By Tamar Thomassian
UC Berkeley, Class of 2011
They say that time flies especially when you’re keeping busy. Never the same project – always a new challenge. And it’s just one thing – its fifty things.
Take for example last Friday. Our program coordinator Garo Manjikian had organized a trip to one of the most beautiful and historic buildings Washington DC has to offer, the Library of Congress. There, we met with Dr. Levon Avdoyan who is the Armenian and Georgian Area Specialist. Dr Avdoyan took us through the Library showing us a series of Armenian collections that the Library has collected over the years. There are over 26,000 items in the Armenian collection, which is housed in the Near East section of the African and Middle Eastern division. Dr. Avdoyan was kind to share a series of items from the collection. Ancient manuscripts, books written in Armeno-Turkish — a series of books written in Armenian lettering but Turkish text. Letters that were dated during the Armenian Genocide, including one sent by Talat Pasha to the American Ambassador Henry Morgenthau – thanking him for a lovely dinner together held on April 24th, 1915. We saw the first printed bible – the “Oskan” bible, Geographical maps during Wilsonian Armenia, important cartographic, visual, and legal materials many unpublished and some that have not, as yet, been studied. The Armenian collection in the Library of Congress is entering into the modern era of technology; many documents have been digitized and published on the website of the Library of Congress –
Others, you need to visit the Library of Congress to view – with approval from Dr. Avdoyan and a library card (which each of us got before we left). One of the surprises that Dr. Avdoyan showed us was a song taped back in 1930 featuring Armenian music sung by immigrants from Western Armenia.
On Monday, we shifted gears to urging Members of Congress to cosign a letter to President Obama urging him to separate Armenian Genocide recognition from the so-called Armenia-Turkey “roadmap.” Since April 22nd, Turkey has been nothing but an obstacle to efforts to normalize Armenia-Turkey relations. In fact, it has become obvious that the whole effort was a scheme to block international recognition of the Armenian Genocide. So we called, and called and continue to call to spread the word about Turkey’s stall tactics and how the U.S. should not continue its complicity in genocide denial.
On Tuesday, we had a surprise visit from Pasadena-area Assemblyman Anthony Portantino (D-Pasadena). The Assemblyman, who was in Washington, DC on state business, happened to be staying just doors away from our office – and when he saw the Armenian Flag and the ANCA sign – was gracious enough to take time out of his busy schedule to give our team a pep-talk about the virtues of civic participation.
That fit in nicely with our evening activity – Pizza and Insights from alumni of the ANCA Capital Gateway Program. For those who aren’t aware, the ANCA Capital Gateway program encourages youth to come to Washington DC in search of a career in public service. The former Gateway’s shared their experiences of the job search and the rewards of DC living. The one thing in common in all their presentations – was the message to be confident, persevere, and never be scared to start small and work your way to the top.
And on Wednesday, we switched gears again to protest Chevron’s campaign of Genocide denial. We had been working with AYF chapters around the country on this for weeks. Finally, the day of the protest had arrived. We were all excited the night before and couldn’t sleep, just anxious about the results. We came into the office at 8 a.m. and began making calls to media making sure they will cover the story. At 11 a.m. we were at the Chevron gas station in 5001 Bradley Blvd Chevy Chase, Maryland. Over there we met with local AYF members with posters and banners – and we protested. We first went inside the Chevron station and introduced ourselves letting them know we would be conducting a protest. In true Corporate efficiency, the Chevron headquarters had sent out a memo to their franchises alerting them about the effort.
The interest-level kept escalating as the day went on, with cars pulling over to speak to us – asking all sorts of questions, including WHY Chevron would lobby against Genocide in the first place. We even had a gentleman of Turkish origin stop by, who told that when he came to the U.S. at age 19 he knew nothing about the Genocide – and has learned since. He argued however, that as a “modern Turk,” he wanted to look forward (how convenient). We had another supporter drop by who expressed dismay at U.S. policy of genocide denial – and supported our education campaign regarding Chevron. We even got the attention of Chevron’s own media team – photographing protesters for their files (Note to Chevron team – my name is spelled T-A-M-A-R T-H-O-M-A-S-S-I-A-N).
As we left our station we got news that our AYF compatriots in Orlando Florida had just finished their protest and gotten coverage in the Orlando Sentinel. Great job team!
And, now we’ll shift gears to… Stay tuned for Nareg’s report next week.