Archive for the 'Denver' Category

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.  

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”‘

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.

Celebrating Survival: The Real America

Last Friday, March 23, 2007, when I was very sick after having returned from snowy Montreal, I decided to go to POW WOW in Denver with my Mom.

POW WOW is a Native American festival where hundreds of nations across America gather to dance, sing and get to know each other.

First time in my life I saw real America – the real beauty of America with her tortured children who were celebrating survival, their survival.

Glenn Morris, indigenous politics professor at the University of Colorado at Denver, told our class this past Thursday that when he was taken to a Native American reservation in Costa Rica in 1986, he felt embarrassed that he had been told in all his academic life (plus a law degree from Harvard) that there were no Native Americans in Costa Rica. His new friends in Costa Rica started to laugh when Prof. Morris made his confession. The Native Costa Ricans told him not to worry – they, too, thought there were no Indians left in America.

And perhaps most people in the world have no idea about festivals like POW WOW. Neither do most people who live in Colorado. Most of the audience were Native Americans themselves, who had traveled to see their brothers and sisters dance and sing. Where was white America? I guess in AMCs or other movie theaters to watch “300” in order to reaffirm their hatred for the Iranians, or the savage Persians.

But in POW WOW, I did not care about white America. I was in real America; I was with the real landlords of my apartment who were there to show me the beauty of survival; who were there to tell me that no matter what and no matter when, genocide survival is inevitable and will be celebrated one day.

My romanticized amazement for Native America was shared by the person I had went with – my Mom.  She wanted to be photographed with every Native American she saw. For me it meant taking photographs every minute of my presence in POW WOW at the Denver Coliseum.

Surprisingly, she now wants me to post her photographs at Blogian. And since it is April 1 today, why not?

Well, I can’t post the rest of the 270 photographs; the internet is too slow…

But I have to post this one! This photo is from yesterday. My Mom had mask on her face and she reminded me of POW WOW. So I asked her where the Navajo souvenir arrow we bought at the festival was. When she brought it, I took this photo.

The Professor from Nowhere

I never thought the question “Where are you from” could confuse a university professor to an extent of giving an unsatisfying answer.

Professor Kazak from University of Colorado didn’t know how to answer the same question that he had just asked me. “I am from Armenia,” said I and asked the professor where he was from.

“Near Armenia…” said the professor.

“Near Armenia?! I had not heard of that country!”

“I am basically Palestinian,” finally said Professor Kazak.

Being always considerable of both Israeli and Palestinian arguments on their conflict I was speechless this time.

It must hurt when you don’t have a country to say you are from – the case for the Jews for two thousand years, and now the case for the Palestinians.

Now I feel the joy of having Armenia – no matter how small, how powerless and even how corrupt.

What is Your Dream?

The past 24 hours seemed a day some people would dream for. It was an interesting chain of historical and not-so-historical events, great and surprising encounters, with a nightmare, though, at the end: I realized that school starts tomorrow (and I had thought that it started in a week).

My Martin Luther King Jr. Eve was unforgettable. Since I would not be able to attend the annual commemoration at my former college due to work, I decided to meet with the keynote speaker of the day – Daryl Davis, who will be talking on CNN tomorrow or sometime this week.

Daryl Davis is a Grammy-winning musician and also the author of a famous book about the racist militant and sometimes terrorist organization Ku Klux Klan (KKK) and his encounters and conversations with Klansmen. The African-American writer has KKK friends, and has even converted many of the robe and hood people to humanhood. His journey in the Klan has been and is his desire to understand and fight racism.

First time I met Daryl last year when he lectured at my former college earlier in 2006. Actually I didn’t meet him personally on that day. But I ended up e-mailing him and told him I enjoyed the lecture and learned a lot. After I finished reading his book, I continued staying in touch.

“How are your films going?” said Daryl yesterday after I finally made it in the snowroad to his hotel and received a friendly hug from my huge friend (he has some stories of fighting with Klansmen – I guess the only time in my life I would feel sorry for those racist pigs). I guess he had taken the time to watch “ForstFree 2024” and “The New Tears of Araxes” on YouTube.

We drove around 30 minutes on the same streets and finally decided to go and have some desert. He told me a story I had read in his book about his encounter with what turned out to be a KKK member. Although I knew the story, it seemed so interesting that I would listen to it over and over again. I guess that is the reason that my former college invited him the second time in 12 months to speak at two different events. You just can’t get enough of Daryl’s adventures and life stories. He is amazing and so is his journey in racist America (during his 2006 lecture he said that from all of the 50 countries he had visited and lived in he felt most racist was his home – America).

But Daryl’s odyssey in the Klan has not always brought him omnipraise. He has been criticized and misunderstood by members of his own black community. I still remember how an African-American girl from my school shockingly told me, “there was a Ku Klux Klan meeting at the college yesterday!” I asked her whether she was there, and then it turned out she was referring to Daryl’s lecture but had not attended it. When I told Daryl the story, he laughed and said that it happens a lot, and that an American college newspaper had written an article about one of his lecture (mis)titling the report “A Klansman Speaks…”
I asked him what state had the most active KKK. Daryl said, “Pennsylvania,” and explained that is was due to economic depression that people in the state are facing. Is there a state that has never had KKK, I asked? “Hawaii,” laughed Daryl.

When I was driving him back. Let me say it again, when I was trying to drive him back and find his hotel (seriously, I made U-turns on the same street 7 times and every time I was sure I was headed to the right direction – I guess Daryl thought I was totally crazy) I asked him what his dream was. As always, Daryl had a sincere answer, “To continue doing what I am doing.” He told me the best thing to do is to do something about things you feel passionate about. “If there is something going on in Armenia,” he referred to my human responsibility and passion, “make a film about it.”

I told him I was not into making films and was actually a Political Science major, but I still agreed to his offer to send me professional movie making software from his home in Maryland.

As he would go back to Maryland in late Martin Luther King Jr. Holliday afternoon, on Tuesday Daryl was going to visit a KKK friend, with whom he celebrated the past Christmas, with the CNN for a program that I forgot the name of. The first part of the CNN interview was going to be conducted in Colorado, today.

I went to work this morning kind of upset for not being able to participate in the annual community breakfast where Daryl was going to speak. As I went to the first floor desks, I saw a group of international students wondering around. I checked the schedule, and saw that this was a group of Japanese and Russian exchange students. Although I had already assigned one of my staff to conduct the tour, I approached the High Schoolers and asked, “Where are you guys from?”

“Japaan,” – was the first answer, followed by my broken “You Kosou Kolorado Kapitolei” (Welcome to Colorado’s Capitol in Japanese). The next welcome was easy when a cute girl answered, “Kazakshtan.” Although my Russian sucks, I guess they understood me. As these kids learned I was from Armenia, they told me there was an Armenian girl in a green coat in their group who had went to the restroom.

As the short girl in the green coat came to the first floor, I turned around and said, “Ia, Lilit jan! Inchqan jamanak a chem. tesel qez: Vonc es?” (Hey, dear Lilith! I have not seen for such a long time. How are you?) The poor thing got confused and didn’t get the joke. After telling me she was from the city of Sisian, she asked me whether I knew where it was. “Is she OK?” – I whispered to myself and said that I had been to Sisian indeed.

They left for the tour after the teacher, Courtney, decided to take my picture with the exchange students with 10 cameras (not so fun).

Very shortly, a lady with a beautiful smile came by (if I didn’t have a girlfriend and if she were 30 years younger that would have been a greater scene) and said, “Are you Simon?”

After getting a positive response, the lady with the beautiful smile said she was the new Lieutenant Governor (like the Vice President) of Colorado (she was sworn in last Tuesday), Ms. O’Brien.

I was surprised at her down-to-the-earthness and niceness. After we talked a bit, the Lt. Governor left.

The next thing I noticed was lot of noise coming from the Capitol rotunda on the first floor. I went to check out what was going on. It turned out that U.S. Senator Wayne Allard (R-Colorado) was going to have an announcement about the 2008 election year.

Sen. Allard had promised not to seek a third term long ago, and the announcement would make it clear whether he was going to keep his promise or not. Unlike the infamous Colorado Representative (my own representative) Tom Tancredo, Allard said he had made a promise to the people of Colorado and was going to honor it: he would not be running for a third term. The question is who will run and fill in for this open Senate seat next year.

The press conference had no more than 50 people, but I made enough noise to get all of them mad at me. As he had started to talk, I pulled out my cell phone, stood behind the camera crews and took a photo… with a horrendous digital noise that was much louder than Allard’s voice. Since my phone was on vibrate, I didn’t think it would make a sound while taking a picture.

Right after the Sen. Allard’s announcement I went back to our working stations and saw people marching outside. I knew this was the Marade – the annual MLK Denver parade that despite the horrible cold had gathered 1,200 attendees. Since it was lunchtime, I ran outside and ended up walking down with part of the Marade and took many photos with my cell phone, which you will never see because I don’t use Internet on my phone and therefore cannot transfer them to a computer.

It was such a good feeling to see people marching on MLK day. The black High School bands made you forget about the cold and the snow all around you.

As I was leaving work for home, I saw the Lt. Governor again. We started to talk and I asked her where the governor was (his office was closed, I have never seen it closed before). “He took off to participate in the Marade and sent the rest of his staff to vacation today.”

Enjoy the Honeymoon period, I said to Ms. O’Brien as she confessed that the media had not given her hard time yet.

I was so tired from the stressful discovery that my school in fact starts tomorrow, that I slept on the train the entire way back. But I shouldn’t worry about my classes too much. As one of my senior friends says, “don’t give a poop!”