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R-Mean and his supporters raise Genocide awareness through “Open Wounds” movemen

Armenian media outlets have recently published a photo of The Game wearing a T-shirt with “Our Wounds Are Still Open 1915” – the name of a movement launched ahead of the 98th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide. Meanwhile, “Open Wounds” song by R-Mean was quickly spread in the Armenian social networks. It was revealed that the movement was organized by a group of American Armenian young people who wanted to pay tribute to the Armenian Genocide victims and raise Genocide awareness all over the globe. Those who were behind the idea – rapper R-Mean and active Armenian community member from Boston Zareh Zurabyan told about the project in an interview with Armenian News-NEWS.am.

Who is the author of this movement? How did the idea come along to write “Our Wounds Are Still Open 1915”? Who designed it and whose idea was it to have a design like that?

R-Mean: My manager Alex Kodo and I had the idea of making a new video for this song because we knew it was a jewel. And along with it we wanted to do t-shirts….  I had written the song and called it “Open Wounds” so I felt like the shirt had to make the same statement as the song. “Our Wounds Are Still Open” was perfect. It was Alex’s idea to add the “1915”.  Then we contacted our graphic designer, the owner of “Extra Good” clothing line, Narek Churukyan who we sat down and did the actual design with. 

How did you start to spread the shirts? What makes people of other nationalities buy the shirt?

Zareh: The social medias were very helpful in spreading the new video, and the shirt sales. R-Mean having a huge following throughout the world specifically in the West Coast of USA, and me having a large connection here in the East Coast specifically Massachusetts, Boston and Rhode Island, Providence and NY, Brooklyn, I was able to spread the shirts around here. We kind of combined our large network of friends and jointly promoted the video and the shirts. Everybody was happy to be part of the movement, and to help the cause. Having all my friends and family being back home in Armenia, some studying abroad in Germany, Moscow, France, R-Mean having family and fans back in Amsterdam and other parts of the world, it was easy to spread the word and have all the communities in these cities to buy the shirts – especially when they knew the proceeds will go to ArmeniaFund.

Just from top of my head, shirts were bought from all over USA, Canada, UK, Norway, Sweden, Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, France, Spain, Italy, Austria, Switzerland, Bulgaria, Dubai, Budapest, Lebanon, Syria, Russia, Australia, New Zealand, and of course Armenia.

What got other races to buy the shirt has to do with couple of things. One of the reasons is the design of the shirt. Just from a style point of view, the design and the colors that are used are modern and it speaks to the youth. People want to wear it to look good. Another reason is the saying, it is different, and it doesn’t say Armenian Genocide on it as many other shirts say, which in turn isolates us from others. In this case the shirt is somewhat universal. It can be related to many injustices in the world that are not recognized. The 1915 pinpoints the Armenian Genocide, but the Wounds can be related to many other injustices. As Martin Luther King Jr said, “Injustice anywhere, is threat to justice everywhere.”

How did The Game decide to wear the shirt?

Zareh: The Game and R-Mean are both from California, and they did a song together called “Lost Angels” before, so when the “Open Wounds” movement started, the mutual respect between them resulted in The Game to pay his respect to the victims of the Genocide, and to the large Armenian community in California. It was very nice of him and it is greatly appreciated.

What other famous people were wearing the shirts, except for The Game? How did it happen that Kim Kardashian’s fan page posted the video?

R-Mean: It was important for us to show how many people in position, and people outside of the Armenian community were supporting this “Open Wounds” movement… We started contacting our connects in the music industry and really just anyone with a following that we knew people look up to and asked them if they wanted to be a part of this and support. We had legendary radio DJ’s Julio G, Romeo of Tha Goodfellas, Sway from MTV and Tech on the world famous Wake Up Show (on Eminem’s radio station Shade45)… We had Armenians like boxer Vanes Martirosyan, UFC fighter Manny Gamburyan, Dj Vick One, Capital Z, Maria Cozette, Hrach Titizian, Super Sako, and so many more… We had Singer/Actress Farrah Franklin (formerly from Destiny’s child), and then of course The Game. These are all people we knew and they respected the movement and what we were trying to do so they supported. They posted pictures and the video online for all of their huge followings to see. We also got in touch with Congressman Adam Schiff who has always supported the Armenian cause in Congress. Our fans started reaching out to The Kardashians on twitter, IG, and FB telling them about the “Open wounds” song and the movement… Eventually they posted it on Kim’s official fan page. That was real cool. 

“Open Wounds” song was loved by many people and it was widely spread in the Armenian social media very quickly. Please tell a little bit how it was written and who did the video?

R-Mean: Several years ago I had the idea of doing this song. A genocide song named “Open Wounds”. I knew which producer I wanted to do it and I knew which singer I wanted on it.  I also knew I wanted it to have duduk samples so I collected a lot of duduk CDs and took them to my producer Blind. He made the beat… And then I took the beat to Soseh. As soon as I played it she came up with the idea to use “Kilikia” I hadn’t thought of doing the chorus in Armenian but when she said it I felt it was genius. Then I just put my heart into the verses and that was it. It truly came together magically. 

My manager Alex Kodo, who is also my director, did the video. He also did the video for my last song “Lost Angels” with The Game. But “Open Wounds” was all him. From the ideas, the footages, the concepts, the editing, everything… He really killed it. 

What other ideas do you have to raise awareness about the Armenian Genocide?

R-Mean: As a Hip Hop artist, this is what I do. I put the message in my music and try to reach as many youth as possible and as many non-Armenians as possible. The song and the video will continue the spread… But more importantly we will be spreading the shirts all year long. This is not a once a year in April thing. We will keep spreading these because a good looking t-shirt is a great way of making a statement and spreading the message. Everyone keeps asking what that t-shirt means.  

Zareh: Like R-Mean said, Hip-Hop is the voice of the youth, and his song has aided me enormously in promoting the shirts and the awareness here in Boston. Local artists here like G-Eyez, Tha Jist, Chris aka Chief, Dark Blue and many more who have never heard of the Armenian Genocide or have, but didn’t know how to pay their respect to the cause or bring awareness, reposted the video on their social networks. It was very nice of them to do so and I thank them for it. I went to the AYF Boston chapter and presented them with the shirts, went to High Schools, many of my friends in different business areas wore the shirts, and we only got positive feedback.

Boston Armenian community had been very passive these last couple of years. The protests have had minimal participation from the youth. A lot of the kids didn’t seem to have that passion that the elder generations used to have. So when the Boston community saw an artist like R-Mean being so passionate in his song for everyone to see, and spreading awareness on such a limelight along with these famous artists – it injected this fresh breeze of pride in the youth.

It got to a point where I would see random people in the most unexpected places wearing the shirts. It is beautiful. Best part is that people always ask what the shirt says, so we are inclined to inform them of our history.

April 24th, 2013 is over, I am still getting orders almost every day, Armenian and non-Armenian. It is a beautiful thing and I am very proud of the Boston Armenian Community for their support, passion, and enthusiasm. Boston community is passionate once again, and excited to do next year’s protest in the newly founded Armenian Heritage Park in downtown for the Armenian Genocide Victims. We worked 5 years to finally get our own park here in Massachusetts, and we finally got it. It is time that we use that park with pride.