An Armenian Rap On Times Square


By Taleen Babayan on April 30, 2014

A scene from the commemoration

99th Commemoration Brings Thousands to Times Square

>From the proclamations of staunch support by high-ranking U.S.

politicians to the touching lyrics of a talented Armenian-American
rapper’s tribute to the millions of lives lost, the 99th commemoration
of the Armenian Genocide in Times Square paid homage to the victims of
1915 and sent a resounding message that denial will not be tolerated
as the Centennial memorial approaches.

An impressive crowd gathered at this year’s commemoration.

An impressive crowd gathered at this year’s commemoration, an
all-encompassing event organized by the Knights of Vartan for the past
quarter of a century in one of the world’s most visible and attractive
locations. While the missing survivors in the audience were a stark
reminder that witnesses are succumbing to history, this year’s sizeable
group of Armenian youth, from the disciplined Homenetmen Scouts who
proudly held the Armenian flag throughout the duration of the program,
to the members of the Areni Choir and the Higher Brass Band, to those
draped in Armenian flags, an emphatic statement was made that the 1.5
million victims will not be forgotten and that the fight for genocide
recognition will continue through new blood.

Appearing faithfully year after year, key U.S. politicians took to
the stage once again to reaffirm their commitment to the Armenian
cause and did not fail the community in expressing their firm support
of genocide recognition, most recently in the U.S. Senate Foreign
Relations Committee, which this month passed Resolution 410, demanding
that Turkey acknowledge the Armenian massacres in 1915 as “genocide.”

Chairman of the committee, Senator Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), said
the resolution was passed in “undisputed terms,” and described the
Armenian Genocide as “one of the darkest events in human history.”

“We must not make it the policy of the United States to turn our back
on man’s inhumanity to man,” said Menendez. “And anyone who tries
to create a nuanced approach serves only to empower those around the
world who would use genocide as a weapon of war.”

Commending the Armenians for building a strong community in America,
Senator Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) recalled the founder of the Armenian
Genocide Times Square commemoration, Sam Azadian, who introduced him
to the history of the Armenian Genocide when he was a newly elected

The program culminated in an emotional performance by R-Mean

“I come here because I believe from the bottom of my heart it is
our sacred duty to speak out against the terrors of the past,” said
Schumer. “Remembering the innocent victims of the ‘Medz Yeghern’
helps as we strive to shine the full light of day on this historic
tragedy to ensure it never happens again.”

Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-N.J.) praised the Armenians on
their relentless efforts towards Armenian Genocide recognition and
noted the movement’s success worldwide and in Turkey, where scholars
and human rights advocates are opening sincere dialogue about the
Armenian Genocide. He spoke of continued commitment not only towards
genocide recognition, but humanitarian aid to the Republic of Armenia
and Nagorno-Karabagh as well.

“Continue to do all of your hard work,” said Pallone. “Even though it’s
the 99th year, we will not stop until we see genocide recognition.”

Following in his father’s (former Councilman Peter Vallone) footsteps,
Paul Vallone (D-N.Y.) said that like his father, he was proud to
support the commemoration in Times Square every year. Vallone greeted
the crowd in Armenian and asserted his commitment to working with
Albany and Congress to make sure the Armenian Genocide is recognized.

“Armenia is our family,” said Vallone. “It’s our faith, our culture,
our language, and as we stand here in the middle of the greatest
city of the world, we see that the Armenian Genocide has not been

Traveling straight from Armenia where he attended Armenian Genocide
commemorations there, Congressman Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) said that Turkey
needs to publicly accept the atrocities without the use of convoluted
statements. “A genocide is a genocide and the sooner Turkey recognizes
and apologizes for it, the better off everyone will be.”

Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) also expressed her efforts in
Congress for U.S. recognition of the genocide and the importance of
stating it by its factual name. “Genocide is genocide is genocide,”
said Maloney. “Ninety-nine years is enough. We must join the world
community in recognizing the genocide and the atrocious actions
of Turkey.”

Remarking that it is the “responsibility” of the U.S. to recognize the
Armenian Genocide, former New York City Comptroller, John Liu, said to
continue the fight until an apology is achieved. “Whether it has been
100 or 200 years, this gathering will continue to take place because
we know the truth and the rest of the world has to do so as well.”

“We have been here for a quarter of a century,” said Dr. Dennis
Papazian, Professor Emeritus of History at the University of Michigan
and Past Grand Commander of Knights of Vartan, as he looked out onto
the substantial crowd in front of him in Times Square. “And we will
come back for another quarter of a century until justice is done for
the Armenian people.”

Also in his remarks, Papazian provided a response to the unprecedented
statement of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, issued on
April 23, in nine languages, in which the politician encouraged Turks
and Armenians to talk to one another about the past and once again
ignored the truth of the Armenian Genocide. Papazian, who has worked
towards genocide recognition for decades, said he remains hopeful.

“I have witnessed a change in Turkish society where people can discuss
the Armenian Genocide without being thrown in jail,” he said. “Honest
Turkish scholars are now organizing conferences to shed light on
the truth.”

Papazian also commented on President Barack Obama’s April 24 message,
which he considered his “strongest statement” yet, despite the fact
that the president continues to insist on referring to the Armenian
Genocide as “Medz Yeghern.”

“Our efforts haven’t been in vain,” asserted Papazian. “We are
winning the battle and we shall persist until our martyrs are properly

The program culminated in an emotional performance by R-Mean that
brought all of Times Square to its feet as members of the audience,
as well as passersby, waved peace signs in the air to the lyrics
of his song, “Open Wounds.” Hailing from Los Angeles, the young
Armenian-American rapper has been an active supporter of genocide
recognition and spreading awareness outside of the Armenian community,
in particular with reputable individuals in the music and entertainment
industry. He hopes to educate the masses through hip-hop music,
which he considers to be the “voice of the oppressed, the voice of
the struggle, and the voice of the youth.”

“The goal of the song ‘Open Wounds’ and the ‘Open Wounds 1915
Movement’ is to raise awareness for the youth who are our future and
the non-Armenians who enjoy listening to good music with a positive
message,” said R-Mean. “In a sense, this is doing the exact opposite
of what the Turkish government has been trying to do all these years
by erasing it from the history books.”

Archbishop Oshagan Choloyan, Prelate of Armenian Church of America
(Eastern), gave the invocation and Archbishop Khajag Barsamian,
Primate of the Diocese of the Armenian Church of America (Eastern),
delivered the benediction. Other clergy in attendance included Very
Reverend Thomas Garabedian of the Armenian Catholic Eparchy of the
United States and Canada and Reverend Haig Kherlopian of the Armenian
Evangelical Church of New York.

Susan Rosenblatt from the Jewish Press delivered remarks, as well as
Lisa Kradjian, Grand Matron of the Daughters of Vartan. Delivering
remarks on behalf of the co-sponsors of the commemoration were Kim
Yacoubian (AGBU), Alex Karapetian (Armenian Assembly), Hagop Ajemian
(Hunchakian Party), Dr. Vagheenag Tarpinian (ADL), and Anahid Urguluyan

The winners of this year’s Knights of Vartan essay contest were
announced at the program: Alina Toporas, 1st place (Drexel University,
Philadelphia, Pa., resident), Elizabeth Ray, 2nd place (St. Agnes
Academy, Memphis, Tenn., resident), and Christopher Artun, 3rd place
(Townsend Harris High School, Little Neck, N.Y., resident).

The Areni Choir, under the direction of Dr. Armine Vardanian, sang
the national anthems of the United States and Armenia, as well as
“God Bless America,” while the Higher Brass Band, under the direction
of Samuel Nersesian, accompanied the singers.

The Armenian Radio Hour of New Jersey, led by the director, Professor
Vartan Abdo, streamed the event live in video format worldwide,
reaching over 20,000 people, with the assistance of his dedicated
volunteer staff.

The 99th Armenian Genocide commemoration in Times Square was organized
by the Mid-Atlantic chapters of the Knights and Daughters of Vartan,
and was co-sponsored by the Armenian General Benevolent Union, the
Armenian Assembly of America, the Armenian National Committee of
America, the ADL-Ramgavars, and the Armenian Council of America.

Participating organizations included the Diocese of the Armenian
Church of America (Eastern), Prelacy of the Armenian Church, Armenian
Missionary Association of America, Armenian Presbyterian Church,
the Armenian Evangelical Church, the Armenian Catholic Eparchy for U.S.

and Canada, and numerous Armenian youth organizations, including the
Armenian Church Youth Organization of America, the Armenian Youth
Federation, the Tekeyan Cultural Association, Homenetmen Scouts,
Hamazkayin Cultural Association, Noyan Tapan of Brooklyn, Rutgers
University Armenian Club, Columbia University Armenian Club, and the
Armenian Students’ Association.

Dr. Mary Papazian, president of Southern Connecticut State University,
and Armen McOmber, New Jersey attorney, served as MCs.

From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress

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Emil Lazarian

“I should like to see any power of the world destroy this race, this small tribe of unimportant people, whose wars have all been fought and lost, whose structures have crumbled, literature is unread, music is unheard, and prayers are no more answered. Go ahead, destroy Armenia . See if you can do it. Send them into the desert without bread or water. Burn their homes and churches. Then see if they will not laugh, sing and pray again. For when two of them meet anywhere in the world, see if they will not create a New Armenia.” - WS