Fifty years after the genocide of the Armenians, a memorial was established in our very own Southern California. I'd seen the sign off the 60 freeway many a time, and talked about it with fellow teachers in the context of our work on memory and memorials. But, many of us even in the LA Facing History office had not actually been to see it before. We decided to have an office field trip earlier this year!
The memorial (in Montebello, CA) is located basically within a golf course, and while it was designed to be tall, visible from a distance, half of us got lost.
Once there, however, it struck me as both reflective and hopeful.
Some thoughts on our visit:
DAN: Sometimes we pass these monuments every single day and don't ask ourselves the questions, what does that represent? why is that there?
EMILY: Marti told us she read in a memoir that buried underneath the memorial is a skull of one of the victims of the Armenian Genoide. It reminded me that underneath these stories, these memorials to such huge atrocities, are the individuals, the unique and personal stories that make up the larger picture.
JENNY: The Armenian community in Los Angeles is robust and an integral part of LA--one of the many communities that makes LA vibrant and culturally rich. It is so important to me that all of our histories are represented so that we may learn, grow and be enriched by their stories and the uniqueness that they each have to offer. I was glad to take a few minutes to reflect on this history as a way to further understand this part of our Los Angeles community.
MARTI: I had the opportunity to speak with Hrant Agbabian, the architect of the monument before our visit. He shared with me the inspiration for its shape is based on Armenians' identity as Christians and reflects the domes seen in eastern orthodox churches. I appreciate how the monument takes into the account the particular history and identity of Armenians yet connects to our shared humanity and desire to remember all victims of genocide, and prevent such atrocities in the future.
MARY: I was struck by the words on the memorial plaque: "This monument, erected by Americans of Armenian descent, is dedicated to the 1,500,000 Armenian victims of the genocide perpetrated by the Turkish government in 1915-1921, and to men of all nations who have fallen victim to crimes against humanity." That this monument is not just to Armenians was interesting to me. We also discovered that the exit sign for the monument off the 60 freeway is the only mention of the Armenian Genocide on public land in the United States.
NOELAN: The monument had been standing tall there for many years, but I didn't know about it. It is, I suppose, somewhat symbolic of the Armenian Genocide itself. It happened, it was apparent in the media, and yet, many people didn't and still don't know about it. Just as I can now look out for this memorial and even point it out to others whenever I pass by, I hope we can spread the knowledge about this history and guide ourselves to learn from it.
As we enter this month of memorials for many genocides that have happened in the last 100 years, we encourage you to take a look around you for the memorials we have here in Los Angeles, to explore their significance, and to share your thoughts here.