in the Merrimack Valley. The billboard message asked President Biden to honor his pledge to recognize the Armenian Genocide, which finally became a reality.
As a result of a great team effort, the ANC-MV truly had a great experience with the multi-town commemorations. Special thanks to Steve Mesrobian and Steve Elmasian of the ANC-RI for their support and encouragement. We accomplished our goals in receiving community support and thank all those involved. We look forward to building on the success of this year’s program and bringing increased public attention to our numerous causes here in the United States and in our Armenian Homeland and Artsakh.