FRESNO, Calif.—With the tricolors red, blue, and orange illuminating its pillars against the evening sky, Fresno’s Genocide Centennial Monument was christened before a crowd of more than 4,000 people at Fresno State’s Maple Mall on April 23.
Since the early 1880s when the Seropian brothers first arrived from their native Marsovan in Western Armenia, successive waves of Armenian immigrants from the corners of the world have made the Central San Joaquin Valley and Fresno in particular their new home. The much anticipated ribbon cutting ceremony brought together the valley’s Armenian community—both young and old, established as well as newly arrived families—for the historic unveiling of a monument dedicated to the victims and survivors of the Armenian Genocide.
“The Genocide was a defining moment in the lives of so many of you here today and of those throughout the nation and the world,” proclaimed Fresno State President Joseph Castro. “And we know that this monument stands here tonight as an inspiration. Menk chenk mornar. We will never forget.” The president added that it was the first such monument ever built on a college campus.
Along with the university’s commitment to diversity, the monument was made possible by the financial support of numerous patrons as well as the broader community. The Armenian Genocide Centennial–Fresno Committee, which comprises representatives from the valley’s various Armenian organizations, coordinated construction of the monument and has promoted more than 30 other centennial events in the past several months.
As with many of the worldwide activities that marked this year’s commemoration, the theme of justice resonated throughout the program, including a call to the governments of the United States and Republic of Turkey to recognize this crime against humanity.
“It’s an assault not only on Armenians, but on history. It’s an assault on truth. It’s an assault on justice. And it’s an assault on humanity,” declared Valery Mkrtumian, Deputy Consul General of the Republic of Armenia in Los Angeles.
Mkrtumian joined with Castro, his wife Mary, and Berj K. Apkarian—Honorary Consul of the Republic of Armenia in Fresno and Chairman of the AGC–Fresno’s Monument Committee—in cutting the monument’s purple ribbon before the cheering audience.
Patterned after the Genocide Monument Dzidzernagapert in Yerevan, Fresno’s monument embodies symbols of cultural meaning. The broken halo that crowns the structure signifies the fracture left by the Genocide as well as the unity of the Armenian people. Beneath the halo stand nine pillars—made of concrete and imported tufa stone—representing the six historical provinces of Western Armenia, the region of Cilicia, the Armenian Diaspora, and the Republic of Armenia. A video—narrated by Fresno State professors Barlow Der Mugrdechian, Coordinator of Armenian Studies, and Dr. Sergio La Porta, Haig and Isabel Berberian Professor of Armenian Studies and President of AGC–Fresno–highlighted the role that each area has played in Armenian history and culture.
Another video featured commentary about the Armenian Genocide from the perspective of the valley’s Greek, Jewish, Nigerian, Sikh, and Catholic communities.
Charles S. Poochigian, Associate Justice of the California Court of Appeals, and Deborah Adishian Astone, Fresno State’s Interim Vice President for Administrative Services, emceed the program. Numerous officials were on hand, including Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin. Prior to the ceremony, legendary oud master Richard Hagopian and his ensemble performed Armenian folk songs.