April 29, 2009
For Immediate Release
Contact: Andrew Kzirian
tel: (818) 500-1918

ANC-WR Combats Prejudice in Glendale

Los Angeles, CA – Below are excerpts from recent commentary pieces published by the Glendale News Press pertaining to the Armenian Youth Federation (AYF) of the Western United States. The ANC-WR learned that on April 16, 2009, Dan Kimber, a teacher in the Glendale Unified School District, authored a piece criticizing the Armenian Youth Federation (AYF) for being “un-American”. Kimber’s original commentary can be read here:

A relevant excerpt from Kimber’s piece:

“The whole attitude seems to me to be, in a word, un-American. (Kimber referring to the AYF’s mission). I know that there will be many in this community who will disagree with me, but my gut feeling — no, make that an absolute conviction — is that the Armenian Youth Federation, or any organization for that matter that dedicates itself to a “stick to your own kind” philosophy, is out of step with the professed ideals of this country. Their ethnocentric behavior encourages the very kind of separateness that many in our community and in our schools are fighting against. Under the guise of cultural integrity, national pride or whatever high-sounding phrases one might summon, any organization that would write such a sentence displays not only an ignorance of what this country is all about but promotes a thinly veiled prejudice as well.”

On April 22, 2009 Vicken Sonentz-Papazian, Chairman of the Armenian National Committee – Western Region (ANC-WR) and an AYF alumnus, rebuked Kimber’s piece and outlined the long history of the AYF in the United States and the roles that its alumni played at important times in American history. Sonentz-Papazian’s rebuttal to Kimber can be read here:

Relevant excerpts from Sonentz-Papazian’s piece are below:

“As an alumnus of the Armenian Youth Federation, I read with a sense of great consternation Dan Kimber’s woefully misplaced commentary piece, (“Greet melting pot with open arms,” Friday) which completely mischaracterizes the origins and purpose of the organization.”

“In 1933, when Njdeh turned his attention from fighting successive campaigns against the Turkish and then communist invaders to saving a desperate and scattered nation, half of which was held captive under Soviet rule, the other half attempting to deal with the trauma of annihilation, the assimilation of Armenian youth truly represented a step closer to extinction. That same year, in 1933, it was Njdeh that nurtured and advised one founding member, Col. Harry Sachaklian. A decade later Sachaklian took the lessons he learned, under the tutelage of Njdeh and as a member of the Armenian Youth Federation when he served with distinction as a military aide to then-Gen. Dwight Eisenhower, the Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe.”

On April 23, 2009, Kimber apologized to the AYF for his previous remarks, but did not substantially modify his position. Kimber’s response to Sonentz-Papazian can be read here:

A relevant excerpt from Kimber’s response:

“And now about last week’s column. I received more than 50 responses from the good people in our community, more than any column I have written in the past six years. The subject was assimilation, and the object was a sentence that I came across in writing a student recommendation that read like a mission statement from the Armenian Youth Federation. I have since learned, and probably should have researched before I wrote the article, that the federation has done a world of good for more than 70 years and did not deserve this slap for one (however misguided) sentence. My apologies to the Armenian Youth Federation. But all the same, wouldn’t it be a good idea for that venerable organization to delete the sentence, “The AYF was founded .?.?. with the purpose of keeping the Armenian youth from assimilating”? Had the same resolution of non-assimilation come from Latinos Unidos, or the Asian Society or the Filipino club or whomever, I would have objected all the same. My point was not about a certain people but about a certain principle. Call it assimilation, integration, Americanization — whatever word is chosen, it has to do with people coming together instead of separating from one another. It is not about giving up anything, but it is about accepting minimal expectations, like learning how to speak the language of the land. It’s not about being cloned to look like, act like, be like everyone else in the mainstream, but it is about finding commonalities in our humanity that supersede culture and nationality.”

The Armenian National Committee – Western Region is the largest and most influential Armenian American grassroots advocacy organization in the Western United States. Working in coordination with a network of offices, chapters, and supporters throughout the Western United States and affiliated organizations around the country, the ANC-WR promotes awareness of the Armenian American community on a broad range of issues.

###