By Geghard ARAKELIAN
Students and event coordinators gathered in the Glendale High School auditorium on Wednesday, April 21 for the ninth annual commemoration of the Armenian genocide. In the audience were officials from the school district who attended to watch students from district schools perform.
The program, “We are all Survivors,” is an event that draws students from throughout the Glendale Unified School District. It is a free performance open to the public and uses dance, literature and film media to commemorate the deaths of 1.5 million Armenians during the Armenian Genocide, which took place in Turkey.
“It was all about the students to get an opportunity to express themselves of how they feel about the genocide through music, poetry, song and dance,” said Greg Krikorian, president of the G.U.S.D.
And according to Krikorian there are about 10,000 students within the G.U.S.D that are of Armenian descent.
“The reason why I started this is because there was no district wide assembly commemorating the genocide,” said Krikorian. “It’s actually very enlightening…from poetry to music, [from] skit to song.”
The assembly opened with district board members addressing the crowd of about 1,000 people.
“This is actually the ninth annual celebration here at Glendale High School of this very important time in Armenian culture and Armenian history,” said Superintendent Michael Escalante.
“Raphael Lemkin coined the term genocide in 1943…and was determined to prevent such atrocities from ever happening again,” added Dr. Richard Sheehan, who will be assuming the role of superintendent. “Our students here tonight are proof that we will never forget. We will never forget the deportations. We will never forget the indiscriminate killing of men, women and children. We will never forget that an entire nation was almost erased.”
Students then took to the stage, captivating the audience in their expression of how tragic the genocide was. A dance team from Crescenta Valley High School was organized specifically for the event, creating their own routine.
“They asked us to do a dance, so all us dancers made up a dance,” said 17-year-old senior Rubina Vartanians of CVHS, who is also assistant director of Crescenta Valley Dance.
Vartanians added that since agreeing to participate in the assembly, the performers had been preparing for two to three weeks, having rehearsals on a daily basis after school. The event piqued peoples’ curiosity at Vartanians’ high school.
“When we first announced this we had so much support. Everyone just wanted to be in it.” Vartanians felt strongly about participating in the event.
“The genocide represents the Turks forcing their ways upon us,” she said. “Not only did they take over our lives but they committed a massacre.”
Ultimately she hopes that her team’s dance routine raised awareness of the genocide “not by words, not by music, but by our emotions. We just want [the audience] to feel what we felt.”
In addition to the dance routine, the school’s Armenian Club president Talar Malakian, 17, presented a video that was produced by the club’s vice president.
Malakian spoke favorably of her fellow CVHS students who knew of the genocide.
“People are very receptive to the information that we give them. Many of them do know [of the genocide] because of the work that the Armenian Club does,” she said.
Wednesday night’s assembly touched Malakian on a personal level as well.
“I’ve grown up here and I’ve been raised here but I’ve been part Armenian my whole life. I still feel that sense of relationship with my country and with my history,” she said. “It definitely affects me knowing that this history is part of my history.”
Likewise, Krikorian was moved by the assembly. “It was very heartwarming to see these kids perform today and to send a message about the genocide.”
For some officials of the G.U.S.D. the genocide does more than raise awareness; it gets students to work together.
“Our Armenian students form a bond with other Armenian students throughout our district when preparing for the assembly,” said Linda Evans, CVHS principal. “This creates a sense of community among the students. It is also most important to remember the victims of the genocide to ensure that [it] does not happen again.”
Evans was also “deeply moved by this tragedy and the commitment of the Armenian community to remember and seek recognition of the genocide.”
At the end of the assembly Krikorian took the podium and addressed the audience one last time. As he spoke passionately of the genocide, he told attendees that he wondered if there were any survivors left
to tell the tale of the genocide prompting several students in
the audience to walk on stage for the concluding skit, claiming to be survivors.
“[Because of] everyone coming today I had a good feeling [the assembly] will spread more and more and we’re going to start now to promote next year’s event,” said Krikorian. “[The assembly] brought the whole district together and that was exciting.”