Jacques Kwesi

Jacques Kwesi Al Asmar Khorozian: ‘Being Armenian Means Being Victorious and Honorable’

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YEREVAN/ATLANTA — My interest in Armenians’ participation in world dance scene and the Armenian communities of Africa intertwined in the persona of Jacques Kwesi Al Asmar. Living in Atlanta, Georgia, he is the chief executive officer at American Alternative Court Services. Before that he worked at Office of the Circuit Public Defender (Atlanta Judicial Circuit Worked) and at San Francisco Superior Court, but he is also an avid dancer.

Dear Jacques, I am glad to introduce you to the Armenian readers of Armenia and the Diaspora. First of all, many of us would ask you about how you combine the serious profession of a psychologist with that of a dancer?

I specialize in addictive disorders. I have worked in the criminal justice system and the courts for over 25 years. Dancing has never been a profession for me. I dance because I enjoy dancing. It is my favorite hobby. Although I have performed and taught dance professionally, I never considered it a profession. It has always been a hobby and will remain that way. Dancing allows me to remain connected with my soul and what’s truly important in life. My friends, family, and coworkers know the importance of music and dance in my life. I work with a lot of judges, attorney, and doctors who enjoy dancing. As a matter of fact, several of my coworkers dance with me and take dance lessons on an on-going basis.

How do you characterize your dance style? Middle Eastern male belly dance maybe?

I do not categorize myself as any specific style dancer. My dance style is referred to as “danse orientale.” I enjoy many styles of dance. Some of my favorites are Arabic, Salsa, and Merengue.

You are from an Armenian-African mixed family. What are some unique points of that combination?

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Most people question my skin color. Specially, if they hear me speak Armenian. Growing up it was extremely uncomfortable as people had many questions. However, as an adult, I enjoy being different. Some of the issues have included identity and cultural conflict. I was raised by the Armenian side of my family, so I don’t know much about the African side of the family. Jacques (Hagop) is my first name, Kwesi is my African middle name. Al Asmar is an Arabic nick name I have had since I was a kid. It means dark skinned or as we say in Armenian, tkhadem. My full name is Jacques Kwesi Antranik Khorozian

How did your father make his way to Ghana?

I believe my father Anthony Khorozian lived in Ghana from 1965 till 1981. Initially, he worked for a company that specialized in import and export of goods. He later transitioned into structural engineering to build roads and later he shifted completely to the car business.

I know there was also a Kassarjian family in Ghana. Have you ever met them?

Yes, they were close friends with my parents. I don’t remember them much because I didn’t grow up in Ghana. I left Ghana when I was less than a year old. I was raised In Beirut. I remember Barkev Kassardjian who was my dad’s close friend. I don’t remember the rest.

You have studied at the Peter and Elizabeth Torosian Armenian Evangelical School in Lebanon. Do you read and write in Armenian?

Yes, I attended an Armenian school. I also attended the Armenian Seminary in Lebanon. I read and write six languages fluently. Armenian is my primary language. The other languages I speak are Arabic, English, French, Spanish, and Turkish.

Jacques Kwesi

Are you acquainted with Armenian literature? Do you have favorite authors?

I am a huge fan of Hagop Baronian, Levon Shant, Silva Kaputikiyan, Gevork Emin, Anahit Sahinyan and Vahram Sahakian.

I am impressed. And what about Armenian dances?

Although I am very familiar with Armenian dances, I never had the opportunity to learn them properly. I can participate or I can follow someone. I would love to learn more about the various types of Armenian dances.

You have participated in a film with an unusual part. How was that experience?

I participated in the film directed by Tina Bastajian, called “Pinched Cheeks and Slurs in a Language That Avoids Her,” because it was an Armenian short movie depicting a woman of color who is Armenian. Tina is extremely avant-garde and always ahead of her time. The role was exciting and difficult because I had to play the opposite gender. Capturing the true essence of a woman is impossible for a man; however, I interviewed several Armenian women in my community and I sought advice. I wanted to deliver a genuine and authentic experience through the screen.

Are you in touch with Armenians in the US?

Of course, I have a lot of Armenian friends. A lot of my friends from Lebanon have moved to the US and we have all reconnected. I have also met new friends who have taught me more about the Western Armenian culture.

 Your younger brother is DJ Raffy…

Yes, my brother is a DJ. He’s located in San Francisco. He is very popular and he does a lot of Armenian and Middle Eastern events. 

What do you like in Armenian culture?

I appreciate the rich history of Armenia. I love the fact that it was the first nation to accept Christianity around of 301 AD. In my opinion, Armenians are the most resilient people on this planet. Despite all adversities over the years, Armenians keep prospering and gaining cognition, which has been long due. Armenian food is heavenly. I can eat so much. I am so glad that my grandmother passed on all the traditional recipes to me. I enjoy manti, vospov kofte, chikofte, and lahmajoun.

Have you ever been in Armenia?

Unfortunately, not yet. I would love to visit sometime. It is my dream to see where my ancestors came from. I understand Armenia is a beautiful country. I want to see mount- Ararat and I want to experience Khor Virab. Also, I heard that life is amazing in Armenia.

Growing up in Lebanon during the civil war and being Armenian had its pros and cons. I often wondered why everyone did not speak the Armenian. Life was not easy, but it taught me invaluable lessons of cultural appreciation and values that are unique to the Armenian culture. I take pride of my heritage and culture. To me, being Armenian means being victorious and honorable. We are one of the chosen people by God. We survive, thrive, and prosper no matter what we go through…

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