#131 | The Other: Genocide; Life After w/ Liyah Babayan

For this episode, Cynthia Jones and I speak with Liyah Babayan - local entrepreneur, business owner, activist, and Armenian refugee. 

In this conversation, Liyah goes over her life story - framing it within the cultural/historical/political framework of her home country of Azerbaijan, where she had spent much of her early childhood, before fleeing with her family from severe persecution and mass genocide. In the late 80’s and into the early 90’s, a pogrom was enacted against ethnic Armenians in the city of Baku (the nation’s capital and Liyah’s place of birth), as well as in surrounding areas, resulting in the expulsion, and mass murder, of thousands of Armenians - in what has been described as the Baku Pogrom: “From January 12, 1990, a seven-day pogrom broke out against the Armenians civilian population in Baku during which Armenians were beaten, tortured, murdered, and expelled from the city. There were also many raids on apartments, robberies and arsons. According to the Human Rights Watch reporter Robert Kushen, ‘the action was not entirely (or perhaps not at all) spontaneous, as the attackers had lists of Armenians and their addresses.’”* Liyah describes what her, and her family, experienced as Armenians during this horrendous act of mass violence perpetuated against the Armenian population in Baku. In particular, Liyah discusses how this experience profoundly impacted her development as an individual, having to bear the weight of indescribable trauma through adolescence and into adulthood - all while living as a refugee in the United States, with all the social pressures, barriers, and freedoms that come with that. 

Because of Liyah’s unique perspective, she is able to perceive and understand social and political trends within the United States that most people, particularly U.S. citizens, are unable to recognize. We discuss what those trends are, and how much they resemble, or don’t resemble, the social and political conditions experienced in her home country of Azerbaijan. We discuss the trauma that has been inflicted upon the Armenian people over the past century, and how this knowledge informs Liyah’s perspective of what it means to live in United States, in time and place we find ourselves in. 

This is a wide-ranging discussion, and I thank Liyah for her candid and articulate overview of the subjects discussed in this episode. This is the third episode in a series of interviews and conversations with individuals who, whether they officially or not fall under the category, are refugees. These episode are done in collaboration with Cynthia Jones, Artistic Director of the Inspirata Dance Project, for an upcoming production that will feature segments of these recordings.

Liyah Babayan is a local entrepreneur, activist, Armenian refugee, and the owner of Ooh La La! consignment boutique in Twin Falls, Idaho. She is the author of a memoir titled ‘Liminal,’ release forthcoming. 

*Source: http://bit.ly/2u4on5H

Episode Notes:

- Learn more about Liyah’s upcoming book ‘Liminal’ here: http://bit.ly/2MX9okW

- Learn more about Liyah and her consignment boutique Ooh La La! here: http://oohlala-shop.com

- Follow Ooh La La! on Facebook: http://bit.ly/2u4ozlr

- The songs featured in this episode are “Wake Up (Instrumental)” by Black Milk from the album Black and Brown Instrumentals, and “What It’s Worth” by Black Milk from the album If There’s a Hell Below.

#105 | War, Art, & The Hardships That Shape Our Lives w/ Milica Popovic

In this episode, Cynthia Jones and I speak with Milica Popovic, Associate Professor of Art at the College of Southern Idaho. Milica discusses her personal experiences with the social and economic disintegration in her home country of Serbia, during the fracturing of the Republic of Yugoslavia in the 1990's. Milica describes how her and her husband left their home country and made their way to the United States, where Milica eventually settled in Twin Falls, Idaho, and took up a position at the College of Southern Idaho, where this interview was conducted. In this episode, Milica also discusses the impact trauma has had on her art, and how producing art has helped her work with the traumatic memories she carries with her to this day. 

I would like to thank Milica for being open and sharing her experiences for the episode. I understand it is a difficult thing to discuss these things with others, particularly when it's being recorded and put online for the world to hear. So, I'm very grateful for those that have been willing to talk with Cynthia and I for this project. 

This is the second episode in a series of interviews and conversations with individuals who, whether they officially or not fall under the category, are refugees. These episode are done in collaboration with Cynthia Jones, Artistic Director of the Inspirata Dance Project, for an upcoming production that will feature segments of these recordings.

Episode Notes:

- The title card of this episode features the artwork of Milica Popovic.

- The song featured in this episode is "Sea of Love" by Cat Power from the album The Covers Record.

#95 | Our Humanity In Times Of Peril: War, Community, & Revisiting Trauma w/ Samra Culum

Samra Culum is Student Development Coordinator at the College of Southern Idaho (CSI), and a refugee. Samra, as a child, fled with her family from war-torn Bosnia, and through the CSI Refugee Resettlement Program, settled in Twin Falls, Idaho with her family.

In this episode, Samra discusses what her and her family experienced in her community in Bosnia as underlying tensions and divisions broke out into war and ethnic cleansing, and what the process of escaping and eventually resettling in the United States was like. Samra then goes over her feelings and thoughts about the recent surge of anti-refugee sentiment that has emerged in the Twin Falls area surrounding the CSI Refugee Resettlement Program in recent years, and how difficult, painful, and important it is to revisit traumatic memories and experiences and process them in a meaningful way.

This is a conversation between myself, Cynthia Jones (Artistic Director of Inspirata Dance Project) Skyler Rienstra (music producer) and Samra Culum. Segments of this conversation will be used for an upcoming performance by the Inspirata Dance Project.

Episode Notes:

- Inspirata Dance Project on Facebook: www.facebook.com/inspiratadanceproject/

#51 | Liyah Babayan: America's Identity Crisis

Liyah Babayon: Armenian refugee, Activist, Entrepreneur, and Business owner of Ooh La La consignment boutique in Twin Falls, Idaho.  

I first became familiar with Liyah after she was featured in a Slate article that explored the upsurge of anti-refugee activism in the city of Twin Falls, Idaho. I approached her to do a podcast with me, and what resulted was an in-depth and fascinating discussion into her personal history as a refugee, of starting a business during the financial crisis of 2007-2008, the Armenian Genocide, the geopolitical chess game being played between the United States and Russia in Syria and the greater Middle East, her personal experience with the xenophobic anti-refugee activism that has grown in this community, and living in this place and time during the great experiment that is America, as well as many other fascinating subjects.  

This is one of my favorite episodes.  

This conversation was recorded in Ooh La La, Liyah's consignment boutique in Twin Falls, Idaho.

Episode Notes:

- Intro: "The Way to the Western Sea" by Friendly Foliage and "Spicy Boyfriend" by Shawn Wasabi

- Outro: "Ridin' Round" by Kali Uchis