Each year on April 24, Armenians around the world commemorate the memory of the victims of the Armenian Genocide. This year, however, marks a symbolic cornerstone for the Armenian people as they prepare to commemorate the 100th anniversary of what has been called “The first modern genocide of the 20th century.”
Many events are taking place worldwide to commemorate this important year, and those who attended the Khachaturian Trio concert at Fresno State last November have already become acquainted with one of the many worldwide initiatives intended to raise awareness and commemorate the Centennial of the Genocide.
Among the largest hubs for commemorative events, Fresno has gained the spotlight due to the efforts of the Armenian Genocide Centennial (AGC) – Fresno Committee. The AGC is a collection of community representatives–brought together for the Centennial year–collaborating to commemorate and raise awareness about the Genocide. Committee members include representatives from the San Joaquin Valley’s religious, educational, social, and political communities, as well as youth members. The committee aims to not only commemorate the martyrs of the Armenian Genocide, but to make a visible change in the community by educating the public about Genocide, and inspiring future generations.
Through its dedication and effort, the AGC has organized many activities and events to fulfill the three pillars of its mission statement (commemorate, educate, inspire), including the Tradition – Legacy – Culture exhibit featuring eleven artists that opened on January 23 at the Fresno Art Museum.
In addition to organizing their own events, the AGC has taken the role of a large organizing body for all other auxiliary events that have been planned in commemoration of the centennial. In a conversation with AGC Chairman Dr. Sergio La Porta, he remarked about the importance of maintaining organization in the midst of all the events and activities that are being planned. Dr. La Porta highlighted the fact that one of the ideas behind forming the AGC was to create a centralized website, agcfresno.org, where ideas and news of events would be accessible to the public.
The largest and most anticipated project of the AGC, however, has been the commissioning of the Armenian Genocide Monument to be erected on the campus of California State University, Fresno, which will be the first Armenian Genocide monument to be erected on any university campus in the United States. The monument will not only commemorate the 1.5 million martyrs of the Armenian Genocide, but it will also act as an educational tool to inform and educate the public about the Genocide as well as other genocides.
“The Monument will have QR codes that will link to [informational] websites about the Genocide,” stated Dr. La Porta. “Education can take place inside or outside of the classroom.”
Perhaps the most inspiring aspect of the AGC has been the youth involvement. A youth committee, the Hye Movement, has made tremendous contributions to the Fresno community by raising awareness through social movements and hashtag activism on social media outlets. The Hye Movement’s ability to reach out to Armenian youth has made it an indispensable part of the overall efforts of the AGC–Fresno Committee. In addition to the Hye Movement’s contributions to the Fresno community, the Hye Movement was responsible for a drive that collected over 5,000 items to be sent to orphanages in Armenia.
In a relatively short period of time, the AGC has made lasting contributions to the community. Its initiatives have made visible changes and demonstrated the ability of the collective spirit of the Armenian people. Although the committee will shrink considerably in size after the commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, there is talk of maintaining parts of the committee to continue the educational efforts. We can only hope that the AGC is not a short-lived organization, but the beginning of an ongoing effort to bring positive change.