It is the end of an era for the local organization in Los Angeles known as MECDA – The Middle Eastern Culture and Dance Association has closed its doors – so to speak – as of April 1, 2014.
I was there when the organization was formed back in 1977.
(Scroll to bottom to view an application form circa 1978)
I don’t know that it was the first belly dance organization, but it was one of the first. The original name of the club – and the one most of us preferred - was Middle Eastern Cabaret Dancers Association. It was formed originally as a union for working dancers. I remember well the belly dancers such as Feiruz picketing with signs in hand outside nightclubs in Hollywood. The membership at the beginning was limited to working nightclub dancers, but that soon changed and membership was open to all.
Quickly the club started to present workshops and the festival, later known as Cairo Carnival. Every year we looked forward to hanging out with our belly dancer friends, performing and shopping at our own local festival here in L.A.
The other great benefit from MECDA was the Cymbal magazine and the monthly Happenings. The Happenings kept us informed of any workshops and events for that month.
As the organization grew, it started local chapters. I belonged to one of the first ones: The High Desert Chapter. I never did live in the high desert, (I lived in the San Fernando Valley) but the dancer who ran it – Sue Turner - was looking for members and I guess she considered the San Fernando Valley was close enough. Soon I was a board member for the chapter and I attended the monthly board meetings for years. We sometimes had a booth at Cairo Carnival.
I became much less active in MECDA when I formed IAMED in 1996, as that took up all my time, spare and otherwise. I was there as a regular vendor at Cairo Carnival starting in 1997 promoting all things IAMED.
About 5-6 years ago I sat down with some of the board members of MECDA. It had been more than a decade since I had attended one of their meetings. I can’t remember if I was invited or I just invited myself to the meeting. At that time they were looking at folding it up. They were experiencing some problems including the fact that some board members were burnt out after volunteering much of their spare time for many, many years to MECDA. They were short on quality people who wanted to keep it going. I can’t remember some of the other issues, but I went to the meeting to help with solutions so that MECDA would continue to function and hold events, etc.
Well, it did keep going, as least for several more years, but the problems unfortunately multiplied, mainly mismanagement by a new leader.
(They should have listened to me.)
For me personally, I think it will take me a couple of years to believe that MECDA is gone. It was big part of my life for decades. I find the demise of MECDA incredibly sad. I do have my pictures and memories of the good times. I only hope in the coming years a new and exciting version of MECDA will form in Los Angeles.
And don’t worry about IAMED. As long as I’m still breathing we’ll be here annoying you for years to come.
Suzy Evans BellyDance.org
Suzy Evans BellyDance.org
You can view the final MECDA letter by going to www.mecda.org
Or just read it here below:
Dear Dancers and MECDA Supporters,
This is a really hard letter to write, but we believe we owe it to you to be as transparent as possible about MECDA, an organization you have long supported. As an organization that was founded in the 1970s, it has had a storied history promoting and sharing Middle Eastern dance culture for over four decades. MECDA has touched and inspired many of us to start dancing and performing.
In 2013, MECDA underwent a massive leadership shift in a strong attempt to reinvigorate the organization. Previous longrunning financial mismanagement, poor organizational leadership and lack of adherence to norms of nonprofit management led to a perfect storm: MECDA had become a nonprofit organization serving a dance community that had long lost its faith in it.
It is a body blow that few nonprofits can recover from, even though the newly constituted Central Board, a small, committed group of people, worked long hours putting their time, energy and financial health on the line to bring MECDA back from the brink.
But sometimes when something is broken, it is really broken and can’t be fixed. The new Board has tried over the past twelve months to right wrongs, pay people back, develop better financial and business organization, rebuild our online community and plan a better Cairo Caravan. However, in December, MECDA was notified by the IRS that due to a lack of tax filings since 2010, MECDA had lost its taxexempt—and therefore nonprofit—status. We stared into the abyss and it stared back.
We realized it would take $20,000 MECDA didn’t have to run Cairo Caravan with no guarantee that we would break even this year whilst working through a heavy backlog of debts accumulated under the previous leadership. In a constrained economic climate, dance festival attendance is dropping across the board. MECDA membership has been dropping precipitously in recent years, and the hollowed out membership base has made the organization’s position untenable.
We knew a year ago that Cairo Caravan would be the event that would either herald a new start for MECDA or the moment where we reevaluated MECDA’s continued existence. As the Central Board, we have to do what is most responsible for the organization and for the community. Therefore, we are canceling Cairo Caravan and are folding MECDA, effective April 1, 2014.
MECDA may not have been well managed in the past few years, but we are determined to wind it down in the most responsible way we can. With the cash we have on hand, we will pay back people who invested Cairo Caravan most heavily, starting with workshop ticket holders and gala ticket holders, instructors and vendors. The details of how we will rectify the financial picture will be communicated individually. MECDA Chapters will be responsible for disbursing what is remaining in their local coffers in a locally appropriate manner, whether it is donating to a local good cause, reinvesting it into a community event, or paying off any remaining debts. We are doing this because you deserved better, whether you were a MECDA member, previous festival attendee, or a member of the dance community. You deserve a Middle Eastern dance nonprofit organization that was as relevant and meaningful to you in 2014 as MECDA was in 1977, and you deserve nonprofit leadership that is accountable and responsive.
If you have questions, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org and the entire Central Board will read and discuss your concerns and may be addressed publicly.
We know that this is a difficult time for all of us, but we appreciate your patience and consideration as we try to set things as right as we wind down MECDA.
See you on the horizon, Rom, Tim, Barbara and Rosa
|MECDA Application Form|
|MECDA Application Form|