K. George and Carolann Najarian, MD, Inaugural Lecture on Human Rights to Take Place at Boston’s Faneuil Hall


K. George and Dr. Carolann Najarian

BOSTON — In recognition of the groundbreaking ceremony for the Armenian Heritage Park on Boston’s Rose Fitzgerald Greenway, the K. George and Carolann S. Najarian, M.D. Inaugural Lecture on Human Rights, a program of the Armenian Heritage Foundation, will be held on Thursday, September 23, at 7 p.m. at Boston’s historic Faneuil Hall.

Free and open to the public, the endowed lecture is an annual public program of the Armenian Heritage Foundation, sponsor of Armenian Heritage Park on Boston’s Greenway.

Keynote speaker is Kerry Kennedy, human rights activist, founder and president of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights, Washington, DC, and author of Speak Truth to Power: Human Rights Defenders Who are Changing Our World.

Opening remarks will be offered by Peter Balakian, Donald M. and Constance H. Rebar Professor of the Humanities, Colgate University, poet and author of The Burning Tigris: The Armenian Genocide and America’s Response — A History of International Human Rights and Forgotten Heroes, which was the inspiration for this series. He spoke of the New England women and men — intellectuals, politicians, diplomats, religious leaders and ordinary citizens — who, beginning in the 1890s at Faneuil Hall, heard the eyewitness accounts of the atrocities taking place against the Armenian minority of the Ottoman Empire during the First World War and were called to action. Distinguished Bostonians, among them Julia Ward Howe, Clara Barton, Charlotte Perkins Gilman and Alice Stone Blackwell, heard these accounts and were moved to assist the Armenians. As a result, the American Red Cross launched its first international mission with Barton bringing aid to the Armenians. Philanthropists nationwide raised over $100 million in aid. This was America’s first internationally-focused human rights movement.

The purpose of the lecture series is to advance understanding of human rights issues and the societal abuses faced by millions today and to increase awareness of the work of individuals and organizations dedicated to eliminating these injustices so that we are all more actively engaged.

The inaugural lecture is being offered in partnership with The Bostonian Society, academic institutions and human rights organizations.

Gov. Deval L. Patrick and Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino are honorary chairs.

Co-chairs of the inaugural lecture representing their participating organization are Martha F. Davis, PhD, faculty director, Northeastern School of Law, Human Rights and the Global Economy; A. Frank Donaghue, CEO and deputy director, Physicians for Human Rights USA; Michael A. Grodin, MD, executive director, Global Lawyers and Physicians Working Together for Human Rights, Boston University School of Public Health; David Hollenbach, SJ, director, Boston College Center for Human Rights and International Justice; Shant Mardirossian, chairman of the board, Near East Foundation; Margot Stern Strom, founder/executive director, Facing History and Ourselves; Adam Strom, director of research and development Facing History and Ourselves; Deborah W. Nutter, PhD, senior associate dean, Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University; Balakrishnan Rajagopal, PhD, acting director, Massachusetts Institute of Technology Human Rights and Justice; and Joshua Rubenstein, Northeast regional director, Amnesty International USA.

The Najarians have endowed the lecture in honor of Dr. Carolann Najarian’s late father, Avedis Abrahamian. Abrahamian, who survived the Armenian Genocide, left Turkey in 1915 and arrived in Providence, RI, en route to New York City, in 1921, at the age of 15. He received his high school diploma in New York City on his 60th birthday. The lack of a formal education, however, did not prevent him from being a vociferous reader of historical texts and educating himself on the critical issues facing his generation. As he sat in his small paint store in the Bronx, NY, he welcomed customers, friends and family to join him in the back room for a glass of orange juice and more  importantly, discussion — often heated — on the critical issues facing America.

In the 1930s, he was warning against continued failure to grant African-Americans equal rights.

He forewarned that by postponing this injustice, America would pay a high price.

On the back pages of the New York Times in the mid 1960s, it was reported that ‘advisors’ were going to Vietnam and villagers were being relocated. He cautioned against the escalating war saying, “this is what was done to us — to the Armenians. They moved us out of our villages saying it was for our benefit — the US is now doing the same in Vietnam — it will not go well.”

“This endowed lecture on human rights is honor of my father as he taught so many about the need to pay attention, to spot injustice and to speak out wherever and whenever it occurs,” comments Dr. Carolann Najarian.

Highly regarded philanthropic leaders and Lincoln residents, George Najarian, a native of Cambridge, and Dr. Carolann Najarian, originally of New York City, have been actively involved in Boston’s Armenian-American community for many years. In 1989, in response to the earthquake that had devastated Armenia the previous year, they helped establish the Armenian Health Alliance, Inc., a non-profit organization to provide direct medical relief to the victims of the earthquake and more recently, the war-ravaged areas of Nagorno-Karabagh. At that time, Dr. Najarian left active medical practice to volunteer full-time as president of the Armenian Health Alliance. The Najarians also provided major support in 1999 to establish the Armenian Bone Marrow Donor Registry Trust, a non-profit organization based in Armenia. In 1989, Dr. Najarian was named “one of Boston most interesting women” in Boston Women magazine.

Since 1987, the Najarians have made more than 50 trips to the Republic of Armenia and to Nagorno-Karabagh, traveling extensively throughout both countries. The purpose of these trips was to assess the medical needs and deliver needed assistance to hospitals in major cities and villages in rural areas. In 1994, Dr. Najarian founded the Primary Care Center of Gumri, the city most devastated by the earthquake of 1988, to provide free care and medicine. In 1995, she founded the Arpen Center for Expectant Mothers in Stepanakert, to provide monthly assistance of food, vitamins, clothing and other basic necessities. Dr. Najarian documented her experiences in, A Call from Home: Armenia and Karabagh, My Journal (1999), which brings together her experience growing up as the daughter of Armenian immigrants and that of a medical relief worker in Armenia and Nagorno-Karabagh.

The Najarians’ more local philanthropic activities include establishing scholarships for students at Boston University School of Medicine, Queens College and Cambridge Rindge and Latin High School, as well as support of nonprofits  including the Food Project, Facing History and Ourselves and The Salvation Army in Cambridge.

Armenian Heritage Foundation, a nonprofit organization with representatives from 37 Armenian-American parishes and organization within Massachusetts, was founded in 2004 to design, secure designation and raise funds to construct and maintain Armenian Heritage Park on the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway, Boston.

A gift to the City of Boston and Commonwealth, Armenian Heritage Park celebrates the immigrant experience and commemorates lives lost during the 1915 Armenian Genocide and all genocides that continue to follow.

Endowed funds support the park’s annual care, reconfiguration of the sculpture and endowed public programs including the annual lecture on human rights.

For further information, visit www.ArmenianHeritagePark.net.