Opening Program: July 1-2, 2022

To commemorate the launch of the new exhibition Tell Our Stories: Artifacts from the Assyrian Genocide, Calfornia State University, Stanislaus hosted an opening program featuring discussions from scholars and community members on the Assyrian genocide era and the Assyrian diaspora. It also featured a screening of the documentary Assyria A.D., produced by the Assyrian Cultural & Social Youth Association. 

Videos of the opening presentations are shared below.

Opening Welcome

Sarah Bennett

Sarah Bennett Kalleberg presented on Isaac Adams, who led the first settlement of Assyrians in Turlock. 

About the Speaker:
Sarah Bennett Kalleberg grew up outside Chicago and is now living in Hoboken NJ with her husband Paul. She is a Senior Director at a real estate technology company called Latch, based in NYC. She recently traveled to Iraq on Gishru for the first time and is passionate about her Assyrian heritage - a heritage which includes the leading role of Isaac Adams, her great-great grandfather, in developing the Assyrian community in Turlock. 

David A. Armstrong

David A. Armstrong presented on his family's story as genocide survivors and immigrants to the U.S. 

About the Speaker:
David A. Armstrong is an American born Assyrian filmmaker. As a member of the Director Guild of America and a film industry veteran, Armstrong rose through the camera ranks to become a cinematographer. He served as Director of Photography for director James Wan on the SAW film franchise (SAW I-VI), one of the key team members to create the Guinness Book of World Records‘ highest-grossing horror film franchise in history. Armstrong has been developing his book, Dragons and Violins; A Memoir of War and Music, into a motion picture feature film and or limited television series. Dragons & Violins is the fascinating story of the extraordinary early life of Assyrian-American immigrant George Edgar, born Sarges Georges Yadgar in Persia during the Assyrian-Armenian-Pontic Greek genocide.

Keynote Address by Professor Hannibal Travis

Professor Hannibal Travis provided the keynote address in which he details the history of the Genocide, how the Genocide aligns with the UN Genocide Convention's legal definition of genocide, and key experiences of Assyrians in Iraq over the following decades.  

About the Speaker:
Hannibal Travis is a professor of law at Florida International University, the public research University of Miami. His research in Assyrian studies and in genocide studies includes Genocide in the Middle East: The Ottoman Empire, Iraq, and Sudan (Carolina Academic Press, 2010); The Assyrian Genocide: Cultural and Political Legacies (Travis ed., Routledge 2017); ‘Native Christians Massacred': The Ottoman Genocide of the Assyrians during World War I," in Genocide Studies and Prevention: An International Journal, no. 3 (2006); “The Assyrian Genocide: A Tale of Oblivion and Denial,” in Forgotten Genocides: Oblivion, Denial, and Memory (Rene Lemarchand ed., University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011); “Constructing 'The Armenian Genocide': How Genocide Scholars Unremembered the Assyrian and Greek Genocides in the Ottoman Empire,” in Hidden Genocides: Power, Knowledge, and Memory (Alex Hinton, Douglas Irvin-Erickson, & Thomas LaPointe eds., Rutgers University Press, 2013), and more.

Assemblyman Heath Flora

California Assemblyman Heath Flora presents House Resolution 62 (2019) to be included in the exhibition. The resolution, which the Assemblyman introduced and was passed in September 2019, officially recognized the genocide within the State of California. 

About the Speaker:
Assemblyman Heath Flora represents California's 12 district in the State Assembly, which includes Turlock, Modesto, and other parts of the San Joaquin Valley. In addition to his public service, he has been a small business owner and volunteer firefighter for over fifteen years. 

Dr. Ruth Kambar

Dr. Ruth Kambar presented on the challenges and value of researching in diaspora. 

About the Speaker:
Ruth is a public-school English teacher and adjunct professor at the State University of New York, Westchester Community College. Dr. Kambar earned her doctorate from New York University in 2013. She has created a verbal testament to Assyrian Americans called “A Family Archive: Construction of Identity in the Assyrian American Diaspora.” She played an instrumental role in curating photography and narrative for the art exhibit Assyrians in Yonkers at the Blue Door Gallery. In 2019, Dr. Kambar released Assyrians of Yonkers, a title among the Arcadia Images of America Series. The book the history of the Yonkers community of Assyrians and how generations of them have come together from different nations and settled in Yonkers to live and to contribute to the American mosaic. Many of the Yonkers Assyrians have fled different periods of genocide.

Dr. Arianne Ishaya

Dr. Arianne Ishaya presented on the experiences of children during the Genocide. 

About the Speaker:
Arianne Ishaya was born in Urmia a town in Northwestern Iran with a large Assyrian population.  As a child little did she know that she was growing up in the cradle of an ancient Assyrian Christian center, with shrines such as Mar Sarguis and Mart Maryam that date back to 7th –8th century A.D.  Arianne has a Ph.D. in Cultural Anthropology from UCLA. Her research interests are in the history of the Assyrian diaspora in North America.

In 2010 she published two books New Lamps for Old, which is the history of the settlement of Assyrians in North Battleford, Saskatchewan Canada, the very first settlers of the region; and Familiar Faces in Unfamiliar Places, which is the history of the settlement of Assyrians in Turlock, California. In 2105 her biography on William Daniel titled William Daniel, Portrait of An Assyrian Icon was published by the AASJ. Her 2022 publications are The History of Assyrians in Hamadan, and the last Days of Atla Kandi. She also prepared a revised version of the Kateeny trilogy by William Daniel which was also published by AAASJ. Arianne has numerous publications in professional journals, encyclopedias (Harvard Encyclopedia of American Ethnic Groups; Encyclopedia Iranica, Encyclopedia of Canada’s Peoples), and Assyrian periodicals (Journal of the Assyrian-American Studies, Assyrian Star, Nineveh). She has been very active in Assyrian educational programs sponsored by the various Assyrian organizations in the Bay area. She was also one of the contributors and editors of Tapestry, a collection of poems in Assyrian and English, and Sympathy and Satire, a collection of plays by the well-known Assyrian poet and composer, William Daniel. 

Q&A with Dr. Ishaya and Dr. Kambar

In closing, Drs. Ishaya and Kambar took questions from the audience. 

Questions? Please contact us.

This project was made possible with support from California Humanities, a non-profit partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Visit California Humanities.

 Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this exhibition and program do not necessarily represent those of California Humanities or the National Endowment for the Humanities. 

Updated: June 06, 2023