The definition of activism defined from dictionary.com states, “The doctrine or practice of vigorous action or involvement as a means of achieving political or other goals, sometimes by demonstrations, protests, etc.” This last week the ANCA-WR summer internship program, had a special guest by the name of Mourad Topalian.
Mr. Topalian is a prominent Armenian-American political activist, former chairman of the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) and was a Vice president of Cuyahoga Community College in state of Ohio. The presentation was an informative lecture on a number of important topics such as activism, giving back to the Armenian community, the history of Hai Tahd (Armenian cause), its issues and how they have grown throughout the last 8 decades.
This was one of the most empowering lectures so far within the internship program. Mr. Topalian talked about a familiar issue; the history of the U.S social movements in 1960’s. The 60’s were a time where change and protests against societies norms were more common and influential. This was a time period when S.D.S (Students of a Democratic Society) was established and created one of the largest counter-culture movements in the United States. This student organization was created by members that participated in the civil rights movement involving S.N.C.C organization (Students Nonviolent Coordinating Committee) and The Freedom Ride Summer of 1963.
This atmosphere of unrest and the need for change gave birth to the first ever Armenian Genocide Recognition protest in New York City in 1968. One of the young Armenian Americans who helped start the Genocide Recognition protest during that time was Mourad Topalian. This protest like any other protest at the time, had created controversy within the AYF (Armenian Youth Federation) elders and the Armenian community. Mourad Topalian and 7 other young AYF memebrs were told that protests were not allowed by the organization as an approach to push for Armenian Genocide Recognition. This opposition did not stop active Armenians like Mourad to continue fighting for Hai Tahd (Armenian cause) issues. Over time, this movement acted as the catalyst for more Armenians to get involved in Hai Tahd (Armenian cause) issues in the United States .
The activism of the Armenian American community throughout the years has reached the ears of state legislators regarding the recognition of the Armenian Genocide, as well as, securing U.S. foreign assistance for the Republic of Armenia and the Nagorno Karabakh Republic, calling attention to vital issues, such as curriculum requirements within public school systems to educated students about the Armenian Genocide.
Mourad Topalian taught me that the journey in fighting for Hai Tahd issues is endless . This difficult journey to leave my footprints in Armenian history books has just begun. When I have finally reached my destination, I hope to influence future generations in their efforts to pave the road of our people in a positive direction just like Mourad Topalian did for this generation.