Throughout the past six weeks as interns for the ANCA, we have been privileged to learn about the workings of the day to day tasks the ANCA Glendale Chapter undergoes. Furthermore, it is a prerogative for us to be interning right when an important event occurs that pertains to the Armenian-American community such as the Americana at Brand billboard incident that arose during our fifth week. Due to this unexpected event, we were able to use the skills we had acquired over the past weeks to empirically work with our advisor, Margarita Baghdasaryan, the ANCA board, along with many others to properly represent the Armenian voice in the Glendale Community.
Unlike other regular Mondays, where we would have a meeting with a public official, a workshop to help improve our skillsets or a set of tasks to complete in the office, we spent the first day of the week attentively listening and carefully reading about the Americana at Brand billboard situation. Briefly speaking, we learned that there was a request made to have an advertisement for the documentary “Architects of Denial” put up on the Americana billboard; however, this request was denied because the Americana at Brand believed the film was “too political”. Amongst ourselves, us interns discussed the practical methods we would personally take to address this issue. After our discussion, we then compared our personal procedures to the steps ANCA was going to take and had a conversation as to why ANCA was going to take the following steps.
The next day was the first day when all the interns arrived to work earlier than ever. We all were very anxious as to what the day was going to bring, and did not want to miss out on anything. Knowing the day was a Tuesday, the day when city council holds their weekly meetings, we began the day by writing two to three minute speeches about our opinions in regards to the Americana issue. As interns, we worked together to narrow down our opinions to specific talking-points that would better represent our voice at the meeting. At 6 o’clock in the evening, we met at city hall to voice our concerns. This was the first time I had personally voiced my opinion at a city council meeting. I was fascinated to see how simple the process is to voice your opinion and was proud to see all the other Armenians and non-Armenians that voiced their opinions relating to this issue.
On Wednesday, we arrived to work to see an office filled with busy people and non stop ringing phones. We were told that on Thursday, the ANCA will be holding a press conference at the public park located at the center of the Americana. We spent the day emailing human rights organizations along with other groups that we had formed coalitions with in the past years asking for their attendance and support.
The next day, at 11 o’clock, the press conference began by former ANCA-WR Executive Director, Elen Asatryan with an introduction of all the public officials who were present — many of whom we had met during the previous weeks of our internship through workshops and meetings. These individuals include but are not limited to; California State Senator, Mr. Anthony Portantino, Glendale City Mayor, Honorable Vartan Gharpetian, Glendale City Councilmembers, Mr. Ara Najarian, Mr. Zareh Sinanyan, Mrs. Paula Devine, and Mr. Vrej Aghajanian, Glendale City Clerk, Mr. Ardashes Kassakhian, Glendale Unified School District President, Ms. Nayri Nahabedian, GUSD Board members, Dr. Armine Gharpetian, and Mr. Shant Sahakian, and from Glendale Community College Board of Trustees Dr. Armine Hacopian and Yvette Vartanian Davis.
Through the press conference we learned that the Americana at Brand had sent a response to the ANCA right as they were setting up the microphones that same exact morning condemning, “violence and atrocities of any form anywhere in the world, including the Armenian Genocide that has impacted the lives of Armenians in our community.” The letter also stated that Caruso Affiliated will display the advertisement at the Americana at Brand, at no cost to the producers.
The press conference continued with statements by California State Senator, Mr. Anthony Portantino, ANCA Glendale Chair, Mr. Artin Manoukian, City of Glendale Mayor, Mr. Vartan Gharpetian, Executive Producer of “Architects of Denial”, Mr. Dean Cain, and former Armenian Bar Association chairman Mr. Garo Ghazarian. At the end of the press conference, we went around greeting and thanking all the individuals that dedicated time from their busy schedules in attending the conference. We returned to the office where we prepared for a meeting with California State Senator for the 25th District, Mr. Anthony Portantino and the ANCA Western Region Interns. During the meeting, we learned about Mr. Portantino’s background and the continuous support he makes to the Armenian community, whether it be from visiting schools to learn more about their Armenian dual-language programs to being chair of the committee on CA Armenian and Artsakh Mutual Trade Commission. We learned about his future goals in helping the Armenian community and received a lot of advice regarding careers in politics.
This week taught me many things: always be prepared for unexpected events, work together as a team to accomplish tasks faster and more effectively, and always have an action plan. I am very proud of the ANCA which properly handled this situation, and thankful to have had the opportunity to experience this event from behind the scenes.