Sacramento, CA – On April 22nd, the ANC-WR hosted an Issues Awareness Caucus to update Armenian Americans about issues and legislation as well as discuss the opportunities they have to reach out to their representatives while in the state capital. Activists from across the Golden State joined the Armenian National Committee – Western Region (ANC-WR) for a series of educational events and Armenian Genocide commemorations in Sacramento. In addition to attending a floor ceremony in the California Legislature, the ANC-WR co-hosted a screening of the anti-genocide documentary, SCREAMERS with California State Assembly Assistant Majority Leader Paul Krekorian. The event was supported by several state legislators including Speaker of the Assembly, Karen Bass.
On April 23rd, both chambers of the California Legislature held commemorations for the Armenian Genocide during floor sessions. In a moving commemoration event led by Assistant Majority Leader Krekorian, the State Assembly adopted AJR 14, an Armenian Genocide commemoration resolution authored by Krekorian. Several legislators rose in support of the resolution and urged their colleagues to adopt the measure. Introducing the agenda item, Krekorian briefly recalled the Armenian Genocide and his own family’s experience, including his great uncle, a professor at Euphrates College in Husenik who was tortured and killed during the genocide. Krekorian noted that since the Turkish government has not been held accountable for the genocide, subsequent governments “consumed by bigotry and hatred learned the lessons of impunity from the Armenian Genocide… And yet even today as we meet here in this chamber, right now genocide is consuming the people of Darfur.” “AJR 14 is a step toward realizing the values we claim to hold… By passing this resolution we, as a body, will stand up for truth and justice and we will help heal a wound that is still intensely painful to the many families of victims and survivors who now proudly call California their home,” he added. “This resolution gives all of us, Armenian and non-Armenian alike, an opportunity to recommit ourselves to building a society that is free of bigotry and of inhumanity and of mass violence. And if we can do that Members, perhaps we will be able to say at long last, truthfully and finally, ‘never again’.” The message was a powerful one not lost on those in the chamber. The ceremony was closed by a solemn duduk performance by Wings of Passion which included a rendition of “Der Voghormya” (“Lord Have Mercy”, a hymn commonly used in Armenian Church requiem services). “As an Armenian American and an engaged citizen it was important for me to be here as part of the commemoration events, to learn more about the issues, and take time to personally reach out to my representatives to let them know that I care deeply about this issue,” said Rich Kazanjian. Kazanjian, an activist from Santa Cruz, joined the ANC-WR for the days’ events and observed the commemoration from the Assembly gallery. Earlier in the day, the CA Senate opened with a prayer by Father Vahan Gosdanian, parish priest at Holy Trinity Armenian Apostolic Church in Fresno – one of the oldest parishes in California. The ceremony included remarks from the community as well as recognition of those in attendance from the Armenian American community as well as the Consul General of the Republic of Armenia in Los Angeles, Grigor Hovhannissian. Amy Kaladzhyan, a student at UC Santa Barbara and former ANC-WR intern took Wednesday to travel to Sacramento for the caucus and commemorations. Joined by Shant Karnikian, a UC Santa Barbara alumni and fellow intern alumnus, both were participating in the ANC’s events for the second year in a row. They also took the opportunity to meet with their representatives while at the State Capitol. “Armenian Americans need to regularly reach out to their representatives on issues of such magnitude and I was glad we could participate in this year’s commemoration events,” said Kaladzhyan. Each year, the ANC-WR leads activists to the state capital to network with colleagues from across the state and update them on the latest developments regarding issues of concern to the community. “We were proud to see members of the community from across California join us these past couple of days,” remarked ANC-WR Board Member Aida Dimejian. Dimejian chairs the ANC-WR State/Regional Affairs Committee. “With activists from the San Fernando Valley to Davis, Santa Cruz to Pasadena, Santa Barbara to Sacramento, and many more it shows that Armenian Americans across California are working together with the ANC-WR to help raise awareness about issues of importance to our community,” she added. 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.
Photo #1: Activists Amy Kaladzhyan and Shant Karnikian with Assembly Member Krekorian at the screening of SCREAMERS at the Crest Theater in Sacramento.
Photo #2: Attendees join Assembly Member Krekorian in front of the Crest Theater following the screening of SCREAMERS.
Photo #3: Assembly Member Krekorian delivers remarks on the Assembly chamber floor during its commemoration of the Armenian Genocide.
Statements on the Floor from Legislators: Assembly Member Charles Calderon (D-Montebello) — “The fact remains that it happened. And they [the government of Turkey] may not remember it, but we can never forget.” Assembly Member Cameron Smyth (R-Santa Clarita) — Referenced Ambassador Morgenthau in his remarks and noted “I think that today is very poignant that today is bring your sons and daughters to work day and that we have many students that are here visiting the Capitol and maybe for the first time are hearing of this atrocity and I am very proud to be a co-author of this resolution.” Assembly Member Anthony Portantino (D-Pasadena) — “The other night I was speaking to the Armenian Youth Federation, about a hundred students who again, still had that same fire in their eyes, and that same passion in their eyes, and that same pride in their eyes as the nearly one hundred year old survivors who are fighting… And the phrase that was said to me the other night, ‘Always Remember’.” Assembly Member Kevin de Leon (D-Hollywood) — “I would like to take an opportunity to join the Armenian American community in its campaign for the Fierce Urgency of Now… The urgency of ending the cycle of genocide now is the part of a growing grassroots movement that will attempt to stop the ongoing slaughters that current are taking place in Africa.” Assembly Member Fiona Ma (D-San Francisco) — “Every Easter morning on the top of San Francisco’s highest point, a 103 foot monumental cross is illuminated for a morning prayer service… this serves as a memorial of the genocide. At the base of the cross is a plaque where the quotation, in Armenian and English, from writer and educator, Avedis Aharonian. This quote underscores why this resolution is before us today. ‘If evil of this magnitude can be ignored, if our own children forget, then we deserve oblivion and earn the world’s scorn.’ Thank you Assembly Member Krekorian for honoring them today.” Assembly Member Juan Arambula (D-Fresno) — “… I rise to speak in support of this resolution and as I rise on behalf of the tens of thousands of proud and hard working people of Armenian descent from my region of California and so on their behalf I urge support of this resolution because what happens to any of us, happens to all of us.” Assembly Member Sam Blakeslee (R-San Luis Opispo) — “It took courage to bring this matter before the US House of Representatives and we hope that we will see that body take all the right steps to ensure that we do not let the opposition of a foreign government prevent us from standing strongly for human rights. It is essential that we remember that we are defined by what we stand for and who we stand with and who we are willing to stand against when it is inconvenient to do so. We remember Burke’s words that all it requires for evil to triumph is for good men to remain silent.” Assembly Member Lori Saldana (D-San Diego) — “I think that we have demonstrated today with adopting this resolution, next week when we do our annual remembrance of the Holocaust, and have survivors come here to the chamber that California is very committed to international peace and we do that every day in our communities as we struggle with managing the differences but knowing in the end that when we do that well, we are all the stronger for it. So I am very proud to support the resolution today.”