California State Convention carries on Assyrian heritage

51st annual event marked by large presence of young Assyrians

June 2018 | By Anthony Narsi | Photos by Gilbert De-Berowley

CALIFORNIA – More than 3,500 people attended the 51st annual Assyrian State Convention of California. The weekend, which took place from May 26 through May 28 in Turlock and Modesto, was marked by a large attendance of Assyrian youth.

“The community is close-knit and large in Turlock/Modesto. I’m very proud to see the youth’s involvement this year,” said Bruneil Chamaki, a young Assyrian from San Jose who has attended multiple state conventions. “It’s a pleasant reminder that my Assyrian brothers and sisters are in-tune with their identity.”

The Assyrian State Convention of California began in 1967 in an effort to bring Assyrian communities in the state of California together. Since then, it has taken place every year on Memorial Day weekend.

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photo contributed

An adult slow-pitch softball tournament, hosted by the Central California Assyrian Student and Youth Association (CCASYA), kicked off the weekend. The five-team tournament, held at the Pedretti Sports Complex in Turlock, included a team made up of players of Assyrian heritage. This team, Devine Auto Sales, would go on to win the entire tournament.

“It was amazing to see non-Assyrians joining a tournament organized and managed by Assyrians, and the teams took it very seriously,” said Savina Dawood, an Assyrian activist from Iraq who attended the state convention for the first time. “It shows that the Assyrian community is on the same level of other non-Assyrian communities here in Turlock.”

On Sunday, many convention participants attended mass at one of several Assyrian churches in the Turlock and Modesto areas. Later in the day, two representatives from the Assyrian language organization Bet Kanu gave a presentation at the Assyrian American Civic Club of Turlock.

Akkad Saadi, co-founder of Bet Kanu, walked the audience through a series of slides that spoke of the importance of making sure the endangered Assyrian language does not die. Saadi concluded his presentation with demonstrations of the songs, cartoons, apps, and other products that Bet Kanu produces.

On Sunday evening, three Assyrian singers – Alan George, Ammo Simon, and Ramsen Sheeno – sang at a party at Centre Plaza in Modesto.

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The convention closed on Monday, May 28, as families, Assyrian vendors and other booths gathered early in the morning at the Turlock Fairgrounds for a picnic. Participants also experienced live Assyrian music with the same singers from the Sunday evening party.

Davina Saing, a Cambodian-American who has many Assyrian friends, attended the convention’s picnic for the first time.

“It was a beautiful experience to witness people coming together to celebrate, to take pride in their culture, and to see families and friends set up tents and enjoy the music, dance, and cuisine that the Assyrian culture has to offer,” Saing said.

CCASYATo learn more about the Central California Assyrian Student and Youth Association (CCASYA), visit their Facebook page: CCASYA on Facebook

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