California to declare April 24, ‘Genocide Remembrance Day’ as state holiday

California State Assemblyman Adrin Nazarian (Photo: ANCA)

California State Assemblyman Adrin Nazarian has finally succeeded in passing a legislative bill (AB 1801) he had sponsored to declare April 24, Genocide Remembrance Day, a state holiday.

The bill mandates that every year on April 24, all community colleges and public schools throughout California will close. State employees will be given time off with pay.

The text of the bill explains: “The Legislature finds and declares that Genocide Remembrance Day would be a day for all to reflect on past and present genocides, but especially those that have felt the impact of these atrocities and groups that have found refuge in California, including, but not limited to, the Holocaust, Holodomor, and the Genocides of the Armenian, Assyrian, Greek, Cambodian, and Rwandan communities. Genocide Remembrance Day would be observed annually on April 24, also known as Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day, during the week the state of California traditionally recognizes Genocide Awareness Week.”

The text further states that on April 24 or on an alternate date “public schools and educational institutions throughout this state may include exercises, funded through existing resources, remembering and honoring the many contributions that survivors of genocide have made to this country. The State Board of Education may adopt a model curriculum guide to be available for use by public schools for exercises related to Genocide Remembrance Day.”

The State Assembly and Senate members worked tirelessly for months to have both chambers of the California legislature adopt this bill. The odyssey started on February 7, 2022 when it was introduced in the State Assembly. The bill passed through several committees: Governmental Organization: 20 yes, 0 no; Higher Education: 12 yes, 0 no; Appropriations: 12 yes, 0 no; and the full State Assembly on May 26, 2022 by a vote of 75 yes and 0 no.

The bill then went to the State Senate passing through the following committees: Governmental Organization: 14 yes, 0 no; Education: 6 yes, 0 no; Appropriations: 7 yes, 0 no; and the full Senate on August 23, 2022 by a vote of 40 yes 0 no. The bill then went back to the State Assembly on August 24, 2022 in order to reconcile it with Senate amendments. It passed by a vote of 77 yes, 0 no.

The bill was then submitted to California Governor Gavin Newsom for his signature on August 31, 2022. I contacted the governor’s office and was told that he has until September 30, 2022 to sign or veto the bill.

I spoke with Assemblyman Nazarian and congratulated him on his great efforts to pass this historic bill.

Another close friend of the Armenian community, State Senator Anthony Portantino, sent me the following empathetic message: “Far too many Californian families have been tragically affected by genocide. It’s sadly something that has touched many cultures since the first genocide of the 20th Century was perpetrated against the Armenian people by the Ottoman Turks. While we learn about Native American conquest, the Holocaust and other horrific violence committed against humanity, in our schools we don’t currently have one day that speaks to all of these atrocities and brings people together to remember, to love and to care for one another across ethnic communities. One day out of 365 for grieving and healing purposes is appropriate and I was proud to support it.”

Meanwhile, Turkish denialists are lobbying against the bill, trying to convince Gov. Newsom not to sign it into law. The Assembly of Turkish American Associations (ATAA), a notorious genocide denialist organization, issued a statement on September 5, 2022 urging “the Turkish American community and friends of Turkey to send letters, faxes and emails to Governor Newsom in order to urge him to veto” the Genocide Remembrance Day.

To counter the Turkish denialist lobbying efforts, the Armenian community should inundate Gov. Newsom’s office with emails and letters, urging him to sign AB 1801 into law. Act quickly, because the governor will make his decision between now and September 30.

Let us see who has the stronger voice in California: the large Armenian community numbering hundreds of thousands or a few Turks who want to export to California the Turkish government’s denial of the Armenian Genocide?

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Harut Sassounian

California Courier Editor
Harut Sassounian is the publisher of The California Courier, a weekly newspaper based in Glendale, Calif. He is the president of the Armenia Artsakh Fund, a non-profit organization that has donated to Armenia and Artsakh $917 million of humanitarian aid, mostly medicines, since 1989 (including its predecessor, the United Armenian Fund). He has been decorated by the presidents of Armenia and Artsakh and the heads of the Armenian Apostolic and Catholic churches. He is also the recipient of the Ellis Island Medal of Honor.

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