By Alina Issakhanian
On October 6, the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) board voted to make April 24 a school holiday to honor the victims of the Armenian Genocide in 1915. Beginning in the 2021-2022 calendar year, students and staff will have the day off.
“Each year, Armenian families across Los Angeles remember those lost in the first genocide in modern history, and many of them have a direct connection to the tragedy. This change in our calendar shows Los Angeles Unified’s commitment and solidarity to our Armenian community, especially during this trying time, to recognize and tell the truth about their history. Moreover, all students, regardless of their background, will benefit from learning about the Armenian Genocide as we teach tolerance and empower future generations to prevent recurrence of genocide,” Board Member Kelly Gonez, author of the resolution, wrote in a press release.
Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day offers a day to remember the estimated 1.5 million Armenians, 500,000 Greeks, and 300,000 Assyrians that died during the mass killings perpetrated by the Ottoman Empire (Ottoman Turkey) beginning in 1915. While Turkey rejects the term “genocide,” many countries around the world, as well as 49 states in the U.S. have labeled it as such.
In December 2019, the U.S. Senate declared the mass killing a “genocide,” a vote that prompted “denunciations by Turkey and accusations that the U.S. was undermining its relations with a key NATO [North Atlantic Treaty Organization] ally,” according to the Associated Press. Prior to 2019, official U.S. documents had not used the term genocide.
Armenians in the U.S. have tried for decades to have this event referred to as a “genocide.” In Los Angeles, there have been marches and protests that call upon the U.S. government to recognize the mass atrocities as such.
Because these marches and protests take place on April 24, often a school day, many students in Los Angeles miss out on supporting their family and friends in the “march for justice.” However, with the recent addition of this holiday to the LAUSD academic calendar, they will now have the chance to participate.
Granada Hills Charter does not recognize April 24 as a holiday, however, and students will be required to attend school.
“I am very happy about this news, especially because I have always wanted to go to the marches but have had to go to school instead. Although I will be out of school by the time the day-off comes into effect, I’m glad that students in the future will get to go out and support Armenians,” senior Diana Jabagchourian said.
This simple calendar change has reignited hope in the Armenian community.
“For Armenians, this means a great deal because we aren’t used to getting recognition and attention, and this is a step towards being recognized and heard which makes us very happy. It shows that all this fighting for justice did have a good outcome,” Jabagchourian said.
Armenians and the school board want to highlight that this day should not be seen as a free day off, but instead as a day to educate oneself on the tragedies that have been ignored and are still not completely recognized 100 years later.