PASADENA, CA – The Pasadena Community commemorated the 99th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide on April 24, bringing elected officials, community leaders, youth activists, and supporters to the steps of City Hall. The program, sponsored by the City of Pasadena and the Armenian Community Coalition, featured musical tributes and poems, as well as U.S. Congresswoman Judy Chu, D-Pasadena, and Dr. Harry Sarafian, Social Democrat Hunchakian Party Central Committee Secretary.
The event began with a Color Guard ceremony by the A.G.B.U. Pasadena scouts, followed by opening remarks by Levon Keshishian, who also presided as master of ceremonies for the event. “They massacred a million and a half of us, yet today we stand as over 11 million worldwide. For 99 years we have proven we are a people that can survive this. By all difficulties we are a people who adapt to all situations. We are survivors,” said Levon Keshishian. “Today is not a day of mourning; it is a day of remembrance and rededication to the cause, which is unsolved.”
Rep. Judy Chu, D-Pasadena, reminded the audience that there are currently people in the world experiencing hardships and horrors similar to the Armenians in the Ottoman Empire. “We have a duty to recognize the Armenian Genocide and the tragedy in Kessab (Syria) and remind the world that horror and destruction will not be ignored,” Chu said, stressing her commitment to push for a congressional resolution reaffirming the Armenian Genocide.
Alec Eginli Aginian stressed the need to educate the Turkish populace on their own history and the truth of the Armenian Genocide. Father Andon Atamian, of St. Gregory Armenian Catholic Church, gave a forceful speech emphasizing the Armenian nation’s unrelenting cont1`inued pursuit for justice, and the responsibility of civilized nations to contribute in that pursuit.
Pasadena City Councilman John Kennedy presented Armenian leaders with a certificate of recognition from Mayor Bill Bogaard, who did not attend the event, recognizing the occasion. “I don’t speak Armenian, but justice is one language,” Kennedy said, “and we are all speaking that language today.”
Community member Martin Gordon also spoke at the event, calling on the city’s teachers to better educate children about the Armenian Genocide, as well as all injustices, past and present. “This is not just an Armenian thing. It’s a human rights thing, it’s an American thing, it’s a Pasadena thing. Let us not forget the sad road of America: slavery, the Native Americans, internment camps, just to name a few,” Gordon said. “We must remember and teach our history, as knowing our history is the best way of not repeating it.”
Dr. Harry Sarafian stressed the enormous amount of time and resources Armenians have in pursuit of recognition, yet have done little toward establishing the legal framework upon which demands for compensation and reparation will be based. “Recognition by Turkey without reparation will be meaningless. The Turkish government is well aware of this and that is why it is doing everything in its power to keep us stuck at the recognition phase.” Dr. Sarafian said “The time has come to get beyond recognition and start work on the next phase, which will require far more extensive resources and expertise.”
Dignitaries in attendance included Reverend Fr. Sarkis Petoyan of St. Gregory Armenian Apostolic Church of Pasadena, Rabbi Joshua Levine Grater of the Pasadena Jewish Temple, Pasadena City Councilmembers Tina Williams, Noreen Sullivan, and Steve Madison, Pasadena Unified School District Superintendent Jon Gundry, Altadena Town Councilmember Okorie Ezieme, Pasadena Police Chief Philip Sanchez, Captain John Benedict, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. Solemn performances included the Marshal Fundamental School Orchestra, AGBU Vatche & Tamar Manoukian High School choir, and the AGBU Pasadena scouts.