By Michael J. ARVIZU
While millions commemorated the 100th anniversary of what is generally accepted to be the beginning of the Armenian Genocide, in a darkened auditorium in a small corner of the world called Glendale Community College, students, faculty and staff staged a remembrance of their own to honor the more than 1.5 million men, women and children killed at the hands of the Ottoman Empire.
A single red and white carnation-laden wreath decorated the otherwise sparse auditorium stage, while a musician played a soft melody on a wooden flute before the service.
About 100 people attended the commemoration on April 23, which was the penultimate event to a month-long series of activities at the college, which included a student art show, concerts, and lectures.
The hour-long presentation in the auditorium featured speeches from college staff, saw attendance from elected officials of the city of Glendale and included musical performances.
Afterward, guests walked in procession to the college’s Plaza Vaquero, where a memorial plaque dedicated to the victims of the Genocide rests.
Farther below, on the plaza walkway, an exhibition on the Genocide, organized by the college’s Armenian Student Association featured poster-sized newspaper clippings from The New York Times, one of the first American newspapers to report on the Genocide as it was beginning to unfold.
The exhibition also included photographs taken at the time, as well as photographs from Near East Relief, the aid organization established in response to the Genocide.
The presentations, club members said, was organized with the hopes of raising awareness of the Genocide as well as bringing attention to Turkey’s continued denial that it even happened.
“This is not the first crime for them, but this is the biggest for them,” said Edmon Iskenderian, an Iraqi-Armenian GCC student, of Turkey’s continued denial of the Armenian Genocide. “This is the greatest one for them.”
Students said that many know about the more than 1.5 million put to death, but don’t understand the historic context of the Genocide or the reasons why or how it happened, “because a lot countries don’t recognize the fact that it happened,” said Aleksanyan.
“Even in such a highly Armenian-populated college as this is, some people still don’t know what [the] Armenian Genocide is,” said Anna Aleksanyan, a GCC senior English major. “There is more to it that people don’t know. People sometimes use arguments that are not based on any evidence.”
Noel Villar, 19, a GCC freshman English major, could be seen looking intently at the historical photographs. The La Crescenta resident said the photographs have inspired him to learn more about the Genocide.
“I really wanted to know how did all of this come down and why, why did it happen? It’s really kind of depressing and sad,” Villar said. “It’s something I just never looked into.”
Cynthia Kevorkian, a resident of Glendale, attended the commemoration. She remembered her paternal grandmother, Genocide survivor Araxi Kalemkerian, as a woman who never talked about the Genocide and always wore sadness on her face.
Kalemkerian was the only member of her family to survive. Her 5-year-old brother was kidnapped by the Turks, Kevorkian said. In later years, Kevorkian’s father would travel to Iraq and Iran in a futile effort to locate his uncle.
“They never found him,” Kevorkian said.
Kevorkian said she wondered if the 1.5 million people who perished in the Genocide were still alive, what would the population of Armenia be today, and how would the world be different.