Archive for the 'Colorado' Category

US Elections: The Armenian Effect

Photo: Obama’s largest campaign rally in Denver, Colorado, on October 26, 2008


Today I took my Mom to a Lady’s Night at an Armenian friend’s house in Boulder, where in lieu of birthday presents the host had asked guests to donate to the Barack Obama campaign on her personalized page. Although not a citizen just yet, this was not the first time my Mom made a donation to the Obama campaign. In fact, proportionally speaking, she is perhaps a top Obama donor.


While sometimes it feels that to be part of the “real Armenian community” in the United States one needs to live in Southern California, actually right now Colorado is the Armenian-American political center – at least through Tuesday.


I learned from local Armenian-American volunteers for the Obama campaign that there are approximately 3,000 registered voters with “ian” and “yan” last names (the common ending of Armenian names) in Colorado, a swing state. This basically means that Armenian-Americans in Colorado could decide the U.S. elections.

Denver: Democrats Are Coming

By the end of the week, my family and friends around the world won’t ask me “where is it?” when I tell them I live in Denver.


In a few hours, the Democratic National Convention will start in a city that last year had over 12 million overnight visitors. Still, Denver is not, yet, as famous as New York, Chicago, Dallas or Los Angeles.


But with its beautiful architecture and nature, Colorado’s capital and largest city Denver will quickly win hearts. The nearby Red Rocks, the beautiful State Capitol (where I work), yummy restaurants and cozy bars offer locals and visitors exceptional pleasure and leisure.


Dating back to 1858, Denver is a century and a half old. It became the state capital after Golden and Colorado City lost their bid. It was a simple decision – Denver had more women than any other city in the state.


More women – more rights. In 1893, women in Colorado won their right to vote – only the second in the nation. In 1894, three women were elected to serve in the House of Representatives. Before them, no woman had served as a senator or representative anywhere else in the United States.


In 1908, when the Democratic National Convention met in Denver for the first time, women were allowed to be delegates at the convention for the first time. It wasn’t until 1920, though, when the federal government extended the right to vote to all women.


Along with progressive history, Colorado has darks sides too. In 1864, Colorado volunteers (who thought they were fighting in the Civil War) exterminated an entire peaceful camp of Native Americans at Sand Creek. And in the 1920s, Colorado’s governor was a member of the Ku Klux Klan.


With a diverse history, Colorado isn’t ethnically very diverse. Denver is the exception, where along with white Americans you will see Americans from all races and of all countries. Perhaps this diversity is what makes Denver so hospitable. Hospitality in Denver is almost as good as in Armenia.


Speaking of Armenians, many people get surprised when they find a quarter-century-old Armenian Genocide monument-plaque at the Colorado State Capitol. And although the Armenian community is not very large (perhaps 4,000 in and around Denver), its roots are very old.


Once I came across to a January 27, 1884, article in the local Rocky Mountain News. It talked about four Armenians, originally from what is now eastern Turkey, who had come from Italy. In Denver, they had become merchants. But in their hearts, they had always stayed Armenians and dreamed of returning to their homeland. Their hope was to return to Armenia: “My brother feels as I do, that in our own beautiful land in Asia Minor lies our destiny and it may be that near our old home we shall find at last the ancient site of Eden.”


Had they returned to Armenia, they would have been killed either in the Hamidian massacres or in the Genocide of 1915. I don’t know if they returned or not.


A number of Armenian friends – many of them with the media – are visiting Denver for the Convention this week. Voice of America is planning to interview local Armenians and guests.


I learned from the U.S. Embassy last month that Armenia had two-member delegation traveling to Denver for the Democratic National Convention.


WELCOME to all who are in Denver this week.  

Colorado: Clinton Family Friend Votes for Obama

As Barack Obama has won the Colorado caucuses in an overwhelming majority, the Denver Post carries a story on a long-time Clinton family friend who has voted for Barack Obama:

8:05 p.m. Pioneer Elementary School, Lafayette, Dems,

After the lobbying for the undeclared delegates is over, 30-year-old Ari Gerzon of Lafayette moved to the Obama side of the room. He said, “In the end, I see him as more potentially electable. He is galvenizing an attraction to politics again. I have read both Obama’s books and he’s a transcendent figure who can inspire people who no longer believe in politics.”

Hillary Clinton is family friend of the Gerzon family. He’s known her personally since he was 5 years old. His parents worked with her in New Haven, Conn., at the Children’s Defense Fund.

Ari is a fifth-grade teacher at Indian Peaks Elementary School in Longmont.

Pregnant Pear Pictured

I was walking in Downtown Denver this Friday when I noticed an outdoors art market on the 16th street. 

One artist’s work depict natural and human objects – fruits, hands, eggs – showing human shapes and actions.  My favorite one was the pregnant pear!  Here are some more photos…


This one was titled “On the Other Hand”‘

Ku Klux Klan Governor Online

I just noticed that Colorado’s official website features an article on the infamous Ku Klux Klan governor Clarence Morley who was Colorado’s head between 1925 and 1927.

…Morley’s political ascent paralleled an anti-minority, anti-foreign, anti-Jewish, and anti-Catholic sentiment that existed throughout the country during the 1920’s. Proponents of these beliefs found many supporters in the Ku Klux Klan, which in Colorado came under the leadership of the charismatic and persuasive John Galen Locke. Locke focused less on the overt violence and racism that characterized many other Klan groups and more on creating one of the strongest political machines that Colorado had thus far seen. As the Denver Post wrote, “..beyond any doubt the KKK is the largest and most cohesive, most efficiently organized political force in the state…” Under Locke’s control, the Klan secured a variety of political seats and gained advantageous alliances, including one with Ben Stapleton, mayor of Denver. Taking advantage of weak leadership in the Republican Party, the Klan promoted Judge Morley as the party’s choice for governor. The primarily conservative voters of Colorado tended to vote for a straight Republican party ticket, and thus also chose the Klan. The Republicans, top-heavy with Klan members, won the 1924 election by a landslide. The Klan instituted Morley as Governor, obtained a majority in the House and Senate, elected the Secretary of State, and secured a Supreme Court Judgeship as well as seven benches on the Denver District Court. John Galen Locke’s Ku Klux Klan now seemed to be in control of the Colorado political system…

He was finally arrested in 1935… for mail fraud and died in Oklahoma City on November 15, 1948.

A newly opened gallery at the Colorado State Capitol also makes mention of the Klansman with a photo depicting him and his kin.  The legend says during Morley only Klansmen worked at the Capitol.

KKK governor (first from right) and others at his office as seen in a Colorado State Capitol permanent gallery © Blogian 2007

My new film: Human Trafficking in Colorado

Today, in 2007, there are more slaves in the world than 200 years ago. Modern slavery is known as human trafficking and it is the fastest growing global crime.

Produced by two other University of Colorado students and myself in Spring 2007, “Rocky Mountain Slavery: The Story of Human Trafficking in Colorado” gives the picture of sex trade in the Centennial State.

An undercover investigator, an elected official and other community members share with us information about this heinous crime that most Coloradoans are not aware of.

An ordinary citizen in downtown Denver thinks human trafficking means “lots of people walking on the street.” We find out that there are, indeed, “lost of people” in trafficking, but they are not walking on the street at all. They are isolated, beaten, raped and dehumanized in the most unimaginable ways.

To watch the film at, go to

Saving the World: My Three Cents

I just received an e-mail from my school (University of Colorado at Denver) informing the students that a referendum to increase alternative energy use and other environmental projects on our campus – shared by two other schools – has passed by 96%:

Last week downtown Denver campus students went to the polls to consider an increase in student fees to support the Sustainable Campus Program.

The response was overwhelming, with 96% of UCDHSC (University of Colorado at Denver and Health and Sciences Center) students supporting an increase of $1 per semester each year through 2011. Colleague students at Metro State and the Community College of Denver also voted for the proposal, with 97% and 95% support

The program aims to enhance renewable energy programs, including increased purchase of solar and wind power sources, implementation of a comprehensive campus recycling program, increased energy efficiency in buildings, reduced per capita water use and education of our community on ways to become a sustainable campus.

The final steps in this effort include review and approval of the student fee by each of the institutional governing boards.  

I am extremely happy that my first time ever voting in a referendum brought the resulsts that I so wanted. I titled the post “My Three Cents,” because in addition to getting my own back to the voting booth to vote I also (literally) forced two of my classmates – whom I saw on the way – to go together and vote (we had to go to renew the student ID for one of them).

We were ten minutes late to class, but we did the right thing.

Talk about SEX

OK my title got some of you.  I meant talk about SEX SLAVERY.  

I was viewing the YouTube profile of Ara Manoogian, an investigative journalist at Hetq and a blogger who has traveled undercover to Dubai to report the human trafficking of Armenian women and children, and found out something that made me very sad – a 19-year-old female user from Armenia had posted a comment urging Ara to remove his videos about the trafficking of Armenian women and children:

| January 17, 2007

barev [hello]

Es uzum asel vor duk ANPAYMAN petkek jenjel ajt videonere hay axchikneri masin vor ‘ashxatumen’ Dubai um. [I want to say that you WITHOUT CONDITIONS should delete those videos about Armenian girls who are “working” in Dubai]

Duk petka haskanak vor da mer hayeri hamar vate.
Gitem vor jishta ajt amene u tents baner linumen.
Bajts… [You should understand that it is bad for Armenians. I know all of that is true and things like that happen. But…]
Vor tex chen linum?? [Where don’t these things happen?]
Bolor jerkirnerum ka bajts irank internetum chen denum. [These things are in all countries that they don’t post on the Internet]
Ajt videonere mer hayastani hamar vat reclame. [These videos are bad advertisement for our Armenia]

Gentrumem jenjeq!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! [Please delete]

The young woman’s comment shows that human trafficking is a taboo in Armenia.  “Don’t talk about it, it makes us look bad.”

Photo from Polaris

It doesn’t make us look bad because we are organizing it, but makes us look bad because there are prostitutes among Armenians.

After all that awareness people still don’t get what human trafficking means.  Last week, when I interviewed a random lady in downtown Denver for an upcoming school-project documentary, she thought human trafficking meant “lot’s of people walking on the street.”

You say it is slavery, they answer slavery doesn’t exist. You say it is sexual slavery, “macho” men jump in and say, “wow, where?”

I guess women are the “best” audience to raise awareness about human trafficking in.  So please, especially Eastern European and Armenian women, TALK ABOUT SEX SLAVERY, let your friends know that it exists, and watch videos about Armenian women and children trafficked to Dubai. 

Trafficking is when people are tricked or forced into slavery and kept in it with threats and torture. It is not a woman’s or a child’s fault to be a human trafficking victim. TALK ABOUT SEX SLAVERY. TALK ABOUT IT.

Armenian Genocide Commemoration in Colorado

Colorado is perhaps the only State that has designated a large portion of its Capitol building grounds as “Armenian Garden.” 

The Armenian Garden and the Genocide memorial plaque are quarter century old.  They were placed here in April of 1982.

On Saturday, April 21, 2007, members of the Armenian community planted more flowers in the Armenian Garden where a commemoration took place on Sunday, April 22, 2007.

Where have all the Klansmen gone?

Colorado’s paradoxically progressive and also unprogressive history includes a governor in the 1920s who was a member of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK).  

With an enormous white population, Colorado is not famous for racial hatred today and it seems the Klansmen are long gone in the centennial state.  But with anti-illegal-immigration politicians like Tom Tancredo (R-Littleton), it is not difficult to find reasons for hate.

My friend Daryl Davis, an African-American musician who has written one of the most famous books on the Klan, sent me the following update on April 22, 2007 about the current situation of the KKK in Colorado:

Colorado is beginning to pick up a little with their KKK and White Supremacist activity.  They had been very cautious lately because they were infiltrated a while back and almost wiped out.  So they’ve gone more underground lately.  However there’s a group of Klan operating out of Olathe, Colorado and they are growing in numbers around the state, capitalizing on their stand against illegal immigration.

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