DETROIT/LANSING — The Michigan Armenian community rallied in support of Artsakh on the steps of the Michigan State Capitol Building on Sunday, October 11. A crowd of about 100-150 people congregated at Michigan’s capital, Lansing, coming from Metro Detroit’s large Armenian community, as far as away as Grand Rapids as well as the small but proud Armenian community in Lansing itself.
The event, though not drawing a large turnout, was symbolically important and was actually more successful than expected since it was not explicitly backed by any Armenian organization and was pulled together by one man — Metro Detroit Armenian community member George Kurajian — in less than a week. Speakers included State Representative Mari Manoogian (D-Birmingham), Armenian Democratic Liberal Party Supreme Council member and president of the Central Board of the Tekeyan Cultural Association of the US and Canada Edmond Azadian, Fr. Armash Baghdasarian of St. John’s Armenian Church, Armenian Assembly leader and former State Representative John Jamian, and representatives of the Lansing Armenian community.
Local Tekeyan Cultural Association leader Diane Alexanian served as MC and read a poem by Vahan Tekeyan in English translation, and her husband and fellow TCA/ADL activist and leader Hagop Alexanian assisted behind the scenes.
Samvel Arakelyan, classical violinist, performed Ara Gevorgyan’s piece, Artsakh. Azadian gave the most in-depth speech of the event, explaining in detail the political and humanitarian situation of Artsakh and Armenia to the crowd and urging them to support the cause. His in-depth analysis including historical background was especially valuable given the presence of local news teams from WILX-10 (Lansing’s NBC affiliate) and WLNS-6 (Lansing’s ABC affiliate).
Michigan is one of the few state governments to recognize the independence of Artsakh and call on the Federal government to do the same, an achievement that took place two years ago. The most poignant moment of the gathering was when the microphone was declared open to anyone who wanted to speak. Several individuals who were natives of the Republic of Armenia and/or the USSR came forward, pleading emotionally with the Diasporan crowd to continue to give money to aid the homeland during this crisis. “Give, until giving becomes financially difficult for you,” one speaker implored. A large percentage of the crowd was composed of young people, from both Armenia/former Soviet and Diasporan backgrounds, holding signs and flags. George Kurajian, whose grandfather, Mesrob Kurajian, was a notable ADL activist born in Palu, Western Armenia, must be commended for carrying on his grandfather’s legacy of organizing and putting this event together in an extremely short period of time.