The Link Between Us
By Madlen Grgodjaian /California Black Media | 5/4/2017, midnight
The biggest budget picture about the Armenian Genocide yet, funded by the late MGM owner Kirk Kerkorian was released on April 21. “The Promise,” stars Christian Bale and Oscar Isaac. Screening in over 2000 theatres across the states.
The movie details the torment Armenians endured for years in the hands of the Ottoman Turks in the early 20th century. That dark period in Eastern European history is known as the Armenian Genocide.
Watching “The Promise” and other movies that depict the horrors inflicted on the people of Armenia – a small country that neighbors Turkey, Georgia, Iran, and Azerbaijan – has a strong emotional impact on me and many other Armenian Americans. It’s a feeling I’m certain is similar to what African Americans experience when they watch “Roots,” “The Color Purple” or either of “The Birth of a Nation” pictures; movies that display how African Americans and their ancestors have felt the boot of America’s history due to slavery and racism.
I’ve felt a kinship with African Americans for as long as I can remember. An unspoken understanding of each other’s pain.
My Armenian American friends in Southern California refer to it as “kindred spirits.” Sharing histories that cannot be compared, yet unavoidably feeling we not only understand you, but we stand with you.
Los Angeles-based actor and writer Armen Babasoloukian, an Armenian American, believes Blacks and Armenians “have an unresolved trauma that keeps us in arrested development. Both are insulted and demeaned at every opportunity and yet are told to ‘get over it’,” he said.
My good friend Jaivon Grant feels a bond and commonality with Armenians as a Black American.
“Beyond our differences in skin colors are the similarities of our ancestors being subjected to harsh treatment and conditions,” he said. “Sometimes, you'll find connections in the people and places you least expect.”
The United States has continuously denied the first genocide of the 20th century. An organized massacre by the Ottoman Turks from 1915 to 1923 designed to cleanse the Armenian people. Over 1.5 million Armenians were killed during the Armenian Genocide by soldiers representing the most powerful of empires at the time. Women were rapped and children were starved to death. Those who survived fled to adjacent countries for a chance of a better life.
The Ottoman Empire was a Muslim state and wanted to exterminate the Armenians who were considered inferior due to their Christian beliefs. Turkish soldiers forced people out of their homes and acquired a good portion of Armenian land.
As an Armenian-American living in Los Angeles, I can trace my roots back to the genocide where my great-grandmother, Astghik Chashudyan, experienced the horrors of a lifetime that shaped and molded her existence.
I grew up listening to stories my grandmother would tell me about the hardships her mother endured. Astghik’s family was forced out of their home by Turkish fighters armed with guns. The men and women were separated and sent in different directions.
When Astghik was seven, she escaped with her sister and begged Turkish villagers for food after marching in the torrid sun for days. The family took them in and provided food, shelter, and protection.