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Gilded Serpent presents...
Missing Elections…
What Happened to MECDA’s Democracy?
by Doyne Allen

The questions MECDA members are asking are:
“Has there been a coup?”
“What has happened to the election of new board members?”

There are directions in MECDA's charter, stating how the election must be accomplished. The annual election of MECDA board members usually happens in May, but so far this year, appointees have superceeded the charter’s process. These rules, and those concerning the eligibility of nominees, have been ignored for 2008.

In most organizations comprised of paying members, only a vote of the membership can enact any change in its charter.

(Otherwise, it would be like joining the Auto Club and finding that the elected officers decided to use the membership dues to promote the legalization of marijuana or any other whim.)

A summary of the instructions for the MECDA Board election is as follows:

  • A nomination ballot is mailed to all members.
  • The people nominated are contacted to find out if they want to run for office.
  • If so, they are then asked to write a short paragraph stating what they hope to accomplish in the position.
  • This information is published in the next issue of “Happenings.”
  • Ballots are mailed to all members. The ballots are in an official MECDA envelope that must include both the ballot and an official return envelope. Another feature of this mailing is that the envelopes are numbered to prevent false ballots from being submitted.
  • The membership has approximately three weeks to return their official ballot in the pre-addressed MECDA envelope. Any vote that is not in the official envelope or marked on the official ballot will not be counted.
  • The new officers are announced in the June Happenings (the monthly publication produced by MECDA) and also at the MECDA Cairo Festival.

MECDA is designated a non-profit organization, but if so, there are certain rules that must be followed to keep that status. In 2008, only the first two items have occurred!

No person or persons that are members of a non-profit organization may, in any way, make a profit from this organization, (other than a salary paid to the officers, and this must be approved by membership).

President Janet Thomas has been doing the printing for MECDA for years, but according to her own statement in a recent short “Happenings,” printing is MECDA’s greatest expense. Under the non-profit status rules, she is not allowed to do this under any circumstances. There is no history of bids being taking during this time to see if printing could be done for less at another printing company. Additionally, as a non-profit organization with a paying membership, publishing a financial statement at the end of each fiscal year is required. MECDA's fiscal year ends on April 30th but there is no such published statement currently.

Additional Related Information

Other Issues of Note

  • There is the question of the lawsuit against Marta Schill for using “trade secrets” (apparently referring to the organizing of the event she called “Cairo Carnival). Again; it seems an unnecessary expenditure for trade secrets that do not exist. All of these similar events, large and small, are run in the same basic manner. Also, if the Board voted this lawsuit to proceed, then the names of the board members who voted should be a matter of public record.

    If it is shown that no vote was held, then the person or persons who filed the lawsuit should be responsible for all expenses, not MECDA
  • In the past two years of this board's management, over a third the membership has dropped out, and it is common to hear from members “when my membership renewal comes due, I will not be doing so”. During his or her two-year term, nearly every elected and appointed officer has resigned.
  • I would personally like to thank Marta Schill for integrity shown in correcting the statement about my stealing the MECDA mailing list. (This letter was posted on in 2006 and signed by Janet Thomas, Marta Schill, and Rosemary Humbert. I wish she had also included the entire "Concerned Members": Annittra Ravenmoon, Feiruz, and Harry Saroyan, but it seems that Janet Thomas and Rosemary Humbert do not feel compelled to correct this wrong.)

Our Call for Action!
If you care about the original mission and purpose behind the formation of MECDA, it is time for you to become involved. Our original idea was to protect the rights of Belly dancers in the professional entertainment world, and later, it included the subject of education, concerning culture and dance of the Middle East. We original members do not want to witness the demise of the organization we created. Because of the apparent direction in which MECDA is currently heading, we believe that we must regain control before it is too late to act responsibly!

  • We are forming a petition to present to the present board. Please contact me (contact information below) if you would like to sign this petition.
  • We intend to notify the Internal Revenue Service if MECDA does not adhere to its original mission policy, under which the organization applied for its tax-exempt status.
  • We want to clarify that the organization’s charter is not subject to legal change without the consent of the majority of the general membership.
  • Our petition will attempt to force the currently appointed officers on the board to hold a valid election to legally elect officers to the board. Further, we will require a full and publicly reported accounting of the expenditures made to the organization’s treasury.
  • We intend to pursue legal correction of any wrongdoing by the appointed officers that may be revealed and proved after the installation of a newly elected board of officers.

We, the original members and others of like mind, have the option to begin the formation of a new organization that will promote and insure the best interests of all dancers as we originally intended. I have nothing to gain from this measure; I will not run for office, but I will attend all meetings. I know it is hard to make a stand because some of the members are your friends, and you may be afraid you might lose friendships. However, if you valued MEDCA you must take action or lose what was once a great dance association.

If you want to sign a petition to re-possess of the MECDA organization, or start a new one, please contact me and let me know your preference. If we are unable to put MECDA back on course, those who would like to help start a new organization whose charter will state that everyone will be treated equally in all matters concerning the membership should contact me. My e-mail address:

Have a comment? Send us a letter!
Check the "Letters to the Editor" for other possible viewpoints!

Ready for more?
3-12-08 Just the Facts, In Response to: "MECDA Breaks its Silence by Rachel Lazarus" by Doyne Allen
We have never accused anyone of stealing money. We have brought to the MECDA Board’s attention the waste and bad management of funds.

2-1-08 MECDA Breaks Its Silence by Rachel Lazarus Soto
Thomas agreed that this was a good idea, and Schill volunteered to do the paperwork, presumably on the behalf of MECDA.

6-10-07 MECDA’s First 30 Years , The Middle Eastern Culture and Dance Association's Changing Role in our Community by Marta Schill Kouzouyan
Diversity, however, often leads to dissention, and controversy flew regarding the perception of the rather strict parameters of the Egyptian style.

10-17-05 How MECDA Began by Feiruz Aram
M.E.C.D.A., (Middle Eastern Culture and Dance Association) is a nationwide organization which began in 1977 for the purpose of organizing working dancers, sharing information between teachers...

3-3-06 How MECDA Began Part II, To Whom It May Concern by Mish Mish El-Atrash
I was very curious to hear what Fairuz had to say about how M.E.C.D.A. began, as I was one of the original dancers to organize it.

6-20-06 Unionizing Belly Dance:MECDA's Beginnings, Part 3:Tying Up Loose Ends, by Samra /Sherifa,
The problem was that after the first strike, where the issues were so clear cut –no one had been paid since the owner gambled away our money, tip-sharing had just been instituted -- people were unwilling to continue with strikes for getting contracts all over town.

10-25-04 The First (and definately not the last!) Tribal Cafe! by Tempest
It was the first all tribal belly dance event sponsored by MECDA IE and took place on August 21st, 2004 in Montclair, California.

3-20-05 Rakkasah Democracy Skips First Amendment! Report by Lynette, Editor
The second call, a few minutes later, warned me not to come to Rakkasah at all.

9-17-08 Belly Dance in Japan Reaches New Heights of Popularity by Ranya Renee Fleysher
Japanese audiences are extremely receptive, supportive and interested in this form of entertainment.”Conservative elder Japanese may still disapprove of the sensual aspect of belly dance, but among the younger generation it is seen as cool and trendy.

9-15-08 My First Experience in Egypt by Nadira
I have always felt a pull to visit Egypt to experience the history and culture of this dance I love so much. The chance came about just recently and it was so worth the wait.

9-13-08 Folk Tours 6th Annual Middle Eastern Music and Dance Camp Report and Photos by Nina Amaya
held at Camp Greenlane in Pennsylvania, May 2008. The authenticity of the camp is amazing. I love Rakkasah and Tribal weekends as much as anyone else, but watching and listening to Arab musicians play Arab music and Turkish musicians play Turkish music, well, that adds a little something! After the nightly shows, the musicians keep playing to the wee hours and the camp dances in the big dining hall until we drop.

9-11-08 Spirit of the Tribes 2008 photos by Denise Marino
April, 24-27 2008, War Memorial Auditorium in Fort Lauderdale, Florida Produced by Maja



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