AYF Works with Diverse Communities to Address Racism

Attendees gathered at  the Krikor and Mariam Karamanoukian Glendale Youth Center for a panel discussion concerning racism
Attendees gathered at  the Krikor and Mariam Karamanoukian Glendale Youth Center for a panel discussion concerning racism

Attendees gathered at the Krikor and Mariam Karamanoukian Glendale Youth Center for a panel discussion concerning racism

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.
AYF Works With Diverse Comm1

Panelists discussing the struggles faced by their communities

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.

Individuals from different communities share their struggles. and offer support to one another

Individuals from different communities share their struggles and offer support to one another

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.


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  1. Tsoghig Hekimian said:

    I want to offer the highest praise to the AYF-ers who organized this amazing and important event. This is the way we win anything, aligning ourselves with likeminded people who are going through the struggle similar to our own. We have more in common than not, racism is a completely socially fabricated division and invented by the land and slave owners to split the working class in order to have complete control over all the working class, white, black, Latinx. Oppression that was endured by people of color in the US is the same as the oppression Armenians endured by the turks and continue to endure by the turks. If this event has inspired you to learn more, please read Howard Zinn’s the People’s History of the United States and educate yourself about the history of capitalism and racism in the US. Bravo!! It took 20 years since I first suggested learning about Che Guevara in a Valley Sardarabad meeting and got shut down to finally bring this issue to the Armenian youth of Los Angeles. I cannot express in words how excited this AYF alumnus is today.

  2. Sarkis Ghazarian said:

    Congrats to AYF for starting the process to see beyond the injustice faced by the Armenian people & finally realize that other people have & continue to face various forms of injustice. We as a people need to learn to develop coalitions with other people to work together to fight against the continued policies of the various forms of “ISMS” against different people in the USA & other countries. Hopefully, this step by the AYF will be a teaching moment for the ARF/ANC to carry forth this form of approach with other groups to fight injustice s members of a wide-scale coalition.