My bloodline remains the same...

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My bloodline remains the same...

My last name may have changed but my blood line will always remain the same.

April 24th has always been an unsettling day for me. I am first generation Armenian American. My ancestors were forced to leave Armenia during the Armenian Genocide, the systematic mass murder and expulsion of 1.5 million ethnic Armenians carried out in Turkey and adjoining regions by the Ottoman government between 1914 and 1923. Today marks the 105th remembrance of this tragic time.

I remember growing up in Southern California in the 80s, during my impressionable youth and I just wanted to fit in, be a typical Valley Girl, to look less ethnic, wanting nothing more than to be a part of. My family did the same in their own way, they came here in the early 70s striving to achieve the American Dream, and fortunately they did in many ways. But there was something in this need for acceptance that was deep rooted and beyond my individual self and beyond what my family probably assumed they needed.

As the years passed, growing out of my teenage angst and insecurities, I found complex textural truth from the culture I came from.  When I was 19, I devoured a stack of William Saroyan books and plays, a gift my uncle gave me which were in a dusty box in our storage for over a decade. Saroyan was first generation Armenian like myself, a writer, a dreamer, and through his words I was searching for more, yearning for more, in my own way. I’ve never forgotten these very words of Saroyan, “We didn't say anything because there was such an awful lot to say, and no language to say it in.” The silencing of our history was cultural and he affirmed it.

I used to joke with my parents that I could spot an Armenian out in the world as they seemed so heavy energetically, so serious and morose at times. Underneath that joke, I knew there was a reason, and I wanted to understand why. It was coded in our DNA.

I have to admit, there is unsettling anger that stirs within me when I begrudgingly accept the country I call home, still denying the words genocide when April 24th arrives. It’s not something I’m usually conscious of but today I woke up and had to take to the page, since the embers flare up within and catch me by surprise when I least expect it.  It’s become “the buried child” of my cultural history that I no longer want to keep inside.

This unsettling feeling is the denial. How can it not lead to me feeling the denial of self?  How can the brutal coding of genocide and holocaust not affect our generational DNA?  I think of mental health, I think of ailments and everything else so spiritually muddied that has been passed down along with this. The code needs to be rewritten and we need change.

It’s time that the current U.S. administration properly recognize the Armenian Genocide, beyond serving a political purpose, but as an act of humanity.

Genocide is beyond text book history, it’s a part of the human condition. We owe it to my ancestors, as well as the survivors and victims of all genocides. I see you all; the Jewish people, Greeks, Assyrians, Lebanese, Native Americans, the people of Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia, Sudan, Darfur…and so many more.

My last name may have changed but my blood line will always remain the same.

Michelle Peerali is a Director/Writer/Executive Producer. She attended UC Berkeley and received her MFA in Directing/Writing at USC’s School of Cinematic Arts. She has had articles and photographs published in i-D Magazine, Paper, Surface, Nylon, a Shaded View on Fashion, and SOMA Magazine. Michelle started her career in television and film working on the hit sitcom Friends and then went on to direct numerous commercials and music videos with artists such as The Kills, The Black Keys, and Moby. Her directorial work has screened at NY MOMA’s Abstractions Exhibit and garnered her “The People’s Choice Award” at Smashbox Studios’ FACEOFF Video Competition.

As of late, Michelle was the DP on the Rose McGowan Docuseries, Citizen Rose for E!, Co-Director/Executive Producer of award-winning design documentary short, Interior Motives, and Executive Producer/Director of comedy short film, Candis For President, featured on OUT Magazine and Elizabeth Banks’ Whohaha platform which is screening in film festivals later this year. Most recently, she was Co-Executive Producer of Snapchat’s groundbreaking Original YA Series Endless Summer, which has received over 28 million unique viewers in its first season. She is currently in pre-production on a narrative coming-of-age short film, How Not To Be A Junkie, that she will be directing this Summer, and writing a narrative feature film that is a modern day trans-generational retelling of the Armenian Genocide.

She is a member of The Producer’s Guild of America (West and East Coast Division) and the Television Academy.