California Governor Declares Armenian Genocide Memorial Day a National Holiday, Youth Interns Use IWalk to Tour Montebello Memorial

California Governor Gavin Newsom recently announced that Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day – observed annually on April 24 – will become a national holiday known as Genocide Awareness Day.

A statement from the governor’s office said the new Genocide Memorial Day will be “a day for all to reflect on genocides past and present, but especially for those who have felt the impact of these atrocities and groups who have found refuge in California, including but not limited to to the Holocaust, the 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 passed the California state assembly and senate without a single dissenting vote, means that progressive community colleges and public schools will be allowed to close on Genocide Awareness Day and state employees will be given paid time off.

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

“This symbolic action is another tool to deter denial of the Armenian Genocide, the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi and other mass atrocities,” said Dr. Street. “We hope this new national holiday will encourage all Californians to join in remembering all communities affected by genocide.”

“Commemorative events like Genocide Awareness Day open a space for public reflection and dialogue, illuminate the voices of survivors and help us all remember the terrible cost of genocide on communities around the world.”

Governor Newsom’s announcement follows President Joe Biden’s recognition of the Armenian Genocide last year, a recognition long sought by the large Armenian community in the United States.

The USC Shoah Foundation’s Visual History Archive contains more than 600 indexed audio and video testimonies from J. Michael Hagopian and the Armenian Film Foundation and the oral history collection of the Armenian Genocide by Richard G. Hovannisan.

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 free educational website that reaches millions. students per year.

This year, the Institute also released the first Armenian Genocide Memorial IWalk, a one-hour curated tour of the Armenian Genocide Martyrs’ Memorial 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 testimonies from the USC Shoah Foundation’s visual history archive.

Last summer, a group of 18 incoming 9th-12th grade interns visited the Montebello Monument and took an IWalk tour as part of the USC Shoah Foundation’s William P. Lauder Junior Internship Program.

As they walked around the memorial site, the IWalk app showed the interns VHA clips of Armenian-American scholar Dr. Richard G. Hovannisian describing the establishment of the memorial and Armenian Genocide survivor Hagop Asadourian speaking about the importance of memory.

Among those who accompanied the student visit in late July were Lydia Minasian, wife of Michael Minasian, one of the founding members of the Armenian Heritage Board, and their daughter Ani.

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

Sedda Antekelian, USC Shoah Foundation education and development specialist, said the visit to Montebello helped students understand that the effects of the century-old genocide are still being felt — close to home — to this day.

“The greater Los Angeles area includes a significant population of the Armenian American diaspora. Having students visit this pivotal site and participate in the IWalk provided an opportunity to connect with the history of this local community and reflect on the importance of being a follower,” said Antekelian.

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