PASADENA—Hundreds of community leaders and members, scholars and activists gathered at the Pasadena Convention Center for the 5th biennial ANC-WR Grassroots Conference to hear experts in law, politics, and media discuss modes of advocacy in the active pursuit of the Armenian Cause. The conference was held on October 18 and 19.
2019 Grassroots Conference Organizing Committee Chair Nyree Tognozzi Apik opened the conference, welcoming the attendees and introducing the weekend’s first panel, which kicked off on Friday evening with the star-studded “Armenian Women in Media” panel, featuring Ellina Abovian – KTLA 5 News; Anna Kachikyan – The Armenian Report; Araksya Karapetyan – KTTV Fox 11’s Good Day L.A.; Ella Sogomonian – KRON ON; and Sona Movsesian (Moderator) – “Conan.” In the packed room, the engaging and much-anticipated panel explored the various media opportunities, as well as the factors and considerations that go into media content. Each panelist brought her unique experience and knowledge to educate the conference on the dynamics of today’s media in the United States and abroad.
Friday evening also featured a social mixer co-organized by the ANCA Professional Network, featuring a live set by Bei Ru.
The four panels on Saturday became an interwoven narrative of the fundamentals of Hye Tahd and gave audience members the opportunity to interact with panelists through Q&A sessions following their presentations.
The “Turkey” panel started off the day’s discussion, focusing on two key elements. The first part explored the current state of Western Armenia and the cultural historical losses in the aftermath of the Genocide, while the second portion analyzed the invasion of Syria by Turkey, including a discussion on the legality, context, current development, and future ramifications for Armenia and the wider region.
Director, Producer, and Filmmaker Ani Hovannisian took the podium first, showcasing portions of her new documentary film “The Hidden Map.” In the documentary, the journey she took with a Scotsman she met along the way highlights their trek through the layered landscape, digging beneath the surface of modern-day Turkey to uncover the crumbled remnants and buried stories of the forbidden past. He is consumed with finding and giving voice to the ruins before they disappear entirely. She is determined to come face to face with the ominous past, lifting long-silenced stories out of oblivion and people out of shadows as she reaches for home.
University of California, Davis Professor Heghnar Watenpaugh, Ph.D. discussed her book “The Missing Pages.” Published by Stanford University Press, the book took Watenpaugh to the places the pages had traveled, from their creation in 1256 in present-day Turkey, to Armenia, Syria, Ellis Island, Massachusetts and Los Angeles. The illustrated pages disappeared during the Armenian genocide of the early 20th century and were purchased by the museum in 1994.
Legal Expert Edvin Minassian, Esq. and MESAAS Lecturer at Columbia University Khatchig Mouradian, Ph.D. took the stage to concentrate on the second part of the panel. Hailing from Turkey, Minassian discussed the dynamics in Turkish domestic and international affairs, leading up to the invasion of northern Syria. Mouradian touched upon the sensitive issue of weaponizing the Armenian Genocide for political purposes by outside forces and warned against the potential dangers of such activities.
Next up was the “Civic Engagement” panel aimed to highlight and educate the community about the opportunities and cornerstones of American democracy. Panelists explored avenues by which people can get more involved in the governance system through a number of boards and commissions, voter education and participation, and the importance of the 2020 Census for the Armenian-American community.
California Secretary of State Alex Padilla, Los Angeles County Clerk and Registrar-Recorder Dean C. Logan, and California Appointments Secretary Cathryn Rivera-Hernandez, Esq. spoke on the panel moderated by ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian, all highlighting the importance of being counted as Armenians in Census2020, registering to vote through the HyeVotes initiative, and getting out the vote in March and November of next year.
Conference participants had a chance to mingle and meet with panelists one-on-one during the lunchtime break, featuring a live performance by the Element Band.
The “Artsakh and Activism in the United States” panel followed immediately after the break, including speakers Armine Aleksanyan – Deputy Foreign Minister of the Republic of Artsakh; Simon Maghakyan – Djulfa Expert; and Amasia Zargarian – Grants and Development Manager of the HALO Trust. A video of the panel discussion is available below.
Panelists touched upon the various threats and issues facing Artsakh and what the grassroots can do to organize and advocate on its behalf. Activism in the United States and in the Diaspora at-large was highlighted as an important element to Artsakh’s survival.
The engaging 2-day discussions culminated in the “Homeland and the Diaspora” panel, designed to examine the ever-evolving dynamic between Armenia and the Diaspora, which has now entered a new chapter following the Velvet Revolution. Panelists discussed the needs, challenges, and opportunities for Homeland-Diaspora relations in this new era from different perspectives shaped by their own experiences. A video of the panel discussion is available below.
Moderated by the Asbarez English Editor Ara Khachatourian, Armenia’s High Commissioner of Diaspora Affairs Zareh Sinanyan; UNLV Professor Nerses Kopalyan, Ph.D.; Director of Development at Tufenkian Foundation Antranig Kasbarian, Ph.D.; and COO of U.S. operations at “gg” Taron Lizagub discussed a number of important conceptual and practical matters dealing with Homeland-Diaspora relations, navigating through the challenges of merging interests to advance the needs of the Armenian Nation as a whole.
Hundreds of participants left the conference with renewed energy, optimism and tools to bring their own participation and input into the grassroots army needed to mobilize for the advancement of the Armenian Cause.
The Armenian National Committee – Western Region is a grassroots public affairs organization devoted to advancing issues of concern to the Armenian-American community. For nearly a century, the ANC-WR has served to educate, motivate and activate the Armenian American community in the Western United States on a wide range of issues.