California Governor Declares Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day a Statewide Holiday, Junior Interns Use IWalk to tour Montebello Monument

Fri, 10/28/2022 - 8:35am

California Governor Gavin Newsom recently declared that Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day—observed annually on April 24—will become a statewide holiday to be known as Genocide Awareness Day.

A statement from the Governor’s office said the new Genocide Remembrance Day will be “a day for all to reflect on past and present genocides, but especially those that have felt the impact of these atrocities and groups that have found refuge in California, including, but not limited to, the Holocaust, Holodomor, and the Genocides of the Armenian, Assyrian, Greek, Cambodian, and Rwandan communities.”

An estimated 1.5 million Armenians were deported or killed by Ottoman troops between 1915 and 1923.

The resolution, which was approved by California’s State Assembly and Senate without a single dissenting vote, means that moving forward community colleges and public schools will be allowed to close on Genocide Awareness Day and state employees will be given time off with pay.

USC Shoah Foundation Interim Finci-Viterbi Executive Director Kori Street said that dedicating a day to the memory of the millions of victims and survivors of genocide is a bold and important statement.

"This symbolic action is another tool to discourage denial of the Armenian Genocide, the Genocide Against the Tutsi in 1994, and other mass atrocities,” Dr. Street said. “We hope this new state holiday will encourage all Californians to join and commemorate with all communities impacted by genocide.”

"Commemorations like Genocide Awareness Day open up a space for public reflection and dialogue, shining a light on survivor voices and helping us all remember the terrible cost of genocide on communities around the world."

Governor Newsom’s announcement follows last year’s recognition of the Armenian Genocide by President Joe Biden—an acknowledgment that had long been sought by the large Armenian community in the United States.

USC Shoah Foundation’s Visual History Archive contains more than 600 indexed audio and video testimonies from the J. Michael Hagopian and the Armenian Film Foundation and the Richard G. Hovannisian Armenian Genocide Oral History Collection.

These form the basis of a wide range of resources for educators to teach their students about the Armenian Genocide and include the first Eastern- and Western-Armenian-language content to be featured on IWitness, the Institute’s no-cost educational website that reaches millions of students annually.

The Institute this year also released the first IWalk dedicated to an Armenian Genocide site of memory, an hour-long curated tour of the Armenian Genocide Martyrs Memorial Monument in Montebello, California.

Launched in 2014 and available for IOS and Android devices, the IWalk mobile app connects visitors to important historical sites with photographs, maps and testimony from USC Shoah Foundation’s Visual History Archive. 

This past summer a group of 18 rising 9th to 12th-grade student interns visited the Montebello monument and took the IWalk tour as part of USC Shoah Foundation’s William P. Lauder Junior Internship Program.

As they walked around the monument site, the IWalk app showed the interns VHA clips of Armenian American scholar Dr. Richard G. Hovannisian describing the monument’s founding and Armenian Genocide survivor Hagop Asadourian speaking of the importance of memory.

Among those accompanying the student visit in late July were Lydia Minasian, wife of Michael Minasian, one of the founding members of the Armenian Monument Council, and their daughter, Ani.

"It’s very gratifying for us to see the next generation of thinkers and leaders visiting and engaging with the site, and to see the IWalk resource in action with live users," Ani Minasian said.

Sedda Antekelian, USC Shoah Foundation’s Learning and Development Specialist, said the Montebello visit helped the students understand that the impacts of a century-old genocide are still felt—close to home—to this day.

“The greater Los Angeles region encompasses a significant population of the Armenian American diaspora. Having students visit this key site and engage with the IWalk provided the opportunity to connect with the history of this local community and reflect on the importance of being an upstander,” Antekelian said.

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