LOS ANGELES—The ANCA-Western Region, in coordination with the Los Angeles Civil + Human Rights and Equity Department, organized the first-ever Los Angeles Healing Circles sessions to engage in intercommunal dialogue on the subjects of Armenophobia, racism, prejudice, and discrimination. These sessions, held on on January 25 and 26, were organized to allow a space for open dialogue between communities to gain powerful insights about others’ experiences and struggles, and cultivate new pathways to pursue policy reforms that address the needs of all communities in Los Angeles.
In light of the state-sponsored campaign of Armenophobia propagated by the Aliyev dictatorship, and the ongoing illegal blockade of the Lachin Corridor, the ANCA-WR organized a session to discuss the challenges posed by Armenophobia with the participation of Armenian American community members. During this session, community members expressed their concerns about community safety, negative stereotypes, and prevalent hate speech and incitation of violence against the Armenian community on social media platforms which have gone unaddressed when reported.
Attendees resoundingly agreed that the Armenian American Community must urgently act to support, report, and advocate for one another so that none are alone in the face of Armenophobia. “Only through the unity of the Armenian People can we truly find justice and peace,” said one attendee.
Another important topic of discussion in this session was bias in the media as a result of Azerbaijan’s extensive PR campaign which financially incentivizes journalists and policymakers to whitewash or ignore the crimes of the dictatorial regime. Participants concluded that the Armenian Community must take urgent steps to bring its experiences to mainstream conversations about racism and atrocity prevention, and engage with non-Armenian communities to seek their support. “I don’t think that we’re using our power to its full potential in this arena,” said Armenian activist Syuzanna Abrahamyan.
In the second session, representatives from the Asian, Black, Latino, Jewish, and Armenian communities engaged in an intensive, open dialogue about their respective histories in the United States, their experiences with discrimination and prejudice, and personal accounts of hate incidents that were not properly addressed.
Participants also shared their observations about the concerning rise of racism in recent years as a clear extension of historical policies designed to oppress immigrant communities, and communities of color. The participants reached a consensus about the need for continued dialogue and immediate and affirmative responses to occurrences of discrimination and hate, as friends and interdependent allies in the pursuit of justice.
“This session was the first of many conversations to come,” said ANCA-WR Government Affairs Coordinator Edward Barsoumian, “Truly, through this dialogue, we realize that all of our communities are fighting for an overlapping cause; we fight to be made visible; to be represented; to be heard; most of all, we fight for justice. This eye-opening dialogue lends the most powerful lesson of all, which is that we must join together to enact tangible changes which keep our communities safe.”
Participating organizations who joined the ANCA-WR in this session included the Asian American National Committee, the Glendale Latino Association, the Israeli-American Civic Action Network, Jewish World Watch, and individual representatives from the African-American community.
The Armenian National Committee of America – Western Region is the largest and most influential nonpartisan Armenian American grassroots advocacy organization in the Western United States. Working in coordination with a network of offices, chapters, and supporters throughout the Western United States and affiliated organizations around the country, the ANCA-WR advances the concerns of the Armenian American community on a broad range of issues in pursuit of the Armenian Cause.