How The Wolf Was Made

By Melissa Lake

I used to be Armenian,
until they took that from me too.

Except they made me better.

Now I am a chimera of all the things they could not kill:
a descendant of a people who could not break.
I have evolved to be smarter and more powerful and stronger.

They killed me and created something better:
gave me an echoing howl and a tougher hide and razor teeth. Now I have claws that sink in and won’t let go.

I would never have been born if they weren’t afraid of what I could be. Now I’m greater than I ever was.

I stand at their doorway, heavy breath at their neck, blood dripping from my muzzle. They are afraid of the monster they created.

And they should be.

Melissa Haygan Lake

By Melissa Lake

I wince as my professor calls out the attendance; “HAY GAN” he says, in two sharp, nasally syllables. “Actually, it’s pronounced like Hi-Gone.” He doesn’t correct himself and continues down the list. “Haygan” I say again, interrupting him. “It was my grandmother’s name. Today is the anniversary of our genocide.”

It is strange to think the one thing that we use to label ourselves for our entire lives, our name, is not even something we are free to choose. Our most constant and indelible part of our identity is often chosen before we even take our first gasp of air, gifted to us by people who are virtual strangers.  And yet, somehow, our names come to define us intrinsically. How strange the turbulent mix of fate and destiny and lack of free will melds together in a near perfect form millions of times a day to blindly identify an entire future. And yet, regardless of all this lack of choice, more often than not, that name that was chosen before we were ever given a chance to form our own presence can come to define us more than any other nomenclature we could staple to our persona.

I used to say that the only gift my grandmother ever gave me was my middle name, and while I know now that that statement is inherently false, as my grandmother bestowed countless intangible gifts like courage and strength and history upon me, my grandmother’s christening gift to me is my strongest connection to my heritage.

I used to hate my middle name. How bitter I was, surrounded in a sea of Marie-s and Ann-s, with a name no one could neither pronounce nor spell, a remnant of a people and a culture no one knew about. My cultural identity became reduced to the abbreviation “H.” and was something I neither talked about nor wanted to talk about. I was ignorantly ashamed of a remnant of a history more powerful and awe-inspiring than I could even fathom, and in my shame, I disgraced a culture far more noble than I.

For years I was H. , a one letter symbol of my cultural denial. I reveled in my ease at being able to conform; a white girl with a white name. But blind conformity is boring and bland. My whiteness was not nearly as fun or entertaining or interesting as my true ethnic heritage. Being Armenian actually was a lot cooler than being like everyone else, it turned out. So when I learned to embrace my ancestry, when I learned to love being Armenian more than I loved fitting in, I became Haygan again.

But Haygan came at a price, it came with a burden of history and memory and sadness. Haygan came with a sense of duty, because remembering is a holy, sacred thing, and it is a calling all Armenians share. Being born Armenian, being gifted with the name of Haygan, instilled in me an obligation to do what the world could not, bring justice to the generations of people whose future was never formed because of one of the greatest crimes against humanity to ever occur.

But there was a sense of beauty in being born Armenian as well, for we are a rich culture not defined solely by our tragic past. For a people who have suffered so much and who have experienced no closure, we are lively and welcoming and jovial. Our tiny country and its hundreds of diasporas has a voice louder than that of nations 100 times its size. We are powerful and determined and tenacious. Now, more than ever, the world is hearing what we have to say, and they are acting with us.

My grandmother is the strongest woman I have never met, gone before I had the chance to form in my mother’s womb. A woman born in the middle of a period of unspeakable blight, may the privilege and opportunity I was conversely born into paint me as the phoenix rising from her ashes, from the ashes of her past and her culture’s history, and may I bring her honor by carrying her name with the same cloak of fierce pride and strength that she shrouded herself in.

So today, on the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, I am not Melissa Lake. On a day that reminds us of the egregious cost that comes from forgetting, I am the name that lies hidden, sandwiched between a chorus of cultural assimilation. Today, and all days, I am Haygan.

The Armenian Who Thought She Was a Turk

By Melissa Lake

An important part of stating Armenian culture has never died is to focus on its evolution. In biology we determine the fitness of a species by its ability to adapt to and cope with its environment, and just like animals will experience the Darwinian “survival of the fittest” law of nature, cultures throughout society have come and gone, waxed and waned, morphing and changing with time, some continuing on while others are left to die. As a scientist, I’m inclined to draw parallels to the laws of nature, so Armenian culture was no different to me. I see our common ancestor, a rich but concentrated culture exclusive to almost one singular area of the world, and I see its descendants, its gradual evolution and growth, its continued adaptations needed to survive in new environments. I see the branching from the original, the creation of different sub-families within a greater species. And like species in nature, while we all share a similar common ancestor, while our basic foundations are from the same source, all different Armenian cultures had to individually adapt to survive to their unique environments.

For my personal cultural experience, I was raised believing I was Turkish while still knowing I was Armenian. Whether it be to spare a child from tales of horrific violence, the inability to speak of a wound still raw and painful, or the fact that the reason my family is here today is thanks to the kindness of Turkish strangers, my mother never really spoke to me of the genocide when I was young. So my youth was a mix of two conflicting cultures: I ate breakfast in a kitchen adorned with Armenian flags but then talked about Turkey when people asked what ethnicity my mother was. My mother never renounced her nationality but also never abandoned her heritage. She was Turkish-Armenian just as American diaspora-born Armenians are Armenian-American. But I think this cultural fusion speaks more for Armenian perseverance than it does of forced Turkish cultural assimilation. My mother and her family spent years hiding their true ethnicity, adopting a culture that had seen to the decimation of their own. And yet their root culture was not lost, it had simply changed, evolving in its latency.

I’m here now, an adult raised a part of two enemy cultures, proud to say I am both, but also acutely aware that I am an Armenian by blood and birthright, and a Turk by genocide. And thus, I don’t think it would be too bold to say that Armenian genetics are a dominant trait. Somewhere on one of our 46 chromosomes sits an allele unique to Armenians and even through generational dilution it still permeates as strong as ever.

Even I stand up here today, half Turkish diasporan Armenian and half generationally American, raised in a town where I was the only Armenian, incapable of speaking the language of my ancestors, more than aware that I am Armenian before I am anything else. And whether it be through generations of ethnic mixing or from sheer distance from an elusive homeland, this genomic marker still remains permanent and impervious to the effects of time and other evasive cultural interference.

We are a culture of a people marred by tragedy and driven by strength. We are a culture of people who refuse to be forgotten, a people who refuse to be ignored and driven into obscurity. We are a culture that has survived through insurmountable strife and impossible odds. We are a culture that has come back from the systematic annihilation of our people stronger than we were before. You can drag us from our homes, you can burn us and rape us and reduce us to nothing, you can forcefully and coercively take the people out of Armenia, but you cannot, through any form of abuse or injustice or forced assimilation, take Armenia out of the people.

100 Years Later

By Melissa Lake

There is absolutely no rebuttal in saying that the Armenian Genocide was a horrific and senseless display of human cruelty and indifference. It is a large, unsightly stain upon the history of the world. I’m certain that if it were scientifically possible, most people would have it so that such an immense human tragedy had never happened.

However, while some may think it callous to say so, it would be historically and culturally ignorant to not take into consideration the few positive outcomes that resulted from the Armenian Genocide.

Armenians today could be described as a diaspora culture. Our ethnic heritage may have its roots placed in a small area in the west of Europe but the branches of our cultural tree have grown far and wide across the globe. A culture once fenced in and limited to a specific geographical region of the world has both developed and evolved, changing and morphing into something much different from what it began, as well as much different from other branches on the same familial tree.

Armenians are a people united in origin and fundamental cultural and dogmatic practices and yet it seems almost as if that is where our unity ends. The mass displacement of Armenians during the years preceding and during the genocide caused an irreparable cultural tear from traditional practices that we can easily see the effects of today. Armenians raised generationally in Syria, or Istanbul, or on the East Coast of the United States, while sharing some lasting and vital cultural characteristics, could be labeled as their own unique subcultures, somewhat similar but still astoundingly different.

I first realized this when I dated an Armenian who had grown up in New York City. At a young age, he had been adopted from Armenia. Both his parents were Armenian, so he spent the entirety of his young adult life immersed in his personal sect of Armenian culture- a small diaspora located in the New York/New Jersey area. So much of his appeal to me was a chance to connect with someone with a similar cultural background- to be able to share common beliefs and ideals and family lifestyles. But the more time I spent with him, the more acutely aware I became of the dissimilarity we shared culturally. His family life was much more reserved and conservative, full of professionals who behaved, well, professionally. And my family life was far different. The Armenians I grew up with were carefree, eccentric and astoundingly loud. So when I tried to joke with him about how the most cheetah print and stripper heels I’ve ever seen in my life were at the Armenian church on Easter Sunday, he had absolutely no idea what I was talking about. And it was then that I realized exactly how much our culture has changed. The diaspora I grew up in, a large community of mostly Turkish and Syrian Armenians, was bound to be immensely different than others across the world. So much of our cultural traditions had adapted and grew with our change of scenery so that now, intermingled with our traditional beliefs and practices, are customs native to the places Armenians have found themselves. So my reality was that my culture was as much Turkish as it was Armenian, regardless of the fact that my mother and my family had spent their whole lives immersed in “Armenian” culture.

Many see this as a terrible tragedy, as an egregious calamitous aftermath of a horrific event. Yet it seems that the people who see it this way are also those that believe that change is terrifying. Cultural evolution, especially from a biological and historical context, is not only intrinsically necessary but humanitarianly beneficial. Culture changes with the evolution of time. The fact that Armenians as a people were able to experience such an immense tragedy and still maintain a base foundational cultural identity is less of an unfortunate loss and more of a remarkable achievement.

For a people who were ignored for much of history, Armenians across the world have been gaining renown and spreading Armenian awareness with their success, all while breathing new life into Armenian cultural identity. And still all Armenians share the cultural pain of our genocide. For such an immense act of human injustice, the Armenian Genocide is in all likelihood one of the largest sources for encouragement on Armenian communal gathering today. To say it is culturally irrelevant or unimportant would be to disregard what Armenian culture has become. Through such immense hardship and strife, Armenians have endured, and this shared strength and pride and yet also immense sadness has woven itself into a key block in the foundation of Armenian culture.

So through all of the varying differences Armenians culturally share today we are bonded together foundationally by our shared history and our distant past. Where we may lead different lifestyles and have different beliefs, as a culture we are bonded by what we were and what we’ve endured but also by what we may become. As the 100 year anniversary of the genocide looms ever closer, Armenians have become more active in their communities than ever and slowly but surely gaps that have existed between varying diasporas are narrowing. For a country that once struggled to maintain its cultural identity in the midst of war and systematic annihilation, it has flourished and grown into something even greater than what it began.

A Broken Culture

By Melissa Lake

I think one of the saddest travesties of our generation is the push for the decimation of individual culture. We are the generation that saw bhindis and belly skirts as fashion forward- as long as they adorned the bodies of skinny white women. We consider ourselves so receptive and accepting- as we assimilate all of these beautiful aspects of foreign culture into our own without any personal regard or sense of respect toward the people we steal it from. And it’s sadly not a one-sided affair.

Women and men of color- or of any foreign ethnicity- are too quick to abandon aspects of their culture that have permeated through generations. We are so quick to “white-wash” ourselves, to fit into a culture where when a white girl wears a sari it’s seen as “boho-chic” and when a brown girl wears one it’s “you’re in America now, it’s time to act like it”. We pick and choose what to like about a culture to fulfill our own selfish desires. We are selectively racist and electively ignorant. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard boys tell me how much they “love Armenian girls” and subsequently not even be able to so much as point out the general area Armenia is on a map or tell me a single fact about my culture. These boys praise themselves for being culturally liberal and morally righteous for being generous enough to be interested in a not-so-standard ideal of beauty (a foreign culture in this instance) when in reality they’re just trying to sleep with an exotic-looking girl. And I wish I could say Armenians are innocent to this tragedy, the forced “white-washing”, but we are just as guilty as anyone else.

I grew up around Armenian boys who proudly swore that they would “never date an Armenian girl”. Boys who fought so hard to lose their culture, to entirely disregard their ethnic identity, rather than realize they lived in a society that encouraged them to forget their heritage. I am so sick and tired of hearing my ethnicity being used as a sexual trademark. I am so sick of people telling me that they are or are not attracted to an entire race of people because it is or is not socially lauded to desire girls from that race. My ethnicity doesn’t make me special or more or less desirable. My ethnicity doesn’t make me “sexy” or “beautiful” or “slutty” or “trashy” or “shallow”. My ethnicity makes me Armenian and it’s me and my choices that make me everything else.

A Story to Tell – Part 2

By Melissa Lake

Disclaimer: By no means is this my story, not even is it entirely my grandfather’s story, but in some way or another, it is every Armenian’s story. This telling of my grandfather’s past has been repeated through generations and parts where memories were either lost or forgotten have been cautiously filled in by me. This is not meant to be an entirely historically accurate piece but I can promise you that the emotions displayed within it are one hundred percent true. This is the story of my grandfather and his survival of the Armenian Genocide.

When I was young, I remember reading a story about how squirrels are one of the most kind-hearted creatures in the animal kingdom based on their tendency to adopt other, non-related baby squirrels that had been either orphaned or abandoned. I thought that was a strange characteristic to determine the goodness of something, but then I realized, only humans are capable of deeper qualities like mercy or forgiveness and that kindness is rare in the animal world. Another fact about squirrels that has earned them their title of honor is that they tend to be very altruistic creatures, willing to put their own lives at risk to ensure the safety of their kin. So if we base the idea of primitive goodness off qualities of compassion and self-sacrifice, my fifteen year old recently orphaned grandfather found himself in very good hands.

The part the movies always forget to show you when your favorite hero is courageously sprinting from danger with widened eyes and shortened breath is the hesitation before the leap. That brief flicker of doubt before our autonomic nervous system decides fight or flight- where our brain fights with itself- deciding whether or not it wishes to live. For a boy who lost everything in a single day, my grandfather’s body must have been in the living equivalent of rigor mortis, every muscle fighting with every tendon, deciding whether to live or die. Pumped full of both adrenaline and doubt, in seconds that felt more like days, a fifteen year old boy had to choose between a futile last goodbye coupled with a far-fetched chance at vengeance, or a future. In the end, humans are animals of instinct, we are genetically and biologically programmed to save ourselves, and in what may have been the worst four seconds of my grandfather’s life, a primitive urge he could barely control told him run.

If such a thing as fate existed, its dark wings must have been what carried my grandfather to the doorstep of a home he had never seen before. Exhausted and afraid, he tucked his small frame into a dusty alley, both welcoming and fearful of the sleep that was falling upon him. Hours later, as the sun rose with a red hue deep enough to compete with the bloodshed of the night its morning rays cast away, a portly woman with dark hair streaked with gray stumbled over the protruding foot of a young boy asleep beside her home.

Startled awake, the urge to flee surely overcame my grandfather again. But whether it be maternal instinct, deep-rooted compassion, or our dear friend fate once again, the strange woman invited my grandfather into her home and his weary body accepted before his brain could even process the danger.

My grandfather spent three years in a home living as a refugee and a pseudo-son. In a time when Armenians were being hunted with the same fervency that Hitler hunted Jews, the family who took him in must have known his true identity and still sheltered him regardless. Their altruism and kindness is to what I owe my life. And while everyday must have been rife with fear and paranoia, there must also have been enough love and affection that inspired such gratitude in my grandfather for him to name his first son after the man who saved his life.

While my grandfather lived a life that was more comfortable than most, the time came when he knew he must leave. Eighteen and alone, his new family did its best to prepare him for a world that was entirely against him. And so, on an overcast day in the middle of the spring, my grandfather walked out the door leaving behind his past and taking with him a new name- Marash.

A Story to Tell – Part 1; War

By Melissa Lake

Disclaimer: By no means is this my story, not even is it entirely my grandfather’s story, but in some way or another, it is every Armenian’s story. This telling of my grandfather’s past has been repeated through generations and parts where memories were either lost or forgotten have been cautiously filled in by me. This is not meant to be an entirely historically accurate piece but I can promise you that the emotions displayed within it are one hundred percent true. This is the story of my grandfather and his survival of the Armenian Genocide.

I had never met my grandfather. Dead long before I was born, all I’ve ever been told of him was that he was a stubborn man, steely in composition and in manor, cold and harsh. Much older than my grandmother, he was burly with a thick Sultan curled mustache that was his singular pride and joy. My mother told me that he never spoke, just yelled. “A man carved from stone” as my uncle always referred to him, his salt and pepper hair mimicking the speckling of the granite stone he so resembled in appearance and demeanor. A bitter man, hardened by the injustice that life had served him, he still had a deep-rooted compassion within him reserved exclusively for his dozen children and his considerably younger wife. A man who reasonably should have been filled with hatred and spite, his unique life experiences and the unexpected clemency of strangers freed him from the burden of a life contaminated with a vengeance complex and unfaltering enmity. A survivor since birth, hard work and sacrifice were the two things he knew best and I can imagine pride being his first response to seeing how far his children and their children have come.

My grandfather’s story begins with the last name he was born with- Marootian. It was a name both he and his family would have regarded with fierce pride, not only for the ancestors and history it represented, but for the home country it connected them to. My grandfather lived only 15 years with the name his family had worn for centuries, and perhaps his story begins on the day he earned his new one, Marash.

Anyone who has done any type of research into the Armenian Genocide would recognize the name of the place where some have said it all began. Turkey was in a state of turmoil, immersed in a war it did not have the funds or willpower to fight in, they were starting to realize they had chosen the losing side. Rage and resentment built up in the hearts of its population as fast as bodies piled up on battlefields. And in times of desperation, it is easier to blame those that are weaker than it is to blame those that are guilty. And here, on the precarious precipice between losing a war and losing all hope, is where my grandfather and his family met their fate. Residents of the large Armenian section in the city of Marash, for years they lived in peace and comfort. When the city was taken by Allied forces, Armenians- including residents and refugees- took sanctuary in their community; hospitals, churches- places where they felt safe, where they had always felt safe. But safety and sanctuary is never guaranteed in war.

My grandfather was 15 years old when he watched the cold gleam of sharpened steel flash across his mother’s neck and the blood poor out of her with more agonizing potency then the cry of anguish that left her lips. He was 15 when he heard the screams of his friends and neighbors as they were burned alive, trapped inside the church he had been christened in. He was 15 as he watched his people be massacred and tortured one by one with less mercy and humanity than is shown to animals being led to slaughter. At 15 years old my grandfather was orphaned, alone, and homeless- hiding in the rubble of a ruined city with nothing left to do but run.

Pulling Teeth

By Melissa Lake

Growing up, my Aunt always used to say that getting Turks and Armenians to interact amicably was like “pulling teeth”. And by all literal comparisons, she was completely right- it was often a bloody, difficult, painful task that left things sore and only slightly better off than when they started. And call it fate, or divine intervention, or the cruel tragedy of the reality of my life, but I discovered first hand in a literal sense the symbolic meaning behind the “pulling teeth” struggle between the Armenians and the Turks.

I was born with a rare genetic defect that caused two of my adult premolars to never form and thus the baby teeth remained to serve as my pseudo-adult teeth. For generations this issue has existed within my mother’s family and it has never been a large cause for concern. For 20 years, my soft fragile, baby teeth remained in my mouth, slowly being eaten away by everyday use- decaying and softening. And then the time came where it was finally time for them to go and my uncle (who has the same problem) assured my mother that he “had a friend” who could take them out for me and place an implant in.

And thus began the most illegitimate medical experience of my entire life. The dentist was an Armenian, with only a foreign dental license so consequently he was forbidden from legally practicing in the U.S. He had been running an under-the-table dental operation within the heart of the largest Armenian diaspora outside of Armenia itself and his clientele were mostly older Armenians. The “office” was located in a warehouse; it shared the building with an auto repair shop and metal factory. There was no sign, nothing that would indicate that any sort of medical professional worked in the building. The only thing that would possibly allude to the fact that there was more to this building than heavy metal work was an Armenian last name pasted onto the glass front door in faded and peeling block sticker letters. When my uncle rang the doorbell, a large man with a thick mustache and a white apron I’ve only ever seen butchers in meat markets wear opened the door. My first instinct was flight, and as my knees tensed ready to help me escape, my mother smelled my fear and pushed me in.

The office looked exactly as how I always pictured a third-world dentist office would look. The machinery had at least a good 20 years on me, sharp metal instruments were lain strewn about. The paint was peeling from the walls and directly in front of me was a large canvas painting of a countryside with Armenian lettering scrawled on the bottom. I was terrified. I had spent my whole life in professional dental offices to come here- a place where I could almost hear the echoes of the screams from previous patients reverberating off the walls. “If there was a God, he could not help me now”- I thought to myself in panic as the large dentist examined my tooth, his gloveless hands in my mouth. All I could see was his thick mustache moving as he talked in Turkish to my mom and uncle, the panic in me swelling. He X-rayed my teeth to confirm what I had known my entire adult life- that the baby teeth were all I had-no adult teeth would be making an appearance to take their place. And as he was explaining this to me, he reached into one of his drawers and pulled out a set of pliers that I pray were designed solely for medical use and looked at me as he said in a broken, accent stained English “the tooth needs to come out today”.

If I had ever felt fear before in my life it was nothing to what I felt then. Every muscle ached as they strained to fight every one of my survival reflexes and remain seated while adrenaline pumped through my body. I turned to my mother and begged “Please just knock me out”. They all laughed, like captors laugh at frightened prey. He pulled out a needle and assured me that I wouldn’t feel a thing and as he poked my gums with it and injected the liquid into the base of my tooth, my eyes shot daggers at my mother. As he waited for my mouth to numb, my mom asked him in English about his children, probably thinking that my panic would subside hearing a language I could understand (she was wrong). He talked about how his daughter was going to dental school, how she would be the fourth generation dentist in the family. And my mother, who could never pass up an opportunity to pry deep into someone’s past, asked him about his grandfather who had practiced in Istanbul. He asked me about how numb I felt, reached for his pliers and told my mom, “My grandfather was the best dentist in Istanbul. The Turks would never admit it, but even they would go see him and deny it if anyone asked.” At this point, the pliers were snug around my tooth, wiggling back and forth, and then accompanied by the most horrifying tearing sound you could imagine. I could hear every tendon ripping and I could feel nothing. When the tooth was finally out, after my mom made sure to ask if she could keep it, the dentist had me rinse my mouth and while I was bent over spitting up blood, he patted my back and jokingly said, “Aren’t you glad you’re Armenian? Any other dentist would have taken twice as long.” My mom and my uncle both laughed and I gave my best attempt at a smile, the half-numbness of my face causing me to look like I was suffering a stroke.

If I was capable of speaking, I would have told him I’m happy to be Armenian every day, maybe just not so much on days that it means brutal medical procedures. I’m happy and proud and honored to be part of a people who have faced and still face callous discrimination and are able to move past it and through it with grace and dignity. And the day may never come when relations between Turks and Armenians are free from enmity and vehemence, where Armenians are no longer seen as inferiors, where seeking their help is no longer a thing of shame, but we have always been a strong people and we will continue to be a strong people, one tooth pulling at a time.

Armenian-American

By Melissa Lake

People, after learning I’m Armenian, often ask me how I identify myself. In essence, they’re asking me which little white box I check off on forms underneath the ethnicity section. White? Asian? Other?

Born fair-haired and light-skinned, from a young age I identified by exactly what I appeared to be- white. As I grew older and I discovered the palest shade of makeup was still too dark for my ivory skin, my ethnic identity was pretty firmly founded. And along with my ethnicity came the privilege that being categorized as “white” contains- no snide remarks were ever made about the color of my skin, no latent prejudices; the system was more skewed to work in my favor. I never faced racism or discrimination because of the color of my skin. I was (as almost sickening as it is to say) blessed for being born white. But my mother wasn’t so lucky. Already crippled by a thick and barely distinguishable accent, the combination of that along with her darker skin and her exotic features immediately categorized her as a foreigner, and by direct association, an outcast. People treated her differently than they would treat me. Clerks and cashiers in stores grew immediately impatient with her, people would slander her with terrorist incriminations or various snide remarks. She was often the butt end of every joke about foreigners. People on a consistent basis would tell her to “go back to where she came from”, to “learn English”- it was a constant onslaught of people reminding her of how much she didn’t belong, of how different she was. And where I was advantaged because of my race, she was hindered by hers. People, especially people who are privileged enough to not have to personally face it, tend to be very ignorant of the subtle racism that occurs within our everyday lives. Even blindly, unknowingly, seemingly subconsciously, we commit indistinct acts, seemingly harmless, of racism and discrimination- choosing a line that’s a little longer at the checkout to avoid the cashier with the accent, making a snide joke about the waiter- even I, born to a mother who is forced to endure these offences on a daily basis, am guilty. And my mother cannot be the only victim in this and I the only perpetrator.

Armenians are a people who have been ostracized for generations and while at times our voices against our oppressors speak loud and true, other times they are muffled pleas fading into background noise. Sometimes the fight has to be a small one, a single battle in a larger war. We are not voiceless victims and we must also be accepting and understanding of those who share the same fate and circumstance as our ancestors and that we still endure today. Being Armenian isn’t just being Armenian, it’s being human. It’s being strong and compassionate and empathetic. And for that reason we have to recognize that thousands of Armenians and other peoples face injustice and discrimination across the country for being considered foreign in a land they have called home for years if not generations. The struggle with being Armenian may start with the Genocide but it doesn’t end there, not with thousands being considered second class citizens for the way they dress or speak or look. The Genocide will never be acknowledged unless something is said, unless a voice is carried to an ear that will hear it and act upon it. And as much as it is an obligation for us all to speak for those who can no longer speak, it is also a responsibility for us to speak for those who speak and who will not be heard, for what good is a voice if no one will listen?

The Forgotten Genocide

By Melissa Lake

I used to be Armenian
until they took that from me too
like they took my grandparents lives
and then had the audacity to say
they were casualties of war.
And still my people fight
against an impossible, intangible foe
Denial.
And all we want is to be heard
to be understood
for someone to say
we were wrong
but instead forced ignorance is their only currency
and every blow is a little deeper
and every lie is killing twice.