SAN FRANCISCO—The Council of Armenian American Organizations of Northern California (CAAONC), owner of the Mount Davidson cross in San Francisco, hosted a banquet on Saturday, February 1 at the Saroyan Hall. The purpose was to benefit the Mount Davidson Cross, the tallest Armenian Genocide Memorial in the world. CAAONC is comprised of all of the churches and organizations of Northern California and maintains, protects and preserves the Cross. The evening included a musical presentation by the Mazamanian Family, a keynote speaker Professor Ayda Erbal, Guest of Honor Archbishop Aris Shirvanian of the Jerusalem Patriarchate, a silent auction and dinner.
The evening began with welcoming remarks from the Chairman of the Council, Chuck Paskerian. In his remarks were updates from the council regarding the website, a promotional video, a new partnership with San Francisco Travel, inclusion in tourist guidebooks, power considerations, and the recently added link on the website for online donations. Paskerian then introduced the Banquet Chair and MC for the evening Judy Jingirian. Jingirian graciously thanked all the individuals that were involved from the very beginning, the founding members, as well as other individuals that devoted their time to make the purchase of the Cross a reality.
The talented Mazmanian Family Musical Ensemble captured the audience’s attention with their delightful performance. Greg, Ida, Eddy and Rose played melodies from Anoosh Opera, Dance of the Spirit, Fisherman of Sevan and Lezginka.
Keynote speaker Ayda Erbal, Adjunct Professor at New York University, Department of Politics, who teaches Middle Eastern Politics, spoke about Turkey’s ongoing denial of the Genocide, the Turkish Intellectuals’ “Apology” campaign, and the odd story of the life and death of a monument in Kars. Professor Erbal set out the criteria for an apology: a clear explanation of offense, expression of shame, guilt, humility, sincerity, intention not to commit offense again, and reparations to the offended party. The Turkish Intellectuals’apology met none of these criteria. She tied the apology campaign to contradictions in actions by the Turks, who on the one hand, built a monument to honor their (imaginary) genocide, on the other hand built a Friendship Monument, symbolizing friendship between Turks and Armenians, near the border of Armenia in Kars. The friendship monument was rightfully demolished as a result of internal Turkish politics. In conclusion, there must be a clear and proper apology to start the process of recognition.
Guest of Honor Archbishop Aris Shirvanian, Director of Ecumenical and Foreign Relations at the Armenian Apostolic Patriarchate of Jerusalem, was instrumental in the purchase of the cross in 1997, during which time he served as Pastor for St. John’s Armenian Apostolic Church of San Francisco. In his message, he shared his experiences on how the Bay Area Armenian community jumped at the opportunity to purchase and save the historical cross and re-dedicate it as a memorial to the million and half victims of the Armenian Genocide. At the Patriarchate in Jeruselum, he has been working with the local Armenian community to press the Armenian Cause in Israel. Thanks to their efforts, last year almost all representatives of political parties in the Israeli Knesset unanimously condemned the Genocide of the Armenians, urging their government to officially recognize it. Echoing Professor Erbal’s message on proper elements of an apology, Archbishop Aris encouraged all Armenians to work together towards not only recognition, but also reparations.
Brief History of Mount Davidson Cross: A SF Historical Landmark
Set on the highest peak overlooking San Francisco stands a majestic cross, at 103 feet tall, it is visible to much of the city. The history of the cross goes back to 1923 when a small wooden cross was used on the site for Easter Sunrise services. In 1933, during the depression, Margaret May Morgan, the first woman to sit on the SF Board of Supervisors, along with other members of the Easter Sunrise Committee, solicited $1 contributions to build a concrete cross.
On March 25, 1934, one week before Easter, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, pressed a golden telegraph key in Washington DC to light up the cross, where an audience 50,000 Bay Area residents were gathered to witness this historical event. The lights became a Christmas and Easter week tradition for the city of San Francisco for many years.
In 1941, when attendance at Easter sunrise services had reached to over 75,000, the city of San Francisco purchased 38 acres surrounding the cross to form a public park. During the Korean War, a soldier wrote that his last view leaving the US, was the illuminated cross.
In 1991, several organizations sued San Francisco for having a cross standing on land owned by the city, and several court battles ensued.
Forced by the courts to either privatize or remove the cross altogether, the city decided to put it up for auction. On July 12, 1997, the Council of Armenian American Organizations of Northern California (CAAONC), outbid other groups and purchased the cross.
The purchase of the cross was unanimously approved by the SF Board of Supervisors. On November 4, 1997 over 68% of San Francisco voters cast their ballots in favor of Proposition F, finalizing the sale to the CAAONC which became the legal owner. For over 90 years the Mount Davidson Cross has been a San Francisco Historical Landmark, and a symbol of unity of different faiths as they have gathered at Easter Sunrise services for 90 consecutive years.
For Armenians, it memorializes the first Genocide of the 20th century, and the 1.5 million Armenians, living on their ancestral lands, who perished at the hands of the Ottoman Turks. The memorial also serves as a memorial to All Crimes against Humanity.
The 103 foot cross is the tallest Armenian Genocide Memorial in the world. The CAAONC preserves, protects and maintains this site for all San Francisco Bay Area residents and its tourists.
It is an oasis of open space, a forest in the middle of an urban environment of one of the densest cities in California. One can enjoy some of the best views of San Francisco from the top of Mount Davidson.
Partnerships and Events
San Francisco Travel Partners
Mount Davidson Landmark Park and Cross is proud to be affiliated with San Francisco Travel, which serves as the official San Francisco convention and visitors bureau, we are one of 1500 partners, through this agency CAAONC is able to promote visits to the beautiful Mount Davidson Landmark Park and Cross with use of its website and brochure distribution at the Visitors Information Center and at the Moscone Convention Center, downtown San Francisco.
Annual Easter Sunrise Service
The Easter Sunrise service has been a San Francisco tradition for over 90 years. Non-denominational sunrise services take place at the cross with local clergy. Last year Community leaders invited to take part in Easter Sunrise 2013 included SF Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White and SF Mayor Edwin M. Lee. The program also featured an SF Firefighters Honor Guard and musical performances by Calvary Hill Community Gospel Choir, Lynne Miller of The House of Bagpipes and The Salvation Army Brass Ensemble, which started the morning off with a Sunrise Prelude at 6:50 a.m.
Council of Armenian American Organizations of Northern California
The Council is composed of dedicated volunteers of the member organizations, who oversee the preservation and maintenance of the Mount Davidson Cross.
Member Organizations include in alphabetical order:
Ararat Armenian Society, Armenian-American Citizens’ League, Armenian Assembly of America – Bay Area, Armenian Church Youth Organization – Oakland, San Francisco and Santa Clara, Chapters, Armenian General Benevolent Union -Silicon Valley, Armenian General Benevolent Union – Young Professionals of Northern California, Armenian National Committee -San Francisco Bay Area Armenian Professional Society – Bay Area, Armenian Relief Society – Agnouni, Erepouni and Garin Chapters, Armenian Revolutionary Federation – Krisdapor and Sardarabad Chapters, Armenian Youth Federation – Rosdom Chapter, Armenian Technology Group, Bethel Armenian Evangelical Church, Calvary Armenian Congregational Church – San Francisco, Hamazkayin Cultural and Educational Association, Homenetmen Scouts and Athletics Organizations – San Francisco, Santa Clara and Walnut Creek Chapters, Knights of Vartan-Daron Lodge, NorCal Armenian Home and Senior Services, St. Andrew Armenian Apostolic Church – Cupertino, St. Gregory Armenian Apostolic Church – San Francisco, St. James Armenian Apostolic Church – Sacramento, St. John Armenian Apostolic Church – San Francisco, St. Vartan Armenian Apostolic Church – Oakland, Tekeyan Cultural Association, Triple X Fraternity – Golden Gate, Mt. Diablo, Oakland and Peninsula Chapters, U.C. Berkeley Armenian Alumni Association.
Donations To Support Mount Davidson Cross
Mail checks to:
825 Brotherhood Way
San Francisco, CA 94132