Gilded Serpent presents...
MECDA Breaks Its Silence
y Rachel Lazarus Soto
MECDA Belly Dance Carnival Director

[Editor’s note- The following article was a result of a request by the editor to current MECDA president Janet Thomas that the organization should let the community know the status of the organization, clarify the events of the last year, and confirm whether the annual MECDA festival in June is happening. Rachel Soto responded with the following article]

While 2007 proved to be a trying year for MECDA’s Central Board, the New Year promises a great "old" event with a new name and new ideas, and new plans to refocus itself on its members. As many MECDA members may know, its long time leader and recent Vice President, Marta Schill, resigned from MECDA’s Central Board November of last year. This marked the final blow in a string of unexpected events that caused confusion for MECDA’s members and grief for the board.

The Drama
In the fall of 2006, after several complaints about vending at Cairo Carnivale, two long time MECDA members launched a personal campaign to persecute Marta Schill for their grievances. They attended a Central Board meeting insisting that she had misappropriated funds from MECDA’s account for her own personal use, and called for her resignation.

These allegations were without proof and baseless, as Schill had no access to MECDA’s accounts as the vice president, and all spending must be approved by the Central Board, with checks being written by the treasurer.

Early 2007, a committee of “Concerned MECDA members" sent out a letter to MECDA members requesting that the members give this committee permission to proxy their votes in the upcoming Central Board elections. Many who received the letter were confused, upset, and well, further concerned.

There was also some question as to how individual MECDA member’s personal information was obtained so that this letter could be sent out.

A few of the “Concerned” were nominated for office of MECDA’s Central Board. However, none of the "Concerned MECDA Members" were voted into office. The newly elected board members, all of whom have served MECDA in the past, continued to recieve correspondance from certain "Concerned members", bordering on harrassment. This began a rift not only with the "Concerned MECDA Members" and other Southern California members, but also a rift within the Central Board itself.

In early 2007, Schill (then MECDA’s Central Board Vice President, and director of Cairo Carnivale) discussed with MECDA President Janet Thomas, the possibility of MECDA having its annual event, Cairo Carnivale, trademarked.

Thomas agreed that this was a good idea, and Schill volunteered to do the paperwork, presumably on the behalf of MECDA.

In August 2007, Schill presented a proposal to the Central Board asking permission of MECDA to obtain the Cairo Carnivale for her own personal endeavor. The board refused the offer, knowing that it could not afford to lose the amount of revenue the event generated for the organization.

MECDA officers were further shocked when a letter from Schill, dated November 5, 2007, circulated to previous Cairo Carnivale vendors, telling them not to send their vending fees to MECDA as there was no guarantee that the annual Cairo Carnivale event would happen. She also sent documentation to Thomas showing that she had trademarked Cairo Carnivale to herself as an individual. At this time it was agreed that Ms. Schill would be removed from office at the next board meeting to be held November 11, 2007. Schill resigned from office as Vice President of the Central Board on November 7, 2007. At that time MECDA’s web mistress also resigned.

The entire episode stunned MECDA’s Central Board, and sent them scrambling to ensure their dates with the Santa Anita venue (requiring that MECDA use a different name for its event, not wishing to be involved in any legal dispute for the Cairo Carnivale name), to find a new web master, and to regroup regarding the carnival and its name. Many of the board members had been friends with Schill for many years, and were personally wounded by her unexpected actions.

With all of this going on in the last 12 months, its no wonder that our members are confused about whose running MECDA, wondering if there will be a Cairo Carnivale, and what the heck is going on in general! Well, MECDA has recovered, is moving forward, and is excited to have new leadership for its Annual Belly Dance Carnival.

About Cairo Carnivale
While many have fond memories of Cairo Carnivale, MECDA has decided to leave the name behind! In addition to the potential financial expenditure for legal fees for having the name Cairo Carnivale returned to MECDA, the board feels that MECDA needs to sever its ties to the dramatics of the last year, and move forward in a positive light.

Part of the new direction of MECDA is to put its members back in the driver’s seat.

To begin this process, MECDA is having a “Name This Event” contest. Any member can submit their suggested name(s) for the annual event (deadline Mar 1). There is no limit to the number of submissions a member can make. Once submissions are in, MECDA will post the proposed names for the membership to vote on. Until a new name is chosen, the event will be referred to it as “MECDA’s Belly Dance Carnival”. New name aside, it’s still the same great event that MECDA’s Central Board has been hosting for over 23 years.

The location of the event, the Santa Anita Race Track, and its dates, June 7-8, are correct as advertised. While the new name will take time to settle, the event planning is in full swing. MECDA is working diligently to meet the changing needs of its membership by including two Orientale based workshop instructors, and two Tribal based instructors. Just booked are workshop instructors Sadie of Colorado, Princess Farhana of Hollywood, Heather Stants, director of Urban Tribal Dance Company from San Diego, and Kassar, a tribal duo from New Jersey. MECDA hopes to continue to support the diversity of Belly dance by featuring the latest and greatest instructors available.

Returning vendors will be happy to know that the Annual Belly Dance Carnival board has identified some areas to improve and is working towards creating a pleasurable experience for both vendors and patrons. Rosemary Humbert is the vendor chair this year, and she is currently accepting vendor applications.

This year workshops, event pre-registration, and volunteer applications will all be handled on-line using the EventBrite service. Performers can contact Janet Chiapetta for a performance spot. Its MECDA’s hope this will create a cohesive solution for people who are Internet savvy. Of course, for people who prefer to mail in their registrations, we will continue to accept registrations and volunteer applications at our new post office box.

MECDA's New Direction
While MECDA is just getting started with its annual Belly Dance Carnival, MECDA is keeping its eyes on the future. The board is aware that a new direction is required for MECDA as an organization.

It was no longer serving the original intent of the association, and so MECDA must look for a new direction, one which is relevant to the current needs of our membership.

It will begin by creating a membership budget which will outline the expenses of member mailings and benefits. MECDA is also taking a look at what it can do to better serve its members. Suggestions such as group health insurance for members, teacher certification, and a professional level of membership including business seminars, advanced classes, and an annual conference are all being considered. With so many changes and possibilities on the horizon, it’s an exciting time to be involved with MECDA.

Have a comment? Send us a letter!
Check the "Letters to the Editor" for other possible viewpoints!
including- Harry, Marta, and Anniitra Ravenmoon

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