Andre` Ivan Arzoo, UC Berkeley – 3rd Year Political Science Major, Armenian Student Association Member
April 24th of this year marks the 93rd anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, a tragedy that has consumed so much of our identity and efforts but yet remains a burning flame in the hearts of millions. Armenians throughout the world are working away this week organizing Genocide related gatherings, cultural events, lectures, and memorial commemorations. The Armenians of California’s Bay Area, one of the oldest Armenian communities in the United States, have covered this week with the colors of our beloved Yeraguyn Drosh.
Genocide Awareness Month – the label of April began with a candle light vigil held by the Armenian Student Association of UC Berkeley on April 20th. The vigil took place on the Berkeley campus in commemoration of the Armenian and all other Genocides; known and unknown, recognized and unrecognized. The vigil began with an opening poem in Armenian by Ara Rostami, continued with a duet by Ani Antanesyan and Romina Keshishyan singing ‘Sareri Hovin,’ concluding with a moment of silence by candlelight and students taking turns in tying green ribbons onto a pomegranate art piece.
The ASA students labored away all month to hand craft an enormous Pomegranate Memorial – pictures in the group’s photo section - symbolizing Armenian culture and endurance. The Pomegranate Memorial is on display all week at the UC Berkeley campus on Memorial Glade in front of the campus main library. The memorial has been attracting the curiosity of students of all ethnicities and spreading awareness about the Armenian Genocide. On display around the memorial are around a dozen posters with information and photos about the Armenian Genocide.
UC Berkeley Students Colin Elbasani and Andre Arzoo, along with community members Zaven Kanehian and Norik Khachikian, were invited guests on the Berkeley City Radio program "Music of the World with Kutay" on KPFA 94.1 FM to discuss the Armenian Genocide, Music, and Culture. The program also consisted of discussions about the Armenian Diaspora and the different communities in which it consists of, a quick Historic breakdown of the Armenian Nation and Republic, and various types of Armenian Music played throughout the show.
As a stance against the attempt to annihilate the Armenian people, identity, and culture, an Armenian Art Piece has been put on display in the UC Berkeley ‘Free Speech Movement Café - Moffit Library’ – an expression toward the survival and progression of Armenian culture, art, and life despite attempts to hinder this path and silence a nation in 1915. The painting was inspired by an old Armenian folk song Titter, Butterfly, and was painted by an Armenian artist, Andre Arzoo, who is a third year Political Science major at UC, Berkeley. This piece comes from the artist’s deep love affair with his ancestry, representing an Armenian’s discontent between the life of a man and that of a butterfly.
On April 22nd the UC Berkeley ASA held the 5th Annual ‘United Hands Across Cal.’ UHAC is a “demonstration in the heart of the UC Berkeley campus where more than a hundred students and community members join to stand against [Genocide] and human rights abuses.” The demonstration consisted of Berkeley students linking hands across Sproul Hall in unity. The event began with a Duduk performance by Khatchadour Khatchadourian and a poem by Ara Rostami. The performance was followed by a similar duet as the one performed at the candlelight vigil, poetry, and speeches held by representatives of several other student groups condemning Genocide. Later that night, the ASA held a Genocide Awareness Poetry Slam session in collaboration with CalSlam, a Berkeley student poetry group. The week of April 24th came to a close with a community procession in San Francisco’s St. Mary’s Church where community leaders spoke and discussed the contemporary political issues in America regarding the Armenian Genocide and its recognition.