LOS ANGELES–Local area Armenian college students will gather to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the Armenian genocide. The All-Armenian Student Association’s Genocide Recognition Committee–a coalition of collegiate Armenian student groups–has been busy organizing two major events set to take place this month–an educational panel presentation on genocide and denial–which took place on April 7 at Cal State Long Beach–and the annual candlelight vigil–which will take place this Thursday–April 14–at UCLA.
The UCLA campus’ Bruin Plaza will serve as the site for the 2005 All-ASA Candlelight Vigil. Hosted each year at a different college campus–this year’s vigil will feature a reenactment of the genocide death march–performances by UCLA students–and the premiere of an educational video commissioned by the committee. The event will also feature UCLA Professor Paul Von Blum–a specialist on media and genocide–as well as rapper Knowledge from the Axis of Justice–a non-profit–social justice organization formed by Tom Morello of Audioslave and Serj Tankian of System Of A Down. Local student and community groups have been invited to participate and table at the event.
The panel presentation and the vigil will not be the first genocide-related event of the year for many of the committee’s participating organizations. The UCLA Armenian Student Association has also been addressing the impact of past genocides on current affairs. In February–it co-hosted a similar panel presentation on genocide denial as coalition student groups concerned about the genocide in Darfur. The event drew over 150 students and members of the faculty.
"When groups of people are systematically oppressed and targeted for destruction–it is our duty as humans to do something. Genocide and denial seems to run hand in hand," noted Matthew Sablove–a member of the Darfur Action Committee at UCLA. "Students can lead the way for social justice as well as social change to stop the current genocide in Darfur."
Earlier in November–the USC Armenian Student Association–another Genocide Recognition Committee participant–co-hosted a reception and book signing featuring Colgate University Professor Peter Balakian and his NY Times Bestseller–Burning Tigris. The event was held in conjunction with the opening of USC’s Edward L. Doheny Jr. Memorial Library exhibition documenting the Near East Foundation’s relief efforts–commonly cited as an example of one of the first world-wide humanitarian relief efforts in the global age–to help survivors of the Armenian genocide.
The committee also addresses issues regarding education about the Armenian genocide such as its proper inclusion in human rights-related curricula and exhibitions such as the local Museum of Tolerance.
"The Museum of Tolerance issue is a continuing source of concern to the student community," explained Arineh Der Petrosian–president of the Glendale Community College Armenian Student Association and representative to the committee. In 2003–college students protested the lack of a permanent and prominent exhibit on the Armenian genocide at the museum. The GCC ASA supported their efforts by collecting 1,500 signatures in support of this initiative.
"As of today–there is still no permanent exhibit. We think it is important that the student community continues to work on this issue. The lack of an adequate and prominent acknowledgement of the Armenian Genocide in a place like the Museum of Tolerance only serves to embolden deniers of all genocides."
"The panel and the vigil being organized by the committee are critical not only because they mark the April anniversaries of such tragedies as the Armenian Genocide–Rwandan Genocide–and Holocaust–but also because we are living in a world today in which genocide is being committed–specifically in Darfur," emphasized Raffi Kassabian–chair of the committee and president of the UCLA Armenian Student Association. "I think this is a clear illustration that if people continue to turn a blind eye or deny such atrocities the cycle of genocide will continue to turn."