AYF Works with Diverse Communities to Address RacismWednesday, May 15, 2019
GLENDALE— The Krikor and Mariam Karamanoukian Glendale Youth Center was filled with community members of different racial and ethnic backgrounds on Saturday, May 4. Community members gathered for a panel discussion Struggle and Solidarity: Coming Together For Racial Justice. The goal of this event was to increase inter-community partnerships to organize against universal racial struggles.
The panel was organized by The United Human Rights Council, a central council of the Armenian Youth Federation Western United States.
The panelists were representatives of the following local grassroots organizations:
- Black Lives Matter Los Angeles, an organization that works closely with the families of those killed due to police violence.
- American Indian Movement Southern California, an inter-tribal organization that works within the areas of sacred sites protection, preservation of culture, language, ending the exploitation of Native American Spirituality and cultural misappropriation.
- South West Asian and North African Alliance, a U.S.-based national organization fighting for the liberation of South West Asian and North African peoples.
- Mijente, a digital and grassroots hub for Latinx and Chicanx movement building and organizing that seeks to increase the profile of policy issues that matter to our communities and increase the participation of Latinx and Chicanx people in the broader movements for racial, economic, climate and gender justice.
The event commenced with a land acknowledgment lead by Andy Salas, chairman of the Kizh Nation: Gabrieleno Band of Mission Indians. It was then followed by remarks from Peter Conejo, a leader from the Kizh Tribe, reminding the audience that the event was being held on Native American land.
Zakaria (Zack) Mohamed spoke on behalf of BLMLA, reaffirming their commitment to ending systems in which keep Black people oppressed by staging civil disobedience and rallies. Walter “Graywolf” Ruiz, director of AIM SoCal, voiced the Native American narrative. Sophia Armen spoke on behalf of SWANA Alliance, highlighting the struggles of Armenian and SWANA peoples and specific issues that the communities work on. The fourth panelist was Eunisses Hernandez who represented Mijente, touching upon the efforts of the Latinx and Chicanx communities.
The discussion was guided and moderated by AYF alumnus and UHRC member Talar Kakilian. Panelists discussed struggles that their peoples face when their communities are approached with racism and discrimination.
“Racial justice is imperative for every individual, and all communities. In these times we need deep meaning and bringing together the struggle between peoples. The Armenian freedom struggle has always been one against racism and empire. It is time the next generation take up the charge and build with other historically marginalized communities, not simply to strengthen our cause, but because it is right,” said Sophia Armen.
After the panel concluded, the audience had the opportunity to ask the panelists questions. It was continued by a breakout session, where the audience got into groups and discussed the struggles of the communities they belong to and how each one can support each other in our respective missions. “The event became a space of understanding the ‘other,’ where the room felt like it was the right moment to talk about sensitive issues, such as racism,” said Hasmik Burushyan, chairwoman of the UHRC. “By speaking about our wounds, people build ways to rise and work collectively,” she concluded.
The United Human Rights Council is a committee of the Armenian Youth Federation-Western United States. By means of action on a grassroots level, the UHRC works towards exposing and correcting human rights violations of governments worldwide, and aims to foster dialogue and collaboration between peoples who share this common vision.
Founded in 1933 with organizational structures in over 17 regions around the world and a legacy of over eighty years of community involvement, the Armenian Youth Federation is the largest and most influential Armenian-American youth organization in the world, working to advance the social, political, educational, and cultural awareness of Armenian youth.