I attended my first AYF Junior Seminar back in 2010 at Camp Lutherlyn. While it is hard to recall the thoughts and feelings I had when I was 11 years old, the slogan of that weekend has been seared into my mind ever since; “The time is now, the power is yours.” Over a decade later to the day, as I attended my first AYF Convention as a delegate from the AYF Chicago “Ararat” Chapter, I found myself frequently referring back to those words to remind myself of where we stand in this moment in Armenian history.
After a year of great strife, the 87th Convention offered a glimmer of what is yet to come. The past year and a half has tested this organization beyond belief through a pandemic and the Artsakh War. While online connections existed, nothing compares to face-to-face interactions. We have yearned for a common sense of belonging, and what better place to have such a historic Convention than the ultimate home for all AYF members to feel they belong: AYF Camp Haiastan. This was the first time Convention had ever taken place at AYF Camp Haiastan. Each delegate could feel the history in the air as debates on action and reflection dominated our work.
The spark has been lit. The question then becomes: how do we take a potential fire and set the world ablaze? While the ambitions of each delegate were limitless, the hope of 40 AYF members is not enough to create the change that’s necessary for our community to flourish. If there was only one takeaway from that weekend, it is the necessity of the word “belonging.”
For the first time in 15 months, I had the opportunity to feel that I belonged as an Armenian through deepening relationships and meeting new faces from around the country. We laughed. We argued. We ate kebab. We simply enjoyed each other’s company as fellow Armenians. I feel more energized about our work than ever before, and I can attribute that to the shared experience of this weekend. However, how Andrew Devedjian defines the word “belonging” can be incredibly different for other Armenians. I challenge every Armenian to reflect on what makes them feel that they belong and pledge to make your fellow Armenians experience the necessary connections to ensure that our work lives on.
We have many steps to take before we ensure a free, united and independent Armenia. Still, as I left the 87th AYF Convention, it became clear that our goals rest upon our ability toward collective action. We must take each step together. In doing so, we shall put the dead to rest together. We shall stumble together. We shall heal together.
The shared sentiment of this Convention was that the suffering of our people has seemingly fallen on deaf ears for far too long. We refuse to accept this any longer. The whole world will watch as the Armenian people sink their feet in-ground and not only demand justice but obtain justice. The AYF has the willpower to lead the youth as we collectively take hold of the universe’s moral arc and pull it down ourselves. We all belong to this moment where the time is now and the power is ours.