Tekeyan Cultural Association’s 34th Annual Convention in Montreal Support for Leadership and Insightful Projects Ahead
By Aram Arkun
MONTREAL – The Tekeyan Cultural Association of the US and Canada (TCA) held its 34th convention October 9 to 11. It was attended by some 30 delegates from seven chapters.
The weekend began with a manti dinner at the Tekeyan Armenian Cultural Center in the Montreal suburb of Ville Saint-Laurent. On October 10, the delegates met in the Tekeyan Center to begin their formal work. After words of greeting from the head of the local TCA host chapter, Arto Berdge Manoukian, the delegates were registered, and a secretary was selected. Nominating committee and resolutions committees were formed.
TCA Central Board chairman Dr. Haroutiun Arzoumanian presented a concise report on the developments in the most important issue of the year following the last convention (July 2014 to September 2015), the crisis which led to the closing of the TCA Arshag Dickranian School of Los Angeles at the end of last June. Declining enrollment combined with financial difficulties led to frequent, often weekly, CB meetings. In the end, the school property had to be sold in order to pay off the school’s debts and to plan alternative educational projects.
Michael S. Norehad, a founding partner of Game Plan Financial Advisors, and manager of TCA’s investment funds, attended the convention from Cleveland, Ohio, in order to report on the present status of TCA investments, as well as to provide recommendations for the future. TCA Central Board Treasurer Maro Bedrosian introduced Norehad, and explained that he had managed the TCA portfolio since 2004, providing good financial returns and maintaining fluid communications with the organization. Norehad answered questions from the delegates after his presentation.
The TCA Central Board and individual chapters presented reports on their activities over the last year. In addition, the activities of the two TCA theater groups, Hay Pem in Montreal and Mher Megerdchian in New Jersey, and the weekly newspaper Abaka were discussed.
The Sponsor A Teacher Project’s importance and the need to promote it actively were stressed. More than $42,000 US was distributed in 2014 to teachers and workers in schools bearing the Tekeyan name in Armenia and Artsakh. All money raised for this project is distributed, with administrative expenses being borne by the TCA or raised through events of TCA chapters. The funds distributed have a positive psychological effect on the teachers, and in particular, support of the school located in Berdzor, in the Lachin corridor, is strategically important for Armenia’s future.
George Mandossian and Panig Keshishian presented reports on the closing of the Dickranian School in detail in the afternoon session. In addition to this, the possible initiation of various educational projects or institutions in areas of Los Angeles with fairly dense Armenian populations was discussed by the delegates. The TCA Central Board established a committee to study the feasibility of such endeavors.
The use and needs of the TCA centers in various cities, including Altadena, California’s Beshgeturian Center, and those in Montreal, New Jersey, and Toronto, were discussed. Information was provided on two buildings connected with TCA in Yerevan. TCA financial reports were discussed, as well as the issues connected with the sale of the Dickranian School.
The convention decided to reanimate the TCA Board of Administrators in order to continue the Sponsor A Teacher project, coordinate more inter-chapter cultural activities and strengthen local chapters. The three Central Board members elected at last year’s convention to one-year terms, namely, Panig Keshishian, Kevork Keushkerian and Arto Manoukian, were reelected this year to their positions. It was decided that the Central Board would create a social media task force.
The Dicran Simsarian Trophy for the most active TCA branch this year was awarded to Los Angeles. The formal meeting concluded with the decision to hold the next convention in Los Angeles. The TCA Central Board held its own meeting in the afternoon after the delegates concluded their session.
Celebration of the 40th Anniversary of Abaka Weekly
During the evening of October 10, several hundred guests, including the TCA delegates, participated in a banquet at the TCA Center celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Canadian-Armenian trilingual weekly newspaper Abaka, and the establishment of its new website, abakanews.org. Abaka began publication on September 13, 1975, founded by the efforts of Dr. Arshavir Gundjian, Edmond Y. Azadian, Arsen Noubar Mamourian, Dr. Haroutiun Arzoumanian, Dr. Vahe Ketli and Vartouhi Balian. At first only published in Armenian, after three years it also included English and French sections.
The banquet was held under the aegis of the Primate of the Diocese of the Armenian Church of Canada Bishop Abgar Hovakimyan, and Ambassador of Armenia to Canada Armen Yeganian. Silva Amadouni-Tokatlian was the master of ceremonies. She introduced Gundjian, who spoke on behalf of the founders of Abaka. He explained how the paper supported the Armenian Church and the establishment of the Canadian-Armenian diocese, the establishment and development of the Armenian General Benevolent Union’s Montreal school, and the channeling of aid to Armenia after the 1988 earthquake and independence. It helps today in organizing the community’s position on issues like the Armenian Genocide centennial.
Gundjian announced the birth of abakanews.org, the only trilingual Armenian website providing immediate access to news on Armenia and Armenians throughout the world. He recalled past supporters of Abaka, including Alex Manoogian, Vahe Ketli, Yervant Papazian, Onnig Balian, Mgrdich Ghazarian and Vahan Kochunian, as well as numerous present supporters.
Gundjian gave special recognition to Arzoumanian for his all his contributions to Abaka over the decades. He was appointed honorary editor for life of Abaka.
Yeganian stated that publishing an Armenian paper like Abaka in the diaspora is an act of double heroism. He also spoke about the 2,797th anniversary of Yerevan, which is one of the oldest surviving cities in the world. He concluded by giving Arzoumanian the Mayreni Tesban (“Homeland Ambassador”) medal in the name of Hranoush Hakobyan, the head of the Ministry of the Diaspora of the Republic of Armenia.
As the Canadian Primate was traveling, his speech of blessings was read by Fr. Vazken Boyadjian, pastor of St. Gregory the Illuminator Cathedral in Montreal. The Primate wrote that Abaka has always been a healthy means of communication in the community, and a bridge to Armenia and other diaspora communities. Always faithful to Armenia and the Mother See of Holy Echmiadzin, it created a future. In turn, Archbishop Hovakimyan wished it a long and fruitful life.
Hagop Vartivarian then congratulated the newspaper as head of the Armenian Democratic Liberal (ADL) Press Committee, and pointed out that in its early years it regularly provided information on the activities and achievements of Soviet Armenia and the Mother See of Echmiadzin as well as on the Armenian General Benevolent Union, and, naturally, its publishers, the ADL Party and the TCA. He said that it now enters a new stage in its life, in keeping with the demands of modern technology and society, and will serve as an example to other ADL newspapers throughout the world.
Arzoumanian presented the Simsarian Trophy formally to the Los Angeles TCA branch. Gundjian then honored a veteran TCA member, Antoine Bazarbashian, for his decades of service to the organization. He said, “I consider him to be my brother,” as he was the first person Gundjian met when he came to the US, and the doors of his home were always open to him. A special plaque was given to Bazarbashian as founder of the Philadelphia TCA chapter.
A PowerPoint presentation on the history of Abaka followed, after which a special anniversary cake was cut and distributed to the guests.
The evening ended with the entertaining show provided by magician and hypnotist Spidey (Bedo Akkelian). Spidey switched back and forth from English to fluent Armenian during his act, and even incorporated issues of Abaka physically in one trick.
Tekeyan Publications Feted
The convention concluded with a special Canadian Thanksgiving luncheon at the TCA Center, followed by presentations on books recently published by TCA. Berj Kokorian served as master of ceremonies. Arzoumanian lauded Vartivarian’s new 396-page book, Travelers on the Road of the Great Dream, which is the first volume in an Armenian-language series, and contains many illustrations. It primarily focuses on the Armenagan political party and its struggles, providing biographies of many of its leaders. It also has a section on the Armenian People’s Party.
Vartivarian recalled that his teacher Vahe Vahian had predicted, while Vartivarian was his student, that Armenian-language writers would disappear in a few decades, and indeed this seems to be what is happening in the diaspora now. Yet, Vartivarian said, he felt one should never give up hope. After all, a new generation of Armenian writers sprung up even after the destruction of the Armenian Genocide.
Vartivarian intended his Travelers series to pay tribute to the ADL activists and leaders of the past who established the first revolutionary Armenian political party, based on democratic and liberal principles. A comprehensive history of the ADLP has been lacking for many years. Vartivarian intended to collect the documentation on the history of the party, scattered because of the lack of a comprehensive central archive. The projected six-volume series will be a resource for historians in the Republic of Armenia, and a guide for new members, especially youth who will join the party in the future. Vartivarian thanked veteran party members who provided him with important sources, his editor, Dr. Vatche Ghazarian, and Baydzig Kalaydjian for making necessary corrections.
Aram Arkun spoke in English on the significance of a new translation of Vahan Tekeyan’s poems, accompanied by several essays on the latter’s life and works. The bilingual volume, Vahan Tekeyan: Selected Poems (translated by Gerald Papasian and John Papasian) and edited by Edmond Y. Azadian and Gerald Papasian (see Arkun’s August 2, 2014 review in the Mirror-Spectator), bears important personal direct testimony concerning Tekeyan from Nora Ipekian Azadian (additionally including a portrait of Tekeyan by her on the front cover), and is another step toward making this important poet better known in the English-speaking world.
Edmond Y. Azadian, who wrote several chapters in the bilingual volume, took the stage to speak about this and two other books. First, he mentioned his own book, Perspectives arméniennes: Context géopolitiques, 2003-2013, published by Editions Sigest in France as pertinent to the Abaka anniversary. It contains 100 articles, all translated into French for Abaka over the years. Azadian paid tribute to the translator, Nicole Papazian, who is a third-generation contributor to the ADL press, following the examples of her grandfather Hagop Papazian and father Yervant Papazian, a former editor of Abaka. Abaka is the only place Azadian’s articles are published in French.
Secondly, Azadian dwelled on Tekeyan’s poetry, and its meaning. The two books he helped publish recently have two different audiences and goals. The Armenian-language Vahan Tekeyan: Panasdeghdzut’iunneru hadendir (Yerevan, 2012) in the Armenian language, is directed at readers and intellectuals in Armenia because Tekeyan is not very well known there yet deserves to be recognized as a national poet. The second work, as mentioned above, is bilingual. Azadian’s introduction therein is directed to non-Armenian speakers in order to bring Tekeyan to the attention of literary circles.
Archbishop Nareg Alemezian, Prelate of Cyprus, made a surprise appearance, and offered impromptu remarks praising the work of the Tekeyan Cultural Association. Alemezian is a graduate of the Tekeyan School in Beirut, Lebanon.
The highlight of the literary program was Nora Azadian’s recitations. She has specialized in reciting Tekeyan’s poems, having been trained by the poet himself. Her recitation of three of his poems was greeted with a standing ovation by the audience.
An exhibit of books recently published by TCA was available for guests to peruse after the formal talks concluded. The proceeds from the sales of books were donated by the authors to the TCA Montreal chapter.
Additionally, on October 11, a special requiem service was held in the St. Gregory the Illuminator Cathedral in Outremont to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the death of Vahan Tekeyan, as well as deceased TCA members.