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Florida Armenians Participate in ‘Together We Remember’ Community Vigil in Boca Raton

BOCA RATON, FL – On Tuesday, April 16, a group of local and national human rights activists, community leaders, elected officials, religious leaders, teachers and students gather in Sanborn Square for “Together We Remember: The Future of Our Past,” reported Florida Armenians.

David Estrin, Founder and CEO of Together We Remember, organized the second annual universal commemoration program in Boca Raton. “April is Genocide Awareness Month,” Estrin said. “So it’s important that we all come together this time of year to commemorate our past and take action for the future,” he said.

The program began with the reading of names of victims of various genocides, including the Armenian Genocide, as well as victims of hatred, bigotry, discrimination and gun violence in the world. Arsine Kaloustian, Chairwoman of the South Florida Armenian Genocide Commemoration, Inc. (AGC) read the names of genocide victims. Lonny Wilk, Senior Associate Regional Director, Anti-Defamation League-Florida read the names of victims of hatred, bigotry, discrimination and gun violence. A local student from the Boca Raton Interfaith Youth Association read the names of lynching victims in Florida.

Congressman Ted Deutch (D-FL), whose district includes the cities of Boca Raton and Parkland, gave the keynote address. His remarks focused on the meaning of “Never Again” today and how individuals learn from one another and take collective action.

The program also featured musical interludes from Shine MSD, students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

 

The program also featured an expert panel of religious leaders, community activists, and academics who discussed their respective community’s experience with genocide, violence, and hatred. Panelists included Liz Vocasek, Associate Education Director, Anti-Defamation League-Florida; Rev. Fr. Andrew Sherman, Pastor of St. Gregory’s Episcopal Church of Boca Raton, Florida; Taniel Koushakjian, Editor of FLARMENIANS.com; Darren Levine, Teacher at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School; and Rabbi Leonid Feldman, Temple Beth El in West Palm Beach, Florida. The panel was moderated by Antonella Regueiro, Assistant Professor at Lynn University.

To conclude the program, participants were encourage to take action in their own way. Some took action by writing to their elected officials from their smart phones. Others shared stories and pictures on social media to amplify the message. Some pledged to write letters to their local newspapers.

At the end, everyone listened to the stories of each other, engaged with people they had never met, and people came together to say in one voice: “We Remember” and “Never Again.”

For more photos, check out the Florida Armenians Facebook Page Photo Album.

You can also watch two video clips from the event here and here.

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#TogetherWeRemember: The Future of Our Past

Join South Florida’s next-generation of inspiring community leaders, artists and change-makers at Sanborn Square in Downtown Boca Raton, FL on Tuesday, April 16th from 6:00 PM – 8:00 PM for a community-wide vigil, dialogue, and call to action aiming to unite our city across lines of difference to address rising hatred and ongoing violence. This event seeks to remind us of the past while looking to the future, through an exploration of the meaning of “never again” in South Florida and how we, as a community, can continue to work to make that dream a reality.

We will honor the victims of violence around the world through a powerful name-reading ceremony, hear inspiring performances that open hearts and minds, learn from influential community members about issues of violence and remembrance, and participate in a bridge-building dialogue. To celebrate and activate our renewed commitment to look out for one another, we will host a concluding celebration with food trucks and feature game-changing organizations that you can immediately take action with. This event is one of dozens of #TogetherWeRemember vigils taking place around the world in April to transform remembrance into action during Genocide Awareness Month.

Time & Date:

Tuesday, April 16, 2019
6:00 PM – 8:00 PM

Location:

Sanborn Square
72 North Federal Highway
Boca Raton, FL 33432

Confirmed Speakers, Performers, and Organizations:

  • Sawyer Garrity and Andrea Peña (Shine MSD / MSD Students)
  • Congressman Ted Deutch (D-FL)
  • Rabbi David Steinhardt (B’nai Torah Congregation / Boca Raton Interfaith Clergy Association)
  • Rabbi Leonid Feldman (Temple Beth El, West Palm Beach)
  • Rev. Fr. Andrew Sherman (St. Gregory’s Episcopal Church, Boca Raton)
  • Arsine Kaloustian (Armenian Genocide Commemoration, Inc.)
  • Taniel Koushakjian (Florida Armenians)
  • Liz Vocasek (Anti Defamation League)
  • Antonella Regueiro (Lynn University)
  • David Estrin (Together We Remember)
  • Representatives from Church World Service

 

Florida Congressman Ted Deutch, 35 House Members Call to Substantially Increase Aid for Armenia and Artsakh

Armenian Assembly Boosts Congressional Call for $100 million Democracy-Building and Economic Assistance Package

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congressman Ted Deutch (D-FL) joined 35 of his House colleagues in a letter that urges the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs to significantly increase prior aid requests to strengthen United States-Armenia relations and outlines key priorities for Fiscal Year (FY) 2020, the Armenian Assembly of America announced. The letter was spearheaded by Armenian Caucus Founder and Co-Chair Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), Caucus Co-Chair Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA), and Caucus Vice Chair Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA).

Ted Deutch

Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL)

With sweeping cuts across the State Department’s budget, the Administration proposed $6.75 million for Armenia. A prior congressional effort requested $70 million, but today’s action increases the request to a total of $100 million for Armenia and Artsakh. The Armenian Assembly said that it “truly appreciates today’s action, and will continue working for further increases to Artsakh and Armenia.”

Four Members of Congress from Florida sit on the House Appropriations Committee: Rep. Charlie Crist (D-FL), Rep. Mario Diaz-Bolart (R-FL), Rep. Lois Frankel (D-FL), and Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-FL). Reps. Deutch and Crist are Members of the Congressional Caucus on Armenian Issues.

The Armenian Caucus initiative requests:

  • $60 million for economic governance and rule of law assistance to Armenia through State Department and USAID accounts;
  • $10 million for military aid for Armenia through Foreign Military Financing (FMF) and International Military and Education Training (IMET) programs;
  • $20 million for Armenia to be a regional “safe haven” for refugees;
  • $6 million for Artsakh de-mining, rehabilitation programs, and water supply systems;
  • $4 million for implementation of the Royce-Engel peace proposals, including placement of OSCE-monitored, advanced gunfire locator systems;
  • That the State Department and USAID lift any official or unofficial restrictions on U.S. travel, communication, or contacts with Artsakh government officials; and
  • The suspension of U.S. military aid to Azerbaijan until it has been verified to have ceased all attacks against Armenia and Artsakh.

The letter states in part: “In the wake of the Republic of Armenia’s remarkable Velvet Revolution, we are writing to thank the Subcommittee for its longstanding leadership in support of both Armenia and the Republic of Artsakh (Nagorno Karabakh). As you prepare the Fiscal Year 2020 State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations bill, we ask you to include… provisions supporting a broad-based strategic upgrade of a U.S.-Armenia partnership based upon shared interests and common values.”

The Members of Congress also called for stricter provisions of Section 907 of the FREEDOM Support Act to ensure that Azerbaijan does not take hostile actions against Armenia or Artsakh, as it did in the 2016 4-Day War, and pledge to demonstrate its commitment to pursuing lasting peace through solely non-violent means.

The letter concludes: “Taking these steps will continue to build on the U.S.-Armenia strategic relationship and help to grow the seeds of pro-democratic and civil society institutions in Armenia. We urge the Subcommittee to invest in peace and assist Armenia and Artsakh at this exciting time of continued development.”

“The Armenian Assembly welcomes this increased request in funding to Armenia. Given the remarkable democratic transformation last year in Armenia, we know that the community expects even more,” Assembly Executive Director Bryan Ardouny said. “Moreover, the OSCE’s Election Observation Mission Report stated that the elections ‘were held with respect for fundamental freedoms and enjoyed broad public trust that needs to be preserved through further electoral reforms.'”

Additionally, the Organization for Security and Co-Operation in Europe’s (OSCE) Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) reported that “election day proceeded calmly, peacefully, free of pressure on or intimidation of voters” and “the constitutionally guaranteed freedom of expression was respected.”

Armenian Assembly Co-Chair Van Krikorian Testifying Before the House Appropriations Committee (Pictured Members: Appropriations Chairwoman Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY), and Rep. Lois Frankel (D-FL).

Earlier this month, Assembly Co-Chair Van Krikorian, in testimony before the House Appropriations Subcommittee, requested $100 million in democracy and economic assistance, at least $10 million in Foreign Military Financing (FMF) and International Military Education Training (IMET) to Armenia for Fiscal Year (FY) 2020, and $20 million to help resettle and provide a safe haven for Christians at risk in Syria and throughout the Middle East, with at least $25 million in assistance to Artsakh. Krikorian cited Armenia’s remarkable year as more than a reason to significantly increase humanitarian aid, suggesting to the Subcommittee that the United States should “reward people who have made progress towards democracy.”

Krikorian applauded the Subcommittee for holding the important hearing, and greatly appreciated “Chairwoman Nita Lowey’s leadership and steadfast support for Armenia and Artsakh.”

Given Turkey and Azerbaijan’s ongoing blockades, the Assembly’s written testimony also shed light on the importance of aid to Armenia and Artsakh, the need to fully enforce Section 907 of the FREEDOM Support Act, and targeted assistance for economic development and job-creation programs in the Samtskhe-Javakheti region of the Republic of Georgia.

The Armenian Assembly’s submitted testimony for FY 2020 is available online.