A book on Vahan Cardashian, the man who set the foundation for Armenian political advocacy in the United States, has long been overdue. Finally, earlier this year, the Center for Armenian Remembrance (CAR) released a compilation documenting some of this mans legendary work.
Human nature is often described as self-interested, egotistical and insular, where individuals do not have concern for anything outside of the realm which directly affects them. While it may seem logical and prudent for everyone to put their heads down and focus solely on their immediate desires, this is not the way to achieving positive and tangible change on any level. The attitude described above leads to the creation and intensification of dividing lines among people that should otherwise be unified.
We have all seen innocent looking chocolate commercials with adorable kids laughing and having a good time while enjoying their chocolate bars. Some brands are represented by bunnies, some with oversized M&Ms, and some are so famous that they are known worldwide brands such as Hershey, Mars and Nestle. Although they are competing brands they have a couple of things in common: they’re most definitely delicious, and they have one dark secret–CHILD LABOR.
When it comes to discussion of the Armenian Genocide, there is one topic that has, for far too long, been the proverbial elephant in the room. Although the topic is on virtually everyones mind, it tends to be left largely unaddressed or ignored for one reason or another. This topic is, of course, that of reparations.
On September 2, 1938 an editorial appeared in the Hairenik Weekly condemning the Turkish governments brutal crackdown of its Kurdish population in Dersim. The editorial drew the following link between the common struggle for freedom waged by both Armenians and Kurds:
GLENDALEThe Armenian Revolutionary Federation marked its 119th anniversary during a celebration event organized by the Central Committee of the ARF-Western USA. More than 1,500 community members flocked to the Glendale High School auditorium to witness a resurgence of the ARFs commitment to fight for justice and the rights of the Armenian nation. No where was that better articulated than during remarks delivered by Armenian Youth Federation Western US Central Executive Chairman Arek Santikian, who spoke of the critical role the youth should play in the pursuit of the Armenian Cause.
Speaking on behalf of the youth today, I am here to reassure you that we realize the duty bestowed upon on us and we welcome the challenges put forth. Being mindful of the sacrifices of our ancestors throughout our rich history has instilled the passion that allows each of us to work tirelessly and willingly, for something far greater than any individual, said Santikian, reassuring the community of the youths willingness and determination to be the vital force of change in the community, to hold true to the core values of the ARF, and to struggle for the Armenian nation.
Below are his remarks:
Sireli hayrenagitsner, I stand before you tonight, humbled to be able to speak during a day of celebration, for an organization that has lived for over a century, an organization, that throughout its existence, has been the defender of justice and the protector of truth.
I stand before you today, honored to be a part of this organization, to represent its youth, and to pay homage to its founders and leaders throughout history.
As a member of the Armenian Youth Federation, I am thankful for a leader that had the foresight to entrust the youth with the future of not only our organization, but our entire people.
Had it not been for Karekin Njdehs wisdom, our Diasporan youth would be non-existent, apathetic, and disconnected from our nation. And for that, I am thankful.
Speaking on behalf of the youth today, i am here to reassure you that we realize the duty bestowed upon on us and we welcome the challenges put forth.
Being mindful of the sacrifices of our ancestors throughout our rich history has instilled the passion that allows each of us to work tirelessly and willingly, for something far greater than any individual.
The core values of selflessness and dedication upon which our organization was founded, coupled with being technologically advanced and globalized, have made the AYF into a powerful combination and has left us better situated to battle in todays world, where things are so fast and so complex.
Take the hunger for justice as an example. The drive and passion of our youth spilled out onto the streets in front of the whole community as over 30 individuals starved themselves for an entire week.
Videos, articles, & pictures went up every day, highlighting the event as the news reached across America, into Canada, England, France, Syria, Lebanon, Australia, and Armenia.
And this is just one example of many.
However, one thing that we cannot forget as members of this organization is who we are fighting for and that no matter what, we can always do more for them.
Socrates once said: there is nothing we can do better than seeking to become still better than we are.
For as long as i can remember, there has been only one piece of the puzzle that we are still yet to find, and that piece, is unity.
Unity, not only among Armenians within the Diaspora, but among the Diaspora and our brothers and sisters within Armenia.
Our manifesto states that we fight for a free, independent, and united Armenia. So let us complete this mission and meet all its goals.
In order for us to succeed any further than we have throughout the years, we need to be the leaders that break down any wall that divides us as a people.
We need to reach out to our fellow brothers and sisters in Armenia, and fight for their rights, just as much as much as we fight for ours.
We need to expose the fact that 95 percent of our countrys wealth is held by five percent of its people, and end this corruption.
We need to focus on the social issues that plague our country to this day
We need be the leaders that put an end to the poverty and hunger within our country because no Armenian man woman or child should go hungry on the streets.
We need to do these things because that is what a true socialist organization must do.
And I can promise you that the youth today can be and will be the leaders that complete this mission in the future to come.
Finally, I want to speak about the unique characteristics of a member of this organization; the unger.
The unger is humble, dedicated, and a person of integrity.
The unger does not seek power, fame, nor recognition as these things go against the socialist ideals that distinguish our organization from any other.
The unger is an organizational person, one who provides continuous input, and at times, questions the reasoning, but at the end of the day, does not deviate from their duty and responsibility.
And lastly, the unger is one that believes in our ideology, and holds the goals of the manifesto as their own.
Even though we have survived for over a century, we must make a conscious effort to uphold these simple characteristics that make up the true unger.
So let us celebrate the 119th anniversary of our beloved organization by honoring our forefathers, and upholding the core values and principles upon which our organization was built upon.
HOLLYWOOD, Calif.,The Armenian Youth Federation last month teamed with experimental-fusion rock band Visa and a host of local socially-conscious artists to put-on a special benefit concert that helped feed over 250 less fortunate families on Thanksgiving Day through the LA Mission, a non-profit serving the homeless of Downtown Los Angeles.
The concert, held at the Troubadour on November 25, came to life with the help of up n coming local artists R-Mean, MadStory, Red Snow, and Cahn & Yang. The AYF sponsored the evening, working in the days and weeks leading up to the packed-house holiday event to promote the collaborative endeavor. The highlight of the night occurred when System of a Down frontman Serj Tankian joined Visa on stage to perform the song Viktor. Tankian, an AYF alumnus, brings a tremendously strong track record of speaking out on social justice issues, making his appearance all the more fitting.
The AYF is very proud to have been a part of an event that gave back to the community, and shed light on an issue that not only affects our own communities here, but millions of people around the world, said Arek Santikian, the AYFs Chairman. Our organizations founding principle, and driving force till this day, is social justice. And we are always looking to work with as many groups and people toward that end.
AGBUs GenNext youth mentorship program, which worked to help promote the event, thanked Visa for the collaborative opportunity. Theyre a great band. Theyve got great music, and they attract a great crowd, Luiza Baloyan of GenNex said, explaining how the concert gave GenNext an opportunity to promote her organizations mission and recruit new mentors to serve as role models for underprivileged community youth. When it comes to helping our kids, people dont think in terms of political persuasion, country of origin or ideological tilt; they just say, sign me up. When it comes to helping our youth, we can all be on the same page.
We at the Los Angeles Mission want to thank everyone involved with the Feed the Need project and the success that it had. Seeing the young people take hold and take charge to serve the less fortunate is exactly what we need more of, said Ivan Klassen, the Director of Community Partnerships at the LA Mission.
When it comes to working with community groups on social issues, Visa is all about action, according to band member and AYF alumnus Antranig Kzirian, who described the band as an eclectic mix of individuals who appreciate the importance of helping the less fortunate.
Working with socially conscious community organizations to be civically active is very important, said Kzirian. The AYF sets a strong example for todays youth by doing more to make sure social justice issues such as genocide recognition and feeding the hungry are addressed properly in the public eye and Visa looks forward to working together again in the future.
According to Santikian, the Visa concert was first among many such events the organization is planning for the coming months. Over the years we have come to realize that music can be used to not only bring people together but to amplify the spectrum of causes focused on positive issues, he explained.
The AYF, ANC and Visa teamed together this past April 24 to hold a special benefit concert to commemorate the Armenian Genocide, with proceeds benefiting an orphanage in Armenia.
The AYF has a couple more projects in mind for the rest of year that fuse music with socially conscious endeavors, Santikian said, adding that the AYF plans to work with popular local artists to help raise awareness of human rights violations, past, present and future. One of our focuses for the next year will be to work with artists to connect a diverse cross-section of people with social and humanitarian causes working to end the ongoing cycle of genocide, which began with the Armenians in 1915 and continues to rage on in Darfur.
SAN DIEGONearly 150 members from the Armenian Youth Federations Western Region turned-out on Thanksgiving weekend to compete in the AYFs 36th annual Olympic Games, hosted by the AYFs Glendale Roupen chapter, at the majestic seaside Paradise Point Resort in San Diego.
AYF chapters from all over the Golden State and Las Vegas attended the weekend tournament to compete in soccer, basketball and volleyball.
The AYF Olympics is a long-standing tradition that brings together Armenian-American youth from across the Western United States for a weekend of sports competitions and good times, said Roupen chapter chairperson David Arakelyan. This event is very important in fostering ties between AYF members from different corners of the country, and it represents one of the many pillars on which our organization is founded.
The weekend kicked off Friday evening with a bonfire by the beach. Games began the next morning, pitting chapter against chapter for the gold. After a heated day of activity, Olympics goers enjoyed a night of dancing and music at the hotel before they hit the pavement again for semi-finals.
Chapter pride always runs high at Olympics. Every year, every team comes to the games, with unique t-shirts, complete with graphics and catchy slogans. Each comes with the intent on taking home the championship in their niche sport.
Olympics has always been my favorite time of the year, said Levon Abrahamian, the chairperson of the Crescenta Valley Zartonk Chapter. Its not just the games we enjoy, but the lead up to the weekend; the weeks of practice, the long nights behind Photoshop designing chapter shirts and the hours of debate at meetings trying to agree on the perfect slogan to display on the shirts.
At the end of the tournament, the Fresno Kevork Chavoush chapter came out on top in Soccer, winning the gold and taking the glory. The Burbank Varak chapter came in first for Volleyball and the Hollywood Musa Dagh chapter took the winning position in basketball.
We had more than 150 AYF members competing in this years Olympics; the energy was great, Arakelyan exclaimed, adding how much he appreciated the ability to connect and reconnect with members. The Olympics committee worked very hard all year, mobilizing our chapter, to make this event a success and I think we were able to achieve that.
Next year, the Olympic games are set to be hosted by the San Fernando Valley Sardarabad Chapter, which has already begun planning and preparation to ensure nothing short success for the 2010 games. On Thursday, December 4, the chapter held their first fundraiser for the games. Themed as a Post Olympics Reunion, it was a resounding success, attracting many to an event that has set the tone for a year of fundraising.
For many in the AYF, the Olympics have never been just about the games and competition. Theres a lot more to it than meets the eye, says Sardarabad member Patil Aslanian.
From start to finish, the Olympics represent every fabric of AYF life, from the organizations democratic culture and adherence to team-work and social-unity, to the appreciation for the long, hard work that goes into making any endeavour a success, explains Aslanian. At the end of every year, we vote on which chapter gets to host the Olympics; then the chapter honored with the responsibility unites around the goal and spends the entire year working together to bring the chapters together for another weekend of fun and competition.
GLENDALEThe Armenian Youth Federations Youth Corps program released on Thursday the first in a series of promotional videos as part of a year-long campaign to build momentum for the programs much anticipated 15th anniversary.
Posted on Youtube, the short video produced by Youth Corps Alumni Anahid Yahjian, chronicles the programs activities in 2008, when the it began operating a summer day camp for underprivileged children in Gyumri. In the coming weeks the program is set to release a 15th anniversary documentary, chronicling the birth and development of the program.
I wanted to show people at home how great the energy at the camp was last year, so I volunteered to put it all together to function as not just a memory for the participants, but an up-to-date presentation of the current evolution of Youth Corps, says Yahjian. I hope that once it gets distributed online, young Armenians all over the country will see the beauty of this priceless experience and want to be a part of it.
When I watched it, I felt like I wanted to pack my suitcase and go to the airport, said Nora Kayserian,who plans to go next year. I cant believe I have to wait until July to actually get to participate.
Youth Corps began in 1994, following the signing of the cease-fire between Armenia and Azerbaijan, ending the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. In its first 13 years, the program sent AYF members to the Nagorno-Karabakh republic in the summers to help rebuild many of the newly independent republics war-torn villages. Throughout the years the Youth Corps program has grown and developed into the most memorable, productive and exciting means for Armenian youth to establish and strengthen their ties with the homeland.
In 2008, Youth Corps switched gears to focus on building connections between Armenian youth in the diaspora with their counterparts in the homeland. Camp Gyumri, as it has come to be known, gives young Armenians from the United States a chance to make a direct impact on the lives of some of Gyumris most impoverished families.
This is a very exciting year for us, exclaims Sose Thomassian, the director of the program. Its truly an achievement to be able to look back at 15 years of young Armenians taking the initiative to do much needed work in the Homeland.
This 4 week long program, which begins in July 2010, accepts 150 children every summer and provides them with a fun and safe environment to make new friends,and learn new things, explains Thomassian, noting the many activities available for the campers. he campers daily itinerary consists of English classes, music classes, arts and crafts, karatee and organized games and educational competitions.
Through this summer experience, campers also learn about respect, trust, tolerance, diversity, responsibility, and cooperationall of which are critical in helping them grow to become members of a healthy civil society. The camp is just as special for its counselors, who spend six months ahead of their trip doing grassroots fundraising in their local communities to raise the money needed to run the program.
The AYF is now looking for ways to expand Youth Corps beyond Gyumri, to establish day camps in other cities and villages throughout Armenia where the need is great but the attention is still lacking.
We have already begun scouting new camp sites throughout Armenia, focusing on the most deprived regions, where opportunities for youth are limited, says Thomassian. Our goal is to extend and expand the program as much as possible, to be in as many places as we can, and to impact the lives of young Armenians all across the country.
Such an ambitious goal, however, requires serious fundraising and community, adds Thomassian, detailing her committees plans to reach out to the programs alumni and supporters. Were going to have a 15 year anniversary fundraiser early next year, where we can not only reflect on the monumental impact of our efforts in the past, but also begin imagining our long-term role in Armenias future.
As in years past, the program will spend much of the months leading up to the summer, planning and preparing for the camp; raising the funds to run its daily operation and building the much needed momentum to ensure Youth Corps is able to expand its operations.
Last year we accepted 75 kids for each of the two sessions of camp; this year, I want to see us accept 150 kids per session, says AYF Chairman Arek Santikian. To do that, we need more participants so we hope to build enough momentum in the weeks and months leading up to Youth Corps 2010 to recruit more participants than ever.
Applications for Youth Corps 2010 are set to be released early next year. For information, please contact: (818) 507-1933 or email firstname.lastname@example.org