Burbank Holds Annual Armenian Genocide Commemoration and Flower Laying Ceremony

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(Photo by Edna Yeghnanyan)

Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) held its annual Armenian Genocide Commemoration and Flower Laying Ceremony on the steps of city hall, and citizens and representatives of Burbank all made an appearance. The program began with a demonstration from the scouts of the Burbank Armenian Youth Center, all diligently lined up and marching with Armenian flags held steady. Ranging from toddlers to teenagers, each speaker at the commemoration made a note that the policies they push forward are to provide better opportunities for Armenian youth like them. 

(Photo by Edna Yeghnanyan)

The ceremony had several guest speakers, including ANCA Burbank chair Sarkis Simonian, Assembly Member Laura Friedman, Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger, Burbank Mayor Nick Schultz, Vice Mayor Nikki Perez, Councilmember Konstantine Anthony, School Board Vice President Armond Aghakhanian, councilmember from the city of Yerevan, Samvel Hakobyan. 

Each speaker highlighted a key message: Remembrance of the past is never enough unless one is conscious of the problems of the present. Many paid respects not only to the Armenian genocide of 1915 but to the loss of Armenian lives and land in the Artsakh war with Azerbaijan. Further, they emphasized how the impacts of that war are still being felt today, as the Armenians of Artsakh are being displaced and unable to access life-saving necessities like food or water. 

Simonian started the commemoration off by asking for two things from the federal government. Firstly, the transfer of money to Azerbaijan and Turkey should be halted, and secondarily, the resources should be allocated to aiding Artsakh. That same message was echoed by Schultz as he stated, “We too will not stand with those who commit genocide.” 

(Photo by Edna Yeghnanyan)

After the press conference, we talked with Schultz and Aghakhanian. Schultz said it was impossible to hear discussions of past atrocities without finding similarities to the current state of the world, especially in reference to the current humanitarian crisis in Gaza. 

Over 70 cities nationwide have signed a resolution calling for a ceasefire in Gaza, and Councilmember Anthony introduced one for Burbank at a recent City Council meeting. 

When asked when the city intends to act, the Mayor replied that discussions on the resolution will be held towards the end of May and that he strongly condemns the attacks by Hamas on October 7 but also those of Netanyahu following. He stated, “We have to speak out locally because we can, because we have a podium, a platform, and an opportunity to say what we think is right and should be done.” 

Moreover, he added that ultimately, any action taken must be done so in a collaborative manner, bringing forth people from both sides of the conflict in an effort to create a statement that is reflective of the diversity in the Burbank community.  

(Photo by Edna Yeghnanyan)

Aghakhanian, who is the only elected Armenian in Burbank, was asked about changes to the curriculum in order to make it more representative of the district’s demographics. Last year, a teacher at Burbank High School attempted to introduce a book about the Armenian genocide, The Black Dog of Fate, into the school curriculum, but it was denied due to being “too violent.” 

Aghakhanian stated that he is very interested in rediscussing the topic once again and finding ways to incorporate the backgrounds of students at BUSD through curriculum. He added that of course, the district is limited by State mandates, but that he hears and understands the concerns of an unrepresentative education, and will be looking into the matter. 

As the ceremony wrapped up with each attendee placing flowers on a replica of the Armenian Genocide Memorial, Simonian shared another piece of good news, announcing that they are looking into establishing a permanent memorial at Burbank sometime within the next year or two. As applause was heard from all corners, it was evident that his ceremony marked not just an emotional moment for Armenians of Burbank but as an indicator of the solidarity and support the representatives show to that diaspora.