Long Journey from the NFL to Armenia
(Shot by Peter Musurlian in California, Tennessee, Oregon, Washington,
Idaho, the Netherlands, Armenia, and Nagorno-Karabagh)
2006, Rien Long was a 24-year-old, 6'6", 300-pound
Defensive Lineman in his third season with the Tennessee
Titans. He was drafted by the Nashville-based NFL team following
a career at Washington State, where he garnered the Outland
Trophy, which is awarded annually to the top college-football
interior lineman in the country.
March 2006, three generations from Rien's family — all
born in America — made their first-ever trip to their
ancestral homeland of Armenia. Rien was accompanied by his
grandmother Gladys, an artist & Rhode Island native and
by his mother Lori Bailey Cunningham, a Los Angeles native
and the executive director of the Mandala Project, a non-profit
organization devoted to the promotion of peace through art & education.
Lori's journal from the trip at: www.mandalaproject.org/Armenia/Armenia1.html)
Long’s great-grandfather, Toros Vartanian and his great-grandmother,
Elizabeth Krekorian, fled to the United States in the early
1900s, a few years before 1.5 million Armenians where killed
by the Turkish Government from 1915 to 1923. Toros was from
Kharpert and Elizabeth from Palu, 3,000-year-old Armenian
cities occupied and ruled by the Ottoman Empire. Toros and
Elizabeth made it to America. Many members of their family
did not, perishing in the Armenian Genocide.
Long identifies so strongly with his ancestral roots, he
has a tattoo of the seventh letter of the 1,600-year-old
Armenian alphabet atop the Armenian flag on his right arm.
The letter translates into "beingness" or "God
exists". On his left arm and inner bicep, Long has
a tattoo inspired by two centuries-old Armenian churches.
His Armenian name, "Vartan", is woven into the
churches' ancient architectural patterns. This son and grandson
of artists has expressed his creativity in a very 21st-century
by Peter Musurlian and Dr. Arbi Ohanian, The
Long Journey from the NFL to Armenia documents the Vartanian-Krekorian-Long
Family’s return to Armenia, some 100 years since Toros
and Elizabeth arrived in America.
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