In honor of National Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day, the Armenian Law Society and Armenian Club at the University of La Verne hosted an event to observe the Armenian Genocide on Monday in front of Founders Hall.
The event welcomed students and participants to paint the Rock at 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., After the Rock painting, guest speakers shared their stories relating to the Armenian Genocide.
Students painted a pomegranate tree with blue mountains in the front of the Rock. The pomegranate tree symbolizes being one of the main fruits grown in Armenia.
Letters painted on the rock included “1915 Never Again” on the top and “From the Roots We Came” underneath the painting of the pomegranate tree. Surrounding the Rock was forget-me-not flowers in purple and lavender colors. The Armenian flag was painted in the shape of a heart on the back of the Rock with the words above reading “We Remember.”
On April 24, 1915, 1.5 million Armenians were murdered and captured by the Ottoman Empire. Marches and rallies are held in Los Angeles every year to commemorate the victims and raise awareness so the world never forgets.
Christina Tajerian, sophomore legal studies major, helped her peers paint the forget-me-not flowers and enjoyed her time with her fellow club members. Tajerian is president of the Armenian Law Society and a first generation Armenian-American.
“I am very grateful because a lot of my close friends who came out today are not even Armenian and to see them come out to support us is a big thing for us,” Tajerian said. “The more people who know about (the Armenian Genocide) the better but it is also the fact they care enough to support is amazing.”
Tajerian remembers hearing about the genocide when she was just a little girl in her preschool. She is saddened about the outcome of what happened in 1915 when families had to move away from their homeland.
“My Armenian culture means pretty much everything to me because that is what we grow up with and that is what gives us our work ethic,” Tajerian said. “Our parents had to basically come from nothing to build a life here and we feel we need to be an extension of that and make our lives better than theirs.”
Tajerian likes to help spread awareness for other people and friends who do not know much about the Armenian genocide.
“I think staying close to your culture and spreading it to other people especially when you are out in the world you are going to meet people who (are not) Armenian and being able to share that with them is going to help spread awareness and keep people in the loop,” Tajerian said.
The pomegranate tree on the rock was painted by Araksya Boghosian, junior biology major who is also a member of the Armenian Club and Pre-Pharmacy Club on campus.
“I was always aware of the (genocide) because I grew up in Syria and attended Armenian private school so it was very prominent in our daily life especially when April came around,” Boghosian said.
Boghosian said she has heard many stories passed down to her that have made her feel sad to see the damage the event has caused. Today she feels empowered to see the change that has been made and progressed by the Armenian community.
“This day is helping us keep our culture, our language and our food alive,” Bogoshian said. “This is a part of history and it changed many things so I do believe this should be talked about more.”
Rebekah Hong, sophomore legal studies major, attended the rock painting event to support her classmates. Hong is also a member of the Asian Pacific American Law Student Association.
Hong knew about the Armenian genocide but was not familiar with much detail to what happened. She is grateful for her peers who have educated her more about the history of it.
“It was upsetting when I learned what happened to (the Armenian people) but what I really learned through this today is that this was the first genocide to this amount of victims 108 years ago,” Hong said. “This has been a very learning experience.”
Hong is appreciative that her peers are here today to be able to host an event and share their culture and community.
“It is encouraging and empowering that we can all come together as a community and not just students but also faculty and community members from all programs in solidarity and to never forget,” Hong said.
After the painting of the rock, Aghop Der-Karabetian, guest speaker and retired ULV faculty member, joined the crowd to share his speech about the Armenian genocide.
Der-Karabetian started his speech by sharing how the genocide is a personal and collective memory because today there are people who are affected by the loss of family members.
Der-Karabetian, and his wife, Armine Der-Karabetian, both had grandfathers that survived the genocide. Der-Karabetian’s father was just an infant when the genocide started in 1915. Both grandfathers wrote memoirs that Der-Karabetian later translated to English and published in 2004.
“These are very close family stories and how they survived and thrived afterwards but also how they lost their families along the way,” Der-Karabetian said. “They witnessed what happened to their neighbors and friends and people as they journeyed through the desert.”
Der-Karabetian’s grandfather settled in Lebanon and started his new life there. Der-Karabetian mentioned that the memories of the genocide are always fresh to him.
“My grandfather and Armine’s grandfather were resilient in the way they survived and started their new lives,” Der-Karabetian said.
He is hopeful that the new generation of people and more countries can recognize and learn what happened in 1915 to the Armenian people.
“The painting on the rock this year had it just right with the words ‘From The Roots We Came’ and it was very telling and that is how I feel,” Der-Karabetian said. “We are rooted in our culture and we are sustained by our knowledge of where we came from and where we belong.”
In Der-Karabetian’s speech, he shared that genocides are still happening today and that the repercussions of the genocides last a lifetime.
“I have had this fantasy: What would it sound like if all the souls of the millions of victims of the Armenian and other genocides rose from their graves and screamed all at once at the top of their voices, including social media?” Der-Karabetian said in his speech. “Imagine that for a second. Would the living world hear, listen, and act to prevent genocides from happening again?”
Brandy Estrada can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.