Vagrant Journalism

Published pieces from the past, the present and of the potential future.

25 April 2005: A Mourning for the Generations

Posted by Christina on March 1, 2009

123367_march_CAC_This year I was given the opportunity to cover the Candlelight Vigil held by the Armenian Student Association at UCI every year on April 24th to commemorate the Armenian Genocide. In later years I wasn’t allowed to do so because the editors claimed it would be a conflict of interest and thinking about it, they did have a point.

New University Newspaper: A Mourning for the Generations

A Mourning for the Generations
by Christina Nersesian
Volume 38, Issue 25 | Apr 25 2005

Amidst the booths and giant wooden cutouts of the various fraternities’ and sororities’ Greek letters, club members passing out pamphlets, loudspeakers and chants from the ASUCI candidates, not to mention the evangelical extremists holding banners of damnation, there was little room to see anything else.

The Career Fair booth made a barrier students had to weave through just to make it through Ring Road in a timely fashion. Even so, UC Irvine’s Armenian Student Association’s display commemorating the 90th anniversary of the Armenian genocide stood solemn and strong at the flagpoles on April 20.

The grassy island had mountains of shoes. On the sidewalk, students waiting for their rides to show up or the bus to get there passed from easel to easel, each displaying a piece of information. From two makeshift scaffolds hung plastic skeletons wrapped in sheets – a mock version of an infamous photograph taken during the massacre of the Armenians.

Later that evening, there was a candlelight vigil in commemoration of the 1.5 millions murdered nearly a century ago.

Candles poking through little paper cups were passed out once a fair number of people had sat down at the stairs facing the flagpoles. Maral Melkichian, a fourth-year economics major, made announcements of resolutions officially recognizing the genocide.

The event was already underway and there were still some stragglers. A few people quickly scurried past the crowd to make it to the bus, avoiding contact with an unfamiliar scene. Others werecurious enough to lag behind and watch the speeches and performances. The rest passed lighters throughout the crowd to light their candles’ wicks.

‘It’s important to be out here because as an Armenian living in America, it’s important for me to show that I care about my Armenian culture, my Armenian heritage,’ said John Khoshafian, ‘I still remember and do hold dear that event that happened, the Armenian genocide. This event shows that occasion, it shows some symbolic effort on my part to show that I still do remember the Armenian genocide. It is a big deal and needs to be taken under consideration.’

A cultural drum circle was formed and whoever wanted to join was invited to do so. Sevag Mahserejian, first-year psychology major, started to lay down the founding beats. His two friends joined him in the circle and Vartan Duvenjian, first year biological neuroscience major and Cliff Garabedian, environmental sciences major, built on the first couple of beats.

These young men represent the new generation of Armenians. Dedicated to their country, culture and the cause, they partake in what their forefathers must have done on a hot midsummer night in their mountain villages. Torn jeans, unkempt hair, army print pants and a mohawk, they continue with their time honored tradition as Generation X.

Apart from the Armenians standing in the back smoking their cigarettes, families that have come to the UCI ceremony and an overall wide age range spectrum between the Armenians, there were also non-Armenians partaking in the event.

‘I know many people of Armenian decent,’ said Heath Timmons, a second-year chemistry major, ‘and decided to go and witness a piece of their culture.

‘I wanted insight into such an event that is rarely spoken of or taught in American culture. Watching the direct descendants of the tragedy remember it is the most precious way to experience something like that. Listening to the language and hearing the statements of the various students made me feel connected to the history of this event that is still very much alive in the hearts of the people. It was humbling and grounding.’

Tamar Darakdjian, a fourth-year psychology major and president of ASA, approached the podium and gave an account of her forefathers during the genocide. Givan Gasparyan played the duduk – a traditional Armenian wind instrument – while William Saroyan’s famous passage was read aloud.

‘I should like to see any power in this world destroy this race – for when two of them meet anywhere in the world, see if they will not create a new Armenia.’

The Society of Arab Students’ president, Ramy Ballout, a fourth-year international studies major, gave his sentiments and support to the Armenians on behalf of the SAS.

Afterward, the new generation stepped up again, this time with an electric guitar, a distortion pedal and Dadaist poetry. Mahseredjian was accompanied by Shant Derderian, a first-year Film Studies major and german studies minor, and a friend of theirs, Chris Bedian.

‘Our performance today reached various levels,’ explained Mahseredjian. ‘There’s no point in reaching out to only Armenians. We have to reach out to non-Armenians as well. We wanted to achieve the whole aspect of the beginning, why it happened in the first place.’

A stretch of butcher paper was taped to the floor and as the event dwindled down, and people gathered around to sign it. Bold red letters read, ‘Blessed are they who Mourn’ and as the mourners write their messages, the memory of those who lost their lives is once again sealed.

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