Roughly 200 local Armenians, some clutching candles, marched from City Hall to the Burbank Youth Center Tuesday to kick off a night commemorating the 99th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, which claimed the lives of 1.5 million men, women and children near the beginning of the 20th century.
Hosted by the Armenian Youth Federation, the half-mile walk led to an event that featured speakers, poetry readings, Armenian folk dancing and singing.
"Nearly 100 years later, we are still here," Burbank resident Talar Kossakian, 21, told attendees.
The genocide, however, perpetrated by the Ottoman Empire starting in 1915, is not recognized by Turkey or the United States.
"Our fight will continue until justice is served," Kossakian said.
Zaruhi Varpetyan, 17-year-old senior at John Burroughs High School, told attendees that her ancestors lost their lives during the massacres.
"If the people who perpetrated the genocide are not punished, the cycle of genocide will continue," she said.
At City Hall earlier in the evening, the Burbank City Council presented a proclamation commemorating the victims of the genocide.
There, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) expressed gratitude to live in a city so vocal about the massacres.
"We think that we move forward as a civilization, and in places in Syria and elsewhere we're reminded how little we have changed as human beings," Schiff said, referring to the recent violence against Armenians in Kessab.
He said he hopes the United States and Congress will soon recognize the genocide with as much clarity and strength as the city of Burbank.
"It has never been in our national interest to become complicit in a campaign of denial," Schiff said.