Peter Koutoujian and Rep. David Mouradian flank Astghik "Starrie" Alemian

State House, Heritage Park, Commemorate Armenian Genocide


And by Aram Arkun

Mirror-Spectator Staff

BOSTON — The annual Massachusetts State House commemoration took place on April 20, featuring keynote speaker Raffi Bedrosyan from Toronto, and an increased role for state Rep. David Muradian (R-Grafton). It also marked the absence of Representatives James Miceli and Speaker Robert DeLeo, who were both unwell.

Gov. Charlie Baker was not in the chamber during the event but joined those commemorating the 103rd anniversary of the Armenian Genocide at the luncheon held after the events.

After entering the House Chamber in a solemn procession led by the sergeant at arms, several members of the clergy were led by the Homenetmen Scouts holding the Armenian and American flags.

The invocation was offered by Rev. Stephan Baljian of St. Gregory Armenian Church of North Andover.

Get the Mirror in your inbox:

There was a global flavor to the occasion, as representatives of several human rights groups were present, as was an official from the French consulate in Boston.

Commendations presented to the editors of the two English-language Armenian newspapers in the state, Alin K. Gregorian of the Armenian Mirror-Spectator and Rupen Janbazian of the Armenian Weekly.

The keynote speaker, Bedrosyan, spoke about the hidden Armenian in Turkey and the fate of all of those who have to conceal who they are or who have been denied the knowledge that they are Armenian.

A new element this year was the awarding of the Honorable Speaker George Keverian Public Service Scholarship. The late Speaker Keverian had started the annual commemoration of the Armenian Genocide at the State House 33 years ago.

The fund was set up by his brother, Dr. Jack Keverian, “to preserve the memory of Speaker George Keverian by supporting the work of individuals who strive to create positive change.”

Two young students received the scholarships, Emilee Guzman of Everett High School, the late speaker’s alma mater, and Rachel Minassian, a member of the Armenian Students Association.

Guzman was present for the program and gave a warm hug to presenter Kenneth Keverian, nephew of George Keverian and son of Jack Keverian.

Guzman, who is graduating from Everett High School, is going to Salem State University and plans to study nursing. She has excelled in academics as well as extracurricular, including sports and various clubs, and was named homecoming queen in 2017.

Minassian is a junior at Providence College pursuing a political science with a minor in Spanish. She is involved in the Armenian community, including in the Armenian Youth Federation. She plans to go to law school and aspires to be the first female US Senator from Rhode Island.

Also present was the indomitable Armenian Genocide survivor, Asdghig “Starrie” Alemian of Weymouth. At age 108, Alemian stayed throughout the program, during which she received a proclamation from Governor Baker. At the reception after the program, Baker went to Alemian and spoke at length to the diminutive dynamo.

Musical guest was Knarik Nerkararyan, an operatic soprano.

Students from St. Stephen’s Armenian Elementary School sang the Armenian and American national anthems.

Closing prayers and benediction were offered by Rev. Vart Gyozelian of the Hye Pointe Armenian Church of Haverhill.

Heritage Park Gathering

The program of the following day, Saturday, April 21, at the Armenian Heritage Park in the North End of Boston was intended for a younger audience. Held outdoors in wonderful weather, as spring finally made its appearance in Boston, it included both speakers and musical performances.

Michael Demirchian and Saro Sakaian, the young co-chairmen of the Massachusetts Armenian Genocide Committee, and heads of the separate committee organizing the park event, served as the masters of ceremony. They delivered introductions in a tag-team manner, with one continuing the words of the other. Though parts of the event were bilingual, in Armenian and English, the majority of the talks were in English.

The Homenetmen scouts led an initial procession and the Zangakner Performing Arts Ensemble sang the American and Armenian national anthems, after which the Armenian clergymen present led the crowd in a prayer and readings from the Gospels.

Muradian was the first main speaker. A native of central Massachusetts who graduated Worcester State University with a B.A. in communications, he serves on several committees in the legislature and is a member of the Knights of Vartan. Muradian first announced that Rep. James Micelli of Wilmington, the only other Armenian representative in the Massachusetts Assembly, had passed away. He declared that we owe it to our ancestors to stand up as part of our duty to educate others, honor those whom we have lost, and fight for what is right.

He spoke of visiting Armenia and the Armenian Quarter of Jerusalem, and remarking how Armenians come together, no matter where they are, because they share a transcendent bond as Armenians.

Zankagner Performing Arts Ensemble then performed three songs, starting with Der Voghormia in memory of those who perished in the Armenian Genocide. Zangakner was established in 2010 by artistic director Hasmik Konjoyan with the mission to bring the world of music to Armenian children in the Greater Boston Area. Zangakner has given many public performances and in 2014 released a CD, “Timeless Favorites.”

The next speaker was Anna Astvatsaturian Turcotte, who came to the US as an Armenian refugee from Baku, Azerbaijan in 1992. After graduating from the University of North Dakota as well as the University of Maine School of Law, she has gone on to become an author, lecturer, lawyer, business woman and a human rights activist.

Turcotte told her grandfather’s story of escaping the Armenian Genocide to Baku only to be subject to attacks in 1918. Turcotte was herself subject to massacres of Armenians before she escaped, while her family’s graves were destroyed, along with all Armenian cemeteries of Azerbaijan. She thus sees the Genocide, Sumgait and other attacks in Artsakh as parts of a wave of genocidal hatred and violence.

Genocidal ideology, anti-Armenianism and xenophobia continues, she said, to brew in Azerbaijan today. Lack of justice, lack of information and commemoration, unity, collaboration with other communities, will lead to another massacre. Armenians must keep demanding justice for the victims of the Armenian Genocide and their descendants, for the families of Baku Armenians spread across the world now, the future of Artsakh and for the new generation of Armenians.

Datev Gevorkian, a local 16-year-old oud player, member of the Armenian Youth Federation Bedford chapter and his school’s Armenian club, performed Adanayi Voghp and Giligia.

Rupen Janbazian, Toronto-born graduate of the University of Toronto, editor of the Armenian Weekly, spoke primarily in Armenian, according to Sakaian, “in order to symbolize the need to preserve” this language.

Janbazian spoke on the consequences of the Genocide. The Armenian people were scattered over the globe and now face the threat of assimilation, he pointed out. He encouraged Armenians to to preserve their culture and traditions and remain informed of current events concerning Armenians. He said in passing that fundamental change was necessary in the Republic of Armenia.

Janbazian stressed the need to attain justice and compensation for the Genocide and read a poem from Paruyr Sevag. The US and other countries disrespect the memory of our ancestors when they remain silent, and thus Armenians must continue in unity in their demands for real justice, not mere recognition.

The rap artist R-Mean of Armenian descent, came from Los Angeles to perform one piece, Open Wounds. R-Mean was born in Los Angeles with the name Armin Hariri and raised in Amsterdam. He later moved to California to pursue his passion of music while also obtaining his Doctorate of Pharmacy from Loma Linda University.

Open Wounds is dedicated to those affected by the Armenian Genocide and sparked the Open Wounds 1915 movement to spread awareness about humanitarian causes through the power of hip-hop music, urban fashion, and social media. In his performance, R-Mean also briefly mentioned the protests in Armenia for just leadership in his song.

The afternoon closed with a call by the two masters of ceremony to remain united against genocide and thanks for all who contributed to the success of the event.

As always, the Knights of Vartan Ararat Lodge No. 1 underwrote the cost of buses from Watertown to both of the commemorations.

(All photos by Kenneth Martin)

Get the Mirror-Spectator Weekly in your inbox: