By: Katy Simonian
The Armenian National Committee of America – Western Region (ANCA-WR) will punctuate this year’s Awards Gala with a poignant tribute to the beloved former ANCA-WR Board Member and one of the Armenian community’s most respected and fierce activists, Steve Artinian, who we tragically lost this year. The Steve Artinian Visionary Activist Award will annually honor an ANCA-WR local chapter and leader whose efforts have had the most impact through the spirit of grace, kindness and dedication in line with Steve Artinian’s trademark selfless and generous service to the Armenian Cause. The program will feature a special presentation to celebrate this new prestigious award. The inaugural recipient of this honor will be the ANCA-Nevada Chapter led by Lenna Hovanessian, Esq. for their significant accomplishments at the state level in Nevada to advance Armenian Genocide education and various important issues related to the Armenian Cause. The Armenian community will have the opportunity to salute both the endearing legacy of Steve Artinian and the achievements of the ANCA-Nevada Chapter at the Awards Gala which will take place on Sunday, November 12th at the Omni Hotel.
Following nearly ten months of Azerbaijan’s illegal blockade of Artsakh and its military onslaught which resulted in the forced depopulation of Artsakh, the ANCA-WR Board seriously considered canceling this year’s Awards Gala. However, remembering the inspiring words of Artsakh Foreign Minister and last year’s Freedom Award honoree David Babayan, who is currently unlawfully imprisoned in Baku, the ANCA-WR Board decided that it must not cower in the face of Azeri aggression and that it must forge ahead in a show of unity and resilience against the injustices inflicted on our people, pledging to donate a portion of the proceeds toward humanitarian assistance for Artsakh genocide survivors.
There are times in life where the world seems locked in the ebb of shadow and doubt. It is in these moments when light reminds us of the promise of hope and the power of kindness. In that power, we find the light within ourselves and the glory of a new day. Steve Artinian was and is that light for those who knew him, the people whose lives he touched and for the entire Armenian community.
Activist. Champion. Marketing Genius. A true visionary who was guided by his pure heart and golden kindness to elevate his community to new heights. His vision for community activism can be described in one word – Epic – a word he used a great deal, as a genuine, warm smile would come across his face, filling the room and everybody in it with energy to pursue noble goals in service to those in need. For him “epic” was more than a description – to be epic was to see beyond the hardships that often plague the Armenian community in seeking justice, and to rise through faith and defiance to push the limits of what’s possible and in doing so, inspire new generations of activists to take up the mantle of public service.
A trailblazer in the advancement of the Armenian Cause on the local, state, national and global level, and long-time ANCA-Western Region Board Member, Steve Artinian was singularly responsible for elevating the vision and accomplishments of the ANCA-Western Region to new heights, along with the many organizations he held dear to his heart including Homenetmen, where he served as Regional Chair leading the charge to open multiple community centers and build Camp Tecuya which remains the largest Armenian campground outside of the Armenian homeland.
Heralded for his innovative marketing ideas, he helped develop the ANCA-WR’s “America, We Thank You: A Tribute to Near East Relief” initiative, the HyeVotes initiative, and many other projects. In the midst of the COVID pandemic in 2020, it was his vision which led to the success of the Pan Armenian Council’s “Feeding America” campaign, a tribute to the 1.5 million Armenians who perished during the Genocide of 1915. During the pandemic when people were resigned to a mood of disillusion and there was an inability to appropriately commemorate April 24, Steve’s light shined ever brighter, pledging to raise funding for 1.5 million meals for the 1.5 million lives lost during the Genocide. True to form, he exceeded expectations, successfully marketing the campaign to fund over 5 million meals for families in need in a beautiful display of the peace and love of the Armenian spirit. His work in promoting and creatively directing every one of the ANCA-WR Grassroots Conferences and Annual Gala Banquets, the leadership and marketing skills he brought to the community-wide Armenian Genocide Centennial March for Justice which brought over 166,000 peaceful protesters to the streets of Los Angeles, and his taking the helm of the 2014 ANCA Telethon, are only some of the extraordinary achievements he produced with the quiet dignity and humility with which he led his life.
Steve Artinian’s vision, kind heart, and true grace continue to be a guiding light for the Armenian community. His strength was rooted in his gentleness and genuine desire to help people, and perhaps, most poignantly, help people believe in themselves – to embrace their inner light in the name of justice and peace.
It is this devotion to illuminating issues of importance to the Armenian people that makes the ANCA-Nevada chapter deserving of this inaugural honor. It takes patience and persistence to lead in an era of injustice, where light seems to dim under the blanket of political interests. The ANCA-Nevada Chapter, led by Lenna Hovanessian, Esq. has persevered in building vital relations throughout the local community and establishing relationships with elected leaders in Nevada from the Governor to its congressional delegation to local officials, all to insure the Armenian people have a voice in their government.
The need for education on the Armenian Genocide is paramount to promoting genocide prevention on the national and global level. The ANCA-Nevada chapter has emphasized the importance of education in its layered and effective advocacy. Under the leadership of Lenna Hovanessian, Esq., whose legal background and knowledge of public relations has made her an effective voice for her community, the Nevada Chapter has thrived, recently advocating for U.S. intervention and prevention of the Artsakh Genocide of 2023.
In the 2021 Nevada State legislative session, Hovanessian spearheaded an Armenian Genocide and Holocaust Education Bill, co-drafting, lobbying and passing the bill as mandatory teaching by law in Nevada public high schools.
The Bill, one of the signature achievements of the Nevada Chapter in promoting the Armenian Genocide Education Act – H.R. 2803 – is a resolution aimed toward raising awareness and understanding of the Armenian Genocide to prevent denial and distortion of this historic crime against humanity. The legislation includes provisions for the development and dissemination of educational resources, teacher training, engagement with education leaders, and the maintenance of an online resource for better understanding of the depth of Armenia’s rich history and the need for genocide prevention through education. It also allows for the acceptance of donations and requires an annual report. An impressive $2,000,000 in Nevada state funding is now authorized for fiscal year 2024 and subsequent years.
On receiving the inaugural Steve Artinian Visionary Activist Award in recognition of the ANCA-Nevada Chapter’s promotion of education on the Armenian Genocide and an increased presence of Armenians on the local and national level, Lenna Hovanessian reflects on the link between the work of ANCA-WR local chapters and the brave people of Artsakh and Armenia. “I am honored to receive the inaugural Steve Artinian Visionary Activist Award in the spirit of fierce, dedicated service and visionary activism exemplified by our beloved Steve Artinian. As a leader of the Nevada Chapter, I have been inspired to transform our people’s suffering to empowerment by spear-heading a multi-faceted model of government relations, media and legal expertise for powerhouse advocacy with an outsized impact from the state to national level,” says Hovanessian, who remains devoted to promoting issues of importance to the Armenian people. “With the humanitarian tragedy unfolding in Artsakh, I dedicate this award and my relentless efforts to the real Armenian heroes who have displayed unwavering courage, resilience and dignity while enduring Genocide and to combat the intolerable violations of human rights, suffering and ongoing injustices.”
“The Steve Artinian Visionary Activist Award is more than a loving tribute to the man whose absence is deeply felt as a cherished, loyal, devoted friend, partner and leader of the ANCA-WR Board and Staff as well as the overall Armenian community. This award will undoubtedly empower the ANCA-Western Region and activists from around the world to take inspiration from his life and work. Steve knew how to light the way and to inspire people to overcome divisive negativity and find the best within themselves to fulfill their mission. We are committed to honoring his legacy, and we continue to be inspired by him, with grateful hearts for all he did to lead the way,” says ANCA-WR Chair Nora Hovsepian Esq. “We are thrilled to honor the ANCA-Nevada Chapter led by Lenna Hovanessian with the inaugural Steve Artinian Visionary Activist Award for their persistent efforts to advance the Armenian Cause and to promote education of the Armenian Genocide in the name of prevention.”
In times of trial, hope lives in the acts of kindness and love Steve Artinian was known for throughout his life. In his words, “I believe in helping people. Embracing goodness and positivity is truly, deeply important. Our light is brighter when we shine as one. There is no greater blessing than the ability to bless others.” It is with grateful hearts that we remember his words and reflect on the blessing of living in his time, as his light continues to shine brighter for every generation.
For more information about Steve Artinian’s extraordinary legacy of activism, the achievements of the ANCA Nevada Chapter, and to purchase tickets for the 2023 ANCA-Western Region Awards Gala, please click here. A portion of the proceeds from this year’s Gala will be donated to support Artsakh Genocide survivors.