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Concerned members Raven and Feiruz

Gilded Serpent presents...
Just the Facts   
In Response to:  MECDA Breaks its Silence by Rachel Lazarus 
March, 2008
by Doyne Allen

Over the years, I have seen MECDA (Middle Eastern Culture and Dance Association, founded in Los Angeles in the 1970's) grow from a fun loving group of people who enjoyed and loved the Middle Eastern dance culture to a group that disparaged each other and destroyed the joy that formerly existed.

After observing this sad state of affairs, I stated at a past MECDA board meeting that if someone disliked an individual in private life, then keep it in private life.  If that person is a member of MECDA, they should still be treated the same way as any other member.  I was a very early participant in the group (member # 14) and believe that a new member should be treated in the same manner as myself.  But, I am afraid the atmosphere of equality no longer exists and I have seen many people leave MECDA because of the negative way they were treated by members of the board.

Since I was involved in events leading up to the current MECDA situation, I wish to present my direct response to Rachel Lazarus' article "MECDA Breaks Its Silence." My main point is that I believe the writer should have the facts and not imply unverified information. Rachel Lazarus states in her article -"MECDA Breaks Its Silence" that 2007 was a trying year for the organization.  In part this may be true due to the activities of two original MECDA members, Harry Saroyan and myself. During this time we actively questioned many operations of the group.  We began attending the board meetings in August of 2006 because we were upset with the direction MECDA was headed and the apparent mismanagement.  

The "Accusation"
Rachel's article stated that we accused Marta Schill (who was a founding member of MECDA and Vice President in 2007) of “misappropriating funds from MECDA’s account.” 

We have never accused anyone of stealing money.  We have brought to the MECDA Board’s attention the waste and bad management of funds. 

The misappropriation rumor is still circulating and was started by comments from MECDA board members who misquoted us as saying that they had stolen money.  The rumor began with these comments and was perpetuated by Rachel's article

Related Documents

The "accusation" incident mentioned in the article occurred at a MECDA board meeting when Marta questioned Harry Saroyan.  Marta's words were: “What is the rumor about MECDA paying for my daughter’s birthday luncheon?”   Harry stated that he had heard the rumor and I said I had also heard it from several people. 

The sad thing is that the person who had told Harry this information was present and did not speak up as Marta became more angry. .

At the same meeting I read a letter at the request of Harry Saroyan that asked Marta to resign and mentioned problems with her management. During 2007 we continued to attend board meetings.  We also asked past officers and long term members to attend as well, many of whom had quit MECDA because of poor treatment or dislike of MECDA’s conduct. 

The "Concerned Members" Letter 
Just prior to the annual MECDA election the two of us composed a letter listing the worst problems and mailed it to the membership and local belly dance community under the heading of “Concerned Members.” 

The number one item in the letter was MECDA’s financial report that showed a $41,000.00 difference between income and expenses.  More funds had been collected than were accounted for in the expense report.  These figures* were given to me by Janet Thomas.

During the previous several months we had asked the MECDA board if the funds management question was a paperwork error and if so, where did it occur? We did not receive a direct response.  At one board meeting a past president and treasurer, Holly Hillman, volunteered to take the books and get them in order.  It was voted by the board to do so.  One week later she received a letter from MECDA basically telling her “never mind"

The Election
The 2007 MECDA election was held and the officers elected were:  Janet Thomas, President, Marta Schill, Vice President, and Rosemary Humbert, Secretary. 

No one has ever mentioned that by MECDA rules and standards it was an illegal election. When ballots are mailed out, the envelopes are to contain the ballot and a numbered MECDA return envelope.  The ballot must be returned in the enclosed envelope to be counted. The number is to insure that no one is sending in duplicates. In this case the ballots were printed by Janet Thomas and the envelopes were not numbered so we have no idea of how many ballots were actually created.

Holly Hillman, past MECDA president and treasurer, was present for the counting of ballots. She observed that a large segment of the returns came from the San Bernardino area where several candidates were located. Also many ballots were in non-MECDA envelopes and were going to be included until Holly spoke up about the rule.

As you can see there were reasons to contest the election, but we decided that the voters had been informed of the problems and had made their decision.

As a side note to the letter mailing, Lynette Harris (Editor of Gilded Serpent) told me a rumor had circulated that we obtained our mailing list from The Chronicles magazine. This was not true.  I was in charge of printing labels for the letters, and the various lists arrived to me by mail and by hand from vendors and teachers.  I had one copy printed at Kinkos and the master disc was destroyed at the request of those who contributed.

Harry and Feiruz in 1986 Post
A couple weeks after the “Concerned Members” letter was mailed an article was posted on MECDA's discussion board at signed by Marta Schill (MECDA Vice President) Janet Thomas (President) and Rosemary Humbert (Secretary) that implied we had stolen the mailing list. As a result of this letter I spent two weeks answering nasty comments on the tribe site. 

I also received unsigned letters in the mail and messages on my answering machine stating that since these individuals had heard I was a thief, they would no longer be doing business with me and would convince others to do likewise.

I spoke to my attorney and we started a file with all facts on record and on Feb. 1st. 2008, a suit was filed at Superior Court of Los Angeles.  I will be asking for $250,000.00 in damages.

I contacted Janet Thomas and in our conversation Janet stated that she knows we did not steal the mailing list and she knew nothing of the letter posted at MECDA Secretary Rosemary Humbert stated the same thing and I have her e-mail on record.  I told Janet that if this statement would appear in the "Happenings" (MECDA's monthly publication) and on I would drop the law suit, thus saving MECDA attorney fees and whatever judgment I might receive. 

But they have refused, thus the law suit will continue.

Following the above events, Marta Schill posted her resignation and announced the financial problems of MECDA.  Rachel also comments about the "final blow" of Marta's departure.  Was this “blow” because the officers did not get to remove her from the board as they had previously voted to do?   Marta resigned 10 days before the meeting that was to ask for her resignation

In several weeks legal papers will be served and all depositions will have been taken.  At this point there will be no settlement. 

I do not want to put an end to MECDA, but my integrity and business reputation is more important to me than any group.

In conclusion, if you do not care how your dues to MECDA are wasted then remain silent. If you do care, then respond to MECDA at    If they agree to publish what they have already admitted is true before papers are served, then the case will be dropped.

*The tax form was the official tax return. When I asked for a financial statement, Janet gave me the tax form and then the third sheet "the financial and revenue" was their figures from the books. Thus if you subtract The one from the other you have the 41,000 difference. So the three sheets should go together.

The people in #1 are: (L to R) Doyne, my friend Melodie, Mohammed (perfume shop owner) and unknown shop employees. Location, Luxor market (suk) in the late evening. Yeah, don't know what the dude has in his pipe but we didn't have any *g*

People in #2: (L to R) Doyne, Anaheed, younger sister of shop employee. Location, Luxor Suk, Perfume Shop, hot daytime.

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

Ready for more?
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.

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By understanding the nature of non-profits, how they are organized and run, you can see their potential for developing successful arts organization, performance space, dance company or troupe.

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10-17-05 How MECDA Began by Feiruz Aram
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The major issues with attracting students are ever-present. They’re just more pronounced during hard times. Here’s what you’ll likely start hearing from your current and prospective students.






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