My name is David Djanikian. I’m 51 years old, born and raised in San Francisco. My dad is Armenian, raised in France, and my mom is African American, raised in San Francisco. My wife, Jennie, is also mixed race. Together, we have two daughters, both under the age of 10. Between myself and my wife, we represent Armenian, French, African American, Filipina, and Irish cultures.
My parents always taught me that no matter what, all people are equal and to treat everyone with respect. Race, age, religious beliefs, and sexual orientation simply do not matter. Everyone is a human, PERIOD.
My dad would enthusiastically take us to Armenian Church and the Armenian Food Festival. He would talk about the history of Armenians, how much they had to endure with the Armenian Genocide, and how unbelievably strong and resilient we are. When I was in high school, I was invited to join the church basketball team. When I told my dad that I decided to play, he was elated. The team would play in regular local leagues. Everyone treated me well. I never felt out of place because I was half Armenian. When I was in my early 20’s I was asked to play for the San Francisco Homenetmen basketball team. As we played more and traveled farther, I started feeling less welcome. When I would walk around I could hear people say, “Hey there’s that Sev/Armo guy from San Francisco.” Sev means “Black” in Armenian. While they may not have meant to be hurtful, to me it caused division and had a negative connotation. One time a game was paused, and I was requested to show ID to prove I was really Armenian. Over time, being labeled the “Sev-Armenian” made me sad, because I have such respect for our Armenian community and am a proud Armenian.
When I would come home from tournaments, my dad would ask me how things went. I would tell him I had a great time. I kept the differences I felt because of my skin color to myself. I could never tell him what really happened because it would have broken his heart.
It was important to me to keep showing up. My love for sports and the Armenian community was stronger than the comments I would hear or the differences I would feel. Along with playing on a team I also started coaching.
Playing with Homenetmen and also coaching for over 10 years, I made lifelong friends and incredible memories. I also learned that I was the first African American/Armenian to play for ACYO, AGBU and Homenetmen. That made me feel remarkably proud. While, at the time, I didn’t have anyone to lean on for support, I am grateful for those who made me feel welcome. I hope my dedication to the community helped pave the way for other African-American/Armenians to participate.
With everything going on in the world today, the need for compassion and understanding is critical. As an African-American/Armenian and father, I hope my daughters will grow up in a world where differences are celebrated. Where we embrace each other as HUMAN BEINGS.
We are currently living in a scary time for African Americans and people of color. We all need to collectively come together and lead with compassion.
I want to end this with something I saw on Instagram that talks about people questioning the Black Lives Matter movement:
If my wife comes to me in obvious pain and asks the question, “Do you love me?”, an answer of “I love everyone,” would be truthful, but also hurtful and cruel in the moment. If a co-worker comes to me upset and says, “My father just died,” a response of “Everyone’s parents die,” would be truthful, but also hurtful and cruel in the moment. So when a friend speaks up in a time of obvious pain and hurt and says, “Black lives matter,” a response of “All lives matter,” is truthful. But it’s hurtful and cruel in the moment. -Doug Williford
About the Author: David Djanikian has over 15 years professional sales experience across all sectors in the IT industry. He is currently an Enterprise Account Manager at DigiCert. David is an avid athlete, coach and referee. He is active in the community. Happily married he has two daughters and lives in San Francisco, California.