Updated: Aug 17
How are you? If you are anything like me, you are feeling the heaviness of this moment. You are feeling the energetic shifts of being isolated at home to out in the streets protesting. A significant and swift shift. I am feeling it. Last week, I felt exhausted, sad and frustrated. From a young age I was given the message that I don’t have the right to complain about being tired. I was led to believe I would never truly know tired or hard. I am the granddaughter of a survivor of the Armenian Genocide, so I dare not complain or rest when there is work to be done. I dare not speak of being tired or think my life is hard. I am here and live with privileges my grandparents never knew. I live knowing I must honor the lives of my ancestors. There is no time for tired.
But, I am tired! I am tired of witnessing oppression and injustice. I know a majority of us feel the same. When we wake to the injustice, the pain, the suffering and the harm inflicted upon members of the human race, we all feel it and rise. Because when we wake, we rise.
In high school I made my first “big” purchase. I purchased a numbered print of Penandi “Wild Honey," a Comanche Warrior Woman. I remember dragging my sister back to the store in Glastonbury, CT for weeks staring at the print until I finally brought her home. She has never left my bedroom wall. She has made every move with me and there have been several, nine to be exact. Every morning I wake up and see Penandi.
During college, I finally forced my dad to share our family’s story of survival when I was asked to speak at a Holocaust Remembrance Day at the University of Connecticut School of Social Work while a student. I knew about the Armenian Genocide. I’d spend every April 24 (the day marking the start of genocide in 1915) at the State House in Hartford, CT hearing about the atrocities committed by the Ottoman Turks who were on a mission to annihilate all Armenians. I attended protests, sit ins and marches and knew I could not stop or complain about being tired and finally knew why. I finally knew what happened to my family as they were marched through the Syrian Desert, tortured and murdered. I carry this with me every day, just like Penandi carried her pain and desire to live free from oppression and seek justice for the wrongs done to her people, so did I and at that moment I realized why she was so important to me as a high schooler. I could finally connect my family history with my long-time champion.
The image is of my grandfather serving on the altar of St. James Armenian Cathedral in Jerusalem.
It was all coming together, my deep routed value to stand up to oppression and injustice, the sadness and my desire to bring change to the world. I know we all have the call inside of us. For me it is fueled by never wanting to see another human being and their families suffer in the manner in which 1.5 million Armenian families suffered during the Armenian Genocide between 1915-1918. It is inspired by Penandi, my Armenian freedom fighting sisters, Gloria Steinem and Susan Falud who have led the women's movement, my family history and more recently, I have more women who remind me why I rise. And as a mom I can feel their pain and their desire for justice. Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi the founders of the Black Lives Matters movement.
What gets you out of bed in the morning? Are you waiting for others to fight the battles you know are important? Everything I think about, coach about and write about leads me to ask the questions, what is important to you and what do you value? The answers lead us to the core of who we are. The answers give us a clear understanding of our past and clearly pave the path to our future. If more people stood up for what they believe in, it would not take millions of us taking to the streets in anger and frustration to end oppression and injustice. I love the hope and the strength of peaceful protests. It is in my blood to believe in the hope of rising. We all woke and collectively decided to rise. That is power!
In Armenian our voices chant, “ baykar, baykar minch’ev verch,” rise and fight to the end.
*Last week I wrote the poem, “The Spring” to help sort out the frustration I was feeling.
It is posted on my website kacoach.com/blog if you would like to read it.
An open-hearted thank you for allowing me to share my family history. It is very important to me.