International Board (Extraordinary Council)

Laila Al-Qata­mi

Laila Al-Qata­mi has exten­sive expe­ri­ence in man­age­ment and strate­gic com­mu­ni­ca­tions for cul­tur­al orga­ni­za­tions, non-prof­it asso­ci­a­tions, finan­cial insti­tu­tions, cor­po­ra­tions, and gov­ern­ments. Cur­rent­ly, she is the Chief Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Offi­cer for Al Ahli Bank of Kuwait. Pre­vi­ous­ly, she was the Man­ag­ing Direc­tor for the Sheikh Abdul­lah Al Salem Cul­tur­al Cen­tre (ASCC) in Kuwait, one of the largest cul­tur­al com­plex­es in the world. She also direct­ed exter­nal rela­tions and cor­po­rate social respon­si­bil­i­ty for Gulf Bank – Kuwait; direct­ed com­mu­ni­ca­tions and oper­a­tions for the Exec­u­tive Office in Diwan of HH The Prime Min­is­ter of Kuwait; and head­ed mar­ket­ing and out­reach for the for the Nation­al Cen­ter for Doc­u­men­ta­tion and Research of the UAE Min­istry of Pres­i­den­tial Affairs. When Laila was based in Wash­ing­ton, DC, she was the spokesper­son for the Amer­i­can-Arab Anti-Dis­crim­i­na­tion Com­mit­tee (ADC) and a reg­u­lar com­men­ta­tor for domes­tic and inter­na­tion­al media dis­cussing Arabs and Muslims.

Laila is a found­ing board mem­ber of Sorop­ti­mist Kuwait, a licensed Kuwaiti NGO and chap­ter of a world­wide ser­vice orga­ni­za­tion for women and girls, most recent­ly serv­ing as its Vice Pres­i­dent. She was a mem­ber of the Nation­al Board of Direc­tors of Amer­i­can Civ­il Lib­er­ties Union (ACLU), the largest civ­il rights orga­ni­za­tion in the US (2006–2012) and was a men­tor for George­town Uni­ver­si­ty stu­dents in the Patrick Healy Fel­lows Pro­gram (2006–2009).  She has a B.S. from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Col­orado, an M.A. from George­town Uni­ver­si­ty, and is a cer­ti­fied Sus­tain­abil­i­ty practitioner.

Oliv­er Gloag

Oliv­er Gloag was born in New York City and raised in France. As a young activist, he trav­elled to Nicaragua as part of a sol­i­dar­i­ty brigade, worked with fam­i­lies of vic­tims of police bru­tal­i­ty, cam­paigned against the expul­sion of a Moroc­can stu­dent (Jussieu Paris VII), and was a mem­ber of the com­mit­tee for the lib­er­a­tion of Abra­ham Ser­faty. As a lawyer in New Orleans, Oliv­er suc­cess­ful­ly rep­re­sent­ed asy­lum-seek­ers from Iraq and Con­go DR, and was rec­og­nized for his work by then May­or Marc Mor­i­al. As an aca­d­e­m­ic, his work is at the inter­sec­tion of his­to­ry, lit­er­a­ture and pol­i­tics. His focus is on France’s fraught rela­tion­ship to its colo­nial past and neo­colo­nial present. He has writ­ten and spo­ken exten­sive­ly on Albert Camus and Jean-Paul Sartre. His lat­est book is Albert Camus, a very short intro­duc­tion, pub­lished by Oxford Uni­ver­si­ty Press.

Philip Grant

Philip Grant is a Per­sian-Eng­lish and French-Eng­lish trans­la­tor based in Los Ange­les. He has worked as an aca­d­e­m­ic anthro­pol­o­gist and soci­ol­o­gist at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Edin­burgh and the Uni­ver­si­ty of Cal­i­for­nia, Irvine, as well as a non-prof­it researcher in phi­los­o­phy of tech­nol­o­gy, and in invest­ment man­age­ment. He is co-author of Chains of Finance (OUP, 2017), and is cur­rent­ly work­ing on a his­to­ry of the Zanj Rebel­lion. An arti­cle on silk cloth in the Zanj Rebel­lion will be com­ing out in al-ʿUṣūr al-Wusṭā in Decem­ber 2022.

Bavand Karim

Bavand Karim (born Bavand Karimzadeh) is the CEO of Lost Winds Enter­tain­ment, a film pro­duc­tion com­pa­ny based in Los Ange­les. Their projects include Gaso­line AlleySlay­ersSat­ur­day at the Starlight, and Black­out. Karim’s orig­i­nal films have screened at Cannes and Sun­dance, pre­miered on Net­flix and Ama­zon Prime, and qual­i­fied for the Acad­e­my Awards. He is the founder and chair­per­son of Cine Inter­na­tion­al Com­pa­nies, a con­sul­tan­cy ded­i­cat­ed to empow­er­ing diverse per­spec­tives in visu­al media and the arts. Read his essay, “Where Are You From?” Iden­ti­ty and the Spir­it of Eth­no-Futur­ism, in TMR.

Talal al-Muhan­na

Talal al-Muhan­na is a film pro­duc­er and cul­tur­al man­ag­er. Through his cre­ative label Linked Pro­duc­tions, he has pro­duced award-win­ning doc­u­men­tary and fic­tion films by Arab film­mak­ers. As Senior Pro­duc­er at Sheikh Jaber Al-Ahmed Cul­tur­al Cen­tre in Kuwait, Talal pro­duced mul­ti-media per­for­mances with a wide vari­ety of inter­na­tion­al artists from 2017–2022. Talal’s films have been sup­port­ed by Sun­dance Insti­tute, Tribeca Film Insti­tute and Cinereach (USA); Hot Docs Blue Ice Group Fund (Cana­da); British Film Insti­tute (UK); Visions Sud Est (Switzer­land); Arab Fund for Arts & Cul­ture (Lebanon); and Enjaaz (UAE); these films were select­ed at numer­ous fes­ti­vals and broad­cast in Europe, the Amer­i­c­as and MENA. ITVS doc­u­men­tary “Whose Coun­try?” – which he co-wrote – won Best in Jour­nal­ism at BBC Ara­bic Film Fes­ti­val. Talal holds a BA and MA in Film & Mov­ing Image Pro­duc­tion from Leeds Beck­ett Uni­ver­si­ty. In 2015, he was a Pro­duc­ing Fel­low at the Cen­ter for Asian Amer­i­can Media and, in 2020, received British Coun­cil Kuwait’s Pro­fes­sion­al Achieve­ment Award for his work as a media producer. 

Mai Al-Nakib

Mai Al-Nakib is author of the nov­el An Unlast­ing Home and the short sto­ry col­lec­tion The Hid­den Light of Objects, win­ner of the Edin­burgh Inter­na­tion­al Book Festival’s First Book Award in 2014. Her fic­tion has been pub­lished in Ninth Let­ter, The First Line, and After the Pause. Her essays have appeared in World Lit­er­a­ture Today, BLARB: Blog of the LA Review of Books, and the BBC, among oth­ers. She was born in Kuwait and spent the first six years of her life in Lon­don, Edin­burgh, and St. Louis, Mis­souri. She holds a PhD in Eng­lish lit­er­a­ture from Brown Uni­ver­si­ty and is Asso­ciate Pro­fes­sor of Eng­lish and com­par­a­tive lit­er­a­ture at Kuwait Uni­ver­si­ty.  She divides her time between Kuwait and Greece. 

rana kazkaz - the markaz review
Rana Kazkaz

Rana Kazkaz is an award-win­ning film­mak­er. With a focus on Syr­i­an sto­ries, her port­fo­lio includes Mare Nos­trum (2016) which has been select­ed in over 100 inter­na­tion­al film fes­ti­vals and won more than 30 awards, the doc­u­men­tary Search­ing for the Trans­la­tor (2016), Ham (2013), Deaf Day (2011), Exquis­ite Corpse (2009) and Kemo Sabe (2007). Her first fea­ture The Trans­la­tor (2021) won sev­er­al grants and devel­op­ment awards includ­ing the Arte Award at L’Atelier de la Cine­fon­da­tion at the Cannes Film Fes­ti­val (2017), the CNC Award at Meet­ings on the Bridge at the Istan­bul Film Fes­ti­val (2017) and a Tribeca Alum­ni Grant (2018). Her cur­rent film projects include Hon­est Pol­i­tics and The Fool­ish­ness of God: My For­give­ness Jour­ney with Desmond Tutu. She is an assis­tant pro­fes­sor of com­mu­ni­ca­tion in res­i­dence at North­west­ern Qatar who teach­es nar­ra­tive filmmaking. 


Ter­ence Ward

Ter­ence Ward is a writer, pro­duc­er, and cul­tur­al con­sul­tant who grew up in Ara­bia and Iran before attend­ing the Amer­i­can Uni­ver­si­ty of Cairo and the Uni­ver­si­ty of Cal­i­for­nia at Berke­ley. Based in Athens for 10 years, he advised gov­ern­ments and indus­tries across the Gulf with MEIRC. His mem­oir Search­ing for Has­san: A Jour­ney to the Heart of Iran was pub­lished in sev­en lan­guages includ­ing two Per­sian edi­tions. His oth­er books are: The Wah­habi Code: How the Saud­is Spread Extrem­ism Glob­al­ly and The Guardian of Mer­cy: How an Extra­or­di­nary Paint­ing by Car­avag­gio Changed an Ordi­nary Life. He’s appeared on CNN with Chris­tiane Aman­pour, PBS, C‑SPAN, BBC, RAI-TV while his writ­ing’s been pub­lished by the LA Times, Huff­in­g­ton PostCNNThe Ecol­o­gistIl Man­i­festoLa Stam­pa, and Reset. His award-win­ning docs include: “Black Africa White Mar­ble,” and “Talk Radio Tehran”. Ward lives in Flo­rence and serves as an ambas­sador for Reli­gions for Peace, the world’s largest inter-faith organization.


Advisory Board

Nathalie Han­dal

Nathalie Han­dal was raised in Latin Amer­i­ca, France and the Mid­dle East, and edu­cat­ed in the Unit­ed States, Unit­ed King­dom and Asia.  Her recent poet­ry books include Life in A Coun­try Album, win­ner of the 2020 Pales­tine Book Award and final­ist for the Fore­word Book Award; the flash col­lec­tion The Republics, laud­ed as “one of the most inven­tive books by one of today’s most diverse writ­ers,” and win­ner of the Vir­ginia Faulkn­er Award for Excel­lence in Writ­ing, and the Arab Amer­i­can Book Award; the crit­i­cal­ly acclaimed Poet in Andalucía and The Invis­i­ble Starand Love and Strange Hors­es, win­ner of the Gold Medal Inde­pen­dent Pub­lish­er Book Award. She is the edi­tor of two antholo­gies, and her work has appeared in Van­i­ty Fair, Guer­ni­ca Mag­a­zine, The Guardian, The New York Times, The Nation, The Irish Times, among oth­ers. Han­dal is the recip­i­ent of awards from the PEN Foun­da­tion, the Lan­nan Foun­da­tion, Cen­tro Andaluz de las Letras, Fon­dazione di Venezia, The Africa Insti­tute, among oth­ers. She is pro­fes­sor of lit­er­a­ture and cre­ative writ­ing at New York Uni­ver­si­ty, and writes the lit­er­ary trav­el col­umn ‘The City and the Writer’ for Words with­out Bor­ders magazine.


Dr. Mehnaz M. Afridi

Pro­fes­sor Mehnaz M. Afri­di is the Direc­tor of the Holo­caust, Geno­cide and Inter­faith Edu­ca­tion Cen­ter at Man­hat­tan Col­lege in the Bronx, where she teach­es con­tem­po­rary Islam and the Holo­caust. The author of the 2017 title Shoah Through Mus­lim Eyes, she taught Judaism and Islam at Anti­och Uni­ver­si­ty, Los Ange­les. Orig­i­nal­ly from Pak­istan, raised in Europe and the Mid­dle East, she brings a mul­ti­cul­tur­al per­spec­tive to Islam. Her deep inter­est in Judaism and Mod­ern Jew­ish Dias­po­ra has led her to numer­ous inter­faith con­fer­ences, invi­ta­tions by non-Mus­lims to expound on the intel­lec­tu­al and the­o­log­i­cal sim­i­lar­i­ties between Jews and Mus­lims. Her recent research projects are focused in Italy, Mus­lims and Jews in Ital­ian cul­ture; she taught in Rome and received a grant from the Nation­al Endow­ment of Human­i­ties to attend a sem­i­nar in Venice, Italy. Read an arti­cle about Mehnaz’s “Ask a Mus­lim” lec­ture series. Mehnaz once pre­sent­ed her talk, An Illu­mi­nat­ed His­to­ry of Jew­ish-Mus­lim Rela­tions at Lev­an­tine Cul­tur­al Center.

Shohreh Aghdashloo

Shohreh Agh­dashloo has worked with and been a sup­port­ing mem­ber of The Markaz/Levantine Cul­tur­al Cen­ter since 2007, when she appeared on stage in a Lev­an­tine pro­gram with author Zara Housh­mand and poet Sholeh Wolpé. In 2011, on behalf of the LCC, she received a Hol­ly­wood For­eign Press Asso­ci­a­tion award.

After estab­lish­ing a the­atre and film career in her native Iran, work­ing with such direc­tors as Abbas Kiarosta­mi, Moham­mad Reza Aslani and Ali Hata­mi, Shohreh Agh­dashloo went to Eng­land dur­ing the 1979 Islam­ic Rev­o­lu­tion, where she earned a B.A. in Inter­na­tion­al Rela­tions. For a time she con­sid­ered becom­ing a full-time jour­nal­ist, but emi­grat­ed to Los Ange­les dur­ing the 1980s, where she mar­ried fel­low Iran­ian actor and play­wright Houshang Touzie and con­tin­ued her act­ing career. In 2003 she co-starred with Ben Kings­ley and Jen­nifer Con­nel­ly in House of Sand and Fog, and sub­se­quent­ly received an Acad­e­my Award nom­i­na­tion for Best Sup­port­ing Actress. She has worked exten­sive­ly in Hol­ly­wood, in such films as X Men: The Last Stand, Amer­i­can Dreamz and The Lake House. Shohreh Agh­dashloo has also made a name for her­self in Amer­i­can tele­vi­sion, in such series as 24, Will and Grace, ER and House of Sadam—for which she received an Emmy Award for Out­stand­ing Sup­port­ing Actress. In 2012 she starred on the Lon­don stage as Bernar­da Alba in Fed­eri­co Gar­cia Lorca’s The House of Bernar­da Alba. While she comes from a Mus­lim fam­i­ly, Agh­dashoo has made a point of play­ing char­ac­ters from oth­er reli­gions, and she has spo­ken out on behalf of the rights of Baha’is in Iran.

Dr. Reza Aslan

Dr. Reza Aslan, an inter­na­tion­al­ly acclaimed writer and schol­ar of reli­gions, is a con­tribut­ing edi­tor at the Dai­ly Beast. Reza Aslan has degrees in Reli­gions from San­ta Clara Uni­ver­si­ty, Har­vard Uni­ver­si­ty, and the Uni­ver­si­ty of Cal­i­for­nia, San­ta Bar­bara, as well as a Mas­ter of Fine Arts from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Iowa, where he was named the Tru­man Capote Fel­low in Fic­tion. He is a mem­ber of the Coun­cil on For­eign Rela­tions, the Los Ange­les Insti­tute for the Human­i­ties, and the Pacif­ic Coun­cil on Inter­na­tion­al Pol­i­cy. He serves on the board of direc­tors for both the Ploughshares Fund, which gives grants for peace and secu­ri­ty issues, Abraham’s Vision, an inter­faith peace orga­ni­za­tion, and PEN USA, as well as The Markaz/Levantine Cul­tur­al Center’s nation­al advi­so­ry board.

Aslan’s first book is the New York Times best­seller, No god but God: The Ori­gins, Evo­lu­tion, and Future of Islam, which has been trans­lat­ed into thir­teen lan­guages, short-list­ed for the Guardian First Book Award in the UK, and nom­i­nat­ed for a PEN USA award for research Non-Fic­tion. His most recent book is How to Win a Cos­mic War: God, Glob­al­iza­tion, and the End of the War on Ter­ror, fol­lowed by an edit­ed anthol­o­gy, Words With­out Bor­ders: Writ­ings from the Mid­dle East, which will be pub­lished by Nor­ton in 2010.He has writ­ten for the Los Ange­les Times, the New York TimesSlateBoston Globe, the Wash­ing­ton Post, the Nation, and oth­ers, and has appeared on Meet The Press, Hard­ball, The Dai­ly Show, The Tavis Smi­ley Show, Real Time with Bill Maher, The Col­bert Report, and Nightline.

Aslan is Cofounder and Chief Cre­ative Offi­cer of Boom­Gen Stu­dios, the first ever motion pic­ture com­pa­ny focused entire­ly on enter­tain­ment about the Greater Mid­dle East and its Dias­po­ra com­mu­ni­ties, as well as Edi­to­r­i­al Exec­u­tive of Born in Iran, he now Reza Aslan has been a fre­quent guest on the Dai­ly Show and many oth­er cable news sta­tions. His many books and edit­ed antholo­gies are impor­tant con­tri­bu­tions to the dia­logue about Islam and the West, and US – Iran rela­tions. He is now the Waller­stein Pro­fes­sor at Drew University’s Cen­ter on Reli­gion, Cul­ture, and Con­flict in New Jersey.

Dr. Sami Shalom Chetrit

Sami Shalom Chetrit is a dis­si­dent Israeli poet, edu­ca­tor, film­mak­er and his­to­ri­an whose lat­est book The Mizrahi Strug­gle in Israel: 1948–2003, has been trans­lat­ed into Ara­bic by Samir Ayash and pub­lished by Madar (Ramal­lah). Chetrit received his Ph.D in 2001 from The Hebrew Uni­ver­si­ty of Jerusalem, Depart­ment of Polit­i­cal Sci­ence, writ­ing on Mizrahi pol­i­tics in Israel. He received a Mas­ter of Inter­na­tion­al Affairs in 1991 from Colum­bia Uni­ver­si­ty, with a spe­cial­iza­tion in Mid­dle East­ern stud­ies. He was born in 1960 in Moroc­co and grew up in an immi­grant work­ing class neigh­bor­hood in the port city of Ash­dod. His pub­lished poet­ry includes Poems in Ash­do­di­ans, poems from 1982–2002 (Andalus, 2003). Sev­er­al of his poems appear in Eng­lish trans­la­tion in the anthol­o­gy Keys to the Gar­den (City Lights 1999), edit­ed by Ammiel Alcalay. In 2003 he co-pro­duced and direct­ed with Eli Hamo (cin­e­matog­ra­phy and edit­ing) the doc­u­men­tary film “The Black Pan­thers (in Israel) Speak.” His new doc­u­men­tary is “Come Moth­er” on his mother’s gen­er­a­tion of Moroc­can women in Israel.

Peter Cole

Peter Cole is the win­ner of a 2007 MacArthur Award. He is a trans­la­tor, pub­lish­er, and poet who brings the often over­looked works of medieval Spain and the mod­ern Mid­dle East to Eng­lish-speak­ing audi­ences.  His high­ly regard­ed trans­la­tions of the poet­ry of Solomon Ibn Gabirol and Shmuel HaNagid, two of the great Hebrew poets of the Andalu­sian “Gold­en Age,” offer read­ers a lyri­cal illus­tra­tion of the extra­or­di­nary Arab-Jew­ish cul­tur­al part­ner­ship that flour­ished in tenth- through twelfth-cen­tu­ry Spain.

A poet him­self, Cole’s trans­la­tions infuse medieval verse with con­tem­po­rary mean­ing while remain­ing faith­ful to the orig­i­nal text.  His ren­der­ings of HaNagid’s poems in par­tic­u­lar, long regard­ed as “untrans­lat­able,” retain the sub­tleties, com­plex­i­ties, and for­mal ele­gance of the orig­i­nal verse.  Under­ly­ing Cole’s trans­la­tions is an implic­it mes­sage of cul­tur­al and his­tor­i­cal cross-fer­til­iza­tion that is also evi­dent in his work as a poet and a pub­lish­er.  His Ibis Edi­tions pub­lish­es lit­tle-known works trans­lat­ed from Ara­bic, Hebrew, Ger­man, French, and Ladi­no, enlight­en­ing Eng­lish-speak­ing audi­ences to the thriv­ing lit­er­ary tra­di­tion of the Lev­ant.  By fos­ter­ing lit­er­ary dia­logue in and about the Mid­dle East, Ibis pro­vides an occa­sion for intel­lec­tu­al and cul­tur­al col­lab­o­ra­tion.  In a region mired in con­flict, Cole’s ded­i­ca­tion to the lit­er­a­ture of the Lev­ant offers a unique and inspir­ing vision of the cul­tur­al, reli­gious, and lin­guis­tic inter­ac­tions that were and are pos­si­ble among the peo­ples of the Mid­dle East.

Peter Cole began his under­grad­u­ate stud­ies at Williams Col­lege (1975–1977) and received a B.A. (1980) from Hamp­shire Col­lege in Amherst, Mass­a­chu­setts.  He is the author of two vol­umes of poet­ry, Rift (1989) and Hymns & Qualms (1998), and has also pub­lished many vol­umes of trans­la­tion from Hebrew and Ara­bic, includ­ing Select­ed Poems of Shmuel HaNagid (1996), Select­ed Poems of Solomon Ibn Gabirol (2001), Taha Muham­mad Ali’s So What: New and Select­ed Poems, 1971–2005 (2006), and The Dream of the Poem: Hebrew Poet­ry from Mus­lim and Chris­t­ian Spain, 950‑1492 (2007).  He is the co-edi­tor of Ibis Edi­tions, which he co-found­ed in 1998, and has been a vis­it­ing writer and pro­fes­sor at Wes­leyan Uni­ver­si­ty, Mid­dle­bury Col­lege, and Yale University’s Whit­ney Cen­ter for the Human­i­ties in the fall of 2006.

Among Cole’s trans­la­tions from con­tem­po­rary Hebrew and Ara­bic poet­ry and fic­tion are also Love & Select­ed Poems of Aharon Shab­tai (Sheep Mead­ow), J’Accuse, by Aharon Shab­tai (New Direc­tions), So What: New & Select­ed Poems, 1971–2005 by Taha Muham­mad Ali (Cop­per Canyon Press), The Col­lect­ed Poems of Avra­ham Ben Yitzhak (Ibis) and The Shun­ra and the Schemet­ter­ling, by Yoel Hoff­mann (New Directions).

Cole has received numer­ous awards for his work, includ­ing fel­low­ships from the John Simon Guggen­heim Foun­da­tion, the Nation­al Endow­ment for the Arts, the Nation­al Endow­ment for the Human­i­ties, and the 1998 Mod­ern Lan­guage Asso­ci­a­tion Trans­la­tion Award. J’Accuse received the 2004 PEN-Amer­i­ca Award for Poet­ry in Translation.

Dorit Cypis

Dorit Cyp­is is an award win­ning artist, edu­ca­tor and medi­a­tor. Her work has been pre­sent­ed inter­na­tion­al­ly at muse­ums and oth­er cul­tur­al con­texts. For­eign Exchanges, an ini­tia­tive since 2007, offers con­flict engage­ment and diver­si­ty skills through medi­a­tion and aes­thet­ics. Dorit is Found­ing Mem­ber, Medi­a­tors Beyond Bor­ders and past Chair/MBB Mid­dle East Ini­tia­tive; she found­ed Kul­ture Klub Col­lab­o­ra­tive, artists work­ing with home­less youth to bridge sur­vival and inspi­ra­tion; direct­ed FAR, Foun­da­tion for Art Resources, part­ner­ing with pri­vate and pub­lic orga­ni­za­tions to sup­port cul­tur­al pro­duc­tion in urban set­tings by artists. On Polic­ing, a cur­rent projectweaves her strengths to design com­mu­ni­ty devel­op­ment events in vul­ner­a­ble neigh­bor­hoods where local youth and police offi­cers engage through col­lab­o­ra­tive and inter­de­pen­dent efforts. Dorit was award­ed a Guggen­heim Fel­low­ship and a Rauschen­berg Foun­da­tion Res­i­den­cy in 2014 and has taught through­out USA, Cana­da, Israel, Hol­land and France. She earned a Mas­ters of Fine Art, Cal­i­for­nia Insti­tute for the Arts, and Mas­ters of Dis­pute Res­o­lu­tion, Pep­per­dine University.

Dr. Nile Regina El Wardani

Nile Regi­na El War­dani, MPH, MPhil, Ph.D. cur­rent­ly lec­tures at, and in Glob­al Pub­lic Health. Pre­vi­ous­ly she taught at  the Amer­i­can Uni­ver­si­ty in Cairo, Egypt in the Grad­u­ate School of Glob­al Affairs and Pub­lic Pol­i­cy.  A mul­ti-cul­tur­al per­son, Nile speaks Eng­lish, French, Ara­bic and Span­ish. She holds a PhD and MPhil from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Lon­don in Pub­lic Pol­i­cy and a Mas­ter in Pub­lic Health from UCLA.

She has worked for over 25 years in Africa, the Mid­dle East and USA as a pro­gram manager/business devel­op­er in the fields of pub­lic health and inter­na­tion­al devel­op­ment. She spe­cial­izes in pub­lic health edu­ca­tion, human rights, repro­duc­tive health and women’s empow­er­ment. She was award­ed the Mid­dle East Award for Social Sci­ence Research for her research on pol­i­cy, gov­er­nance, human rights, and civ­il soci­ety. Nile has con­sult­ed for UNESCO, UNICEF, WHO, and the Egypt­ian Min­istries of Health, Edu­ca­tion and Infor­ma­tion. She has worked with bilat­er­al donors includ­ing USAID, Finni­da, Dani­da and Dutch Aid and many NGOS in the ME and Africa.

In the cul­tur­al realm, Nile has pro­duced for the Met­ro­pol­i­tan Opera, San­ta Fe Music Fes­ti­val, Los Ange­les Cham­ber Orches­tra, and Carnegie Hall as well as venues in Paris and Cairo. Ded­i­cat­ed to improv­ing lives and bridg­ing gaps between peo­ple, Nile pro­duced the world’s first pedi­atric AIDS ben­e­fit at Carnegie Hall in 1989 that was tele­vised on NBC. A vision­ary, Nile sub­se­quent­ly devel­oped the indige­nous Egypt­ian pro­duc­tion of Sesame Street (Alam Sim­sim) with a focus on nutri­tion, safe­ty and hygiene.

In media, she co-host­ed/pro­duced Radio Intifa­da (for five years) a week­ly one-hour radio show cov­er­ing the pol­i­tics and cul­ture of the Mid­dle East and North Africa (MENA) on Paci­fi­ca Radio 90.7 FM (Los Ange­les). She cur­rent­ly serves on the UCLA School of Pub­lic Health Alum­ni Board of Direc­tors and the Advi­so­ry Board of Lev­an­tine Cul­tur­al Cen­ter which cham­pi­ons a greater under­stand­ing of the Mid­dle East/North Africa (MENA) region by pre­sent­ing cul­tur­al and edu­ca­tion­al pro­grams that bridge polit­i­cal and reli­gious divides. She con­tin­ues to cov­er cul­ture, trav­el and design for Obelisque Mag­a­zine (Cairo, Egypt) and blogs at

Dr. Diane Shammas

Diane Sham­mas received her PhD in inter­na­tion­al and inter­cul­tur­al edu­ca­tion from the Uni­ver­si­ty of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia. Her region­al focus is on MENA while her research cen­ters around eth­no-reli­gious and transna­tion­al iden­ti­ty, intereth­nic and inter­faith rela­tions, Arab Amer­i­cans and Mus­lim Amer­i­cans post‑9/11 and the dias­po­ra in US and Europe, indi­gene­ity, set­tler colo­nial­ism, and com­par­a­tive analy­sis of African Amer­i­can and Pales­tin­ian lib­er­a­to­ry struggles.

Bana Hilal

Bana Hilal was born and raised in Beirut, where she received her B.A. from the Amer­i­can Uni­ver­si­ty of Beirut. She also has an Inte­ri­or Design­er Degree from the New­port Beach Inte­ri­or Design­er Insti­tute, and has worked in real estate prop­er­ty man­age­ment. Bana is a com­mu­ni­ty activist who has long com­mit­ted her­self to human­i­tar­i­an issues that involve empow­er­ing women and assist­ing under­priv­i­leged chil­dren, as well build­ing bridge of under­stand­ing between diverse com­mu­ni­ties. She is Co- Pres­i­dent of AAUW (Amer­i­can Asso­ci­a­tion of Uni­ver­si­ty Women), Lagu­na Beach Branch—an inter­na­tion­al women’s orga­ni­za­tion that advo­cates equi­ty for women. She is active with the Amer­i­can Uni­ver­si­ty of Beirut, and the Daniel Bliss Soci­ety Lead­er­ship Com­mit­tee, and is past pres­i­dent of the Lebanese Ladies Cul­tur­al Soci­ety, an orga­ni­za­tion that teach­es under­priv­i­leged stu­dents in Lebanon. She is also Pres­i­dent and Founder of WIN, Women’s Intel­lec­tu­al Net­work in Orange Coun­ty, a group that ded­i­cates itself to build­ing a strong com­mu­ni­ty of women. She is a past board mem­ber of Con­tacts of Orange Coun­ty, pro­fes­sion­al women’s group, past board mem­ber of Art Matrix, an orga­ni­za­tion that encour­ages art as means of expres­sion for Stu­dents, and has been a mem­ber of sev­er­al orga­ni­za­tions that pro­vide sup­port for the com­mu­ni­ty. She has been a mem­ber of Lev­an­tine Cul­tur­al Center’s nation­al advi­so­ry board since 2007. In Decem­ber 2010 she received the East-West Bridge­builder Award, along with Jodie Evans and Rox­ana Saberi.

Elie Karam

Elie Karam is an award-win­ning play­wright, direc­tor and actor. Born in Beirut, he fled the Lebanese civ­il war to Vien­na and Mon­tre­al to study Dra­mat­ic Arts. Relo­cat­ing to post-war Beirut, he has writ­ten and direct­ed crit­i­cal­ly acclaimed plays expos­ing impor­tant issues in the Mid­dle East. His eclec­ti­cism has led him to write for French lit­er­ary mag­a­zines, teach work­shops at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to, work in adver­tis­ing for Grey World­wide as well as exhib­it art work in muse­ums and cre­ate a hit Arab TV show. He’s been invit­ed as a res­i­dent author at the Roy­al Court The­atre in Lon­don and his plays have been per­formed at the The­atre du Rond-Point in Paris and La Mama in New York. His new play “Tell Me About the War So I’ll Love You” received the pres­ti­gious Beau­mar­chais lit­er­ary grant, the Lyon Author award and has been pub­lished in France by Actes-Sud. It was pro­duced at the world-renowned Avi­gnon The­ater Fes­ti­val in 2010. Elie Karam divides his time between Beirut, Paris and Los Ange­les. He served as the artis­tic con­sul­tant for Lev­an­tine Cul­tur­al Cen­ter pro­grams based on his many years’ expe­ri­ence in the­atre, tele­vi­sion and pub­lic events.

Elias Khoury

Elias Khoury is cur­rent­ly the Glob­al Dis­tin­guished Pro­fes­sor of Mid­dle East­ern and Islam­ic Stud­ies at New York Uni­ver­si­ty. Born in Beirut in 1948, He is the author of eleven nov­els, four vol­umes of lit­er­ary crit­i­cism, and three plays. Since 1975, with the pub­li­ca­tion of his first nov­el, he has been in the Beirut van­guard of new Ara­bic lit­er­a­ture, which was seek­ing to cre­ate new dimen­sions in the move­ment of modernism.

Khoury’s com­mit­ment to Pales­tin­ian human rights began when he vis­it­ed a refugee camp in Jor­dan at age nine­teen. Khoury has been an advo­cate ever since, devot­ing his ener­gies to the Pales­tine Research Cen­ter in Beirut and speak­ing out in arti­cles, essays, and through his fic­tion. Khoury is the edi­tor in chief of the cul­tur­al sup­ple­ment of Beirut’s dai­ly news­pa­per, An-Nahar. In 1998, he was award­ed the Pales­tine Prize for Gate of the Sun, and in 2000, the nov­el was named Le Monde Diplomatique’s Book of the Year. Elias Khoury is a pub­lic intel­lec­tu­al and a cul­tur­al activist who plays a major role in con­tem­po­rary Ara­bic cul­ture and in the defense of the lib­er­ty of expres­sion and democ­ra­cy. Khoury’s lat­est nov­el to be trans­lat­ed into Eng­lish is Yalo.

“In Humphrey Davies’s spar­e­ly poet­ic trans­la­tion, Gate of the Sun is an impos­ing­ly rich and real­is­tic nov­el, a gen­uine masterwork.” —
Lor­raine Adams, New York Times

Lis­ten to an inter­view with Elias Khoury.

Dr. Mark LeVine

Mark LeVine a schol­ar, musi­cian and activist with well over a decade of expe­ri­ence liv­ing and work­ing in the Mid­dle East, from Moroc­co to Iraq. As an gui­tarist and ‘oud­ist he has worked with Mick Jag­ger, Ozomatli, world music artist Has­san Hak­moun and blues and jazz greats Dr. John and John­ny Copeland. As an activist he has worked with var­i­ous groups with­in the glob­al peace and jus­tice move­ment and spo­ken at some of its sem­i­nal gath­er­ings, such as the Prague S26 Coun­ter­sum­mit against the IMF in 2000. As a jour­nal­ist he has writ­ten wide­ly in the US and Euro­pean press, includ­ing Le Monde, the Chris­t­ian Sci­ence Mon­i­tor, Mid­dle East Report, and Asia Times. As a schol­ar he has held posi­tions at the Inter­na­tion­al Cen­ter for Advanced Stud­ies at New York Uni­ver­si­ty, the Soci­ety for Human­i­ties at Cor­nell Uni­ver­si­ty, and the Robert Schu­man Cen­tre for Advanced Stud­ies at the Euro­pean Uni­ver­si­ty Insti­tute in Flo­rence, Italy. LeVine is present­ly Asso­ciate Pro­fes­sor of Mod­ern Mid­dle East­ern His­to­ry, Cul­ture and Islam­ic Stud­ies at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Cal­i­for­nia, Irvine. His oth­er books include Twi­light of Empire: Respons­es to Occu­pa­tion (co-edi­tor, Perce­val Press, 2003), Over­throw­ing Geog­ra­phy: Jaf­fa, Tel Aviv and the Strug­gle for Pales­tine(Uni­ver­si­ty of Cal­i­for­nia Press, 2004) and Reli­gion, Social Prac­tice, and Con­test­ed Hege­monies: Recon­struct­ing Mus­lim Pub­lic Spheres, (co-edi­tor, Pal­grave Press, 2005).Two of his most recent books are Why They Don’t Hate Us, Unveil­ing the Axis of Evil (One World 2005) and Heavy Met­al Islam, Rock, Resis­tance, and the Strug­gle for the Soul of Islam, Ran­dom House (July 2008). Read an inter­view with LeVine.

Juliana Maio

Born in Egypt, raised in France and for­mal­ly edu­cat­ed in the Unit­ed States, Juliana Maio is an enter­tain­ment attor­ney, writer, and co-founder with her hus­band, pro­duc­er, Michael Phillips, of Light­house Pro­duc­tions, a film and tele­vi­sion com­pa­ny based in Los Angeles

Juliana has recent­ly com­plet­ed her first nov­el, Cairo, a work of his­tor­i­cal fic­tion that takes place in the fall of 1941, when Egypt, under British “pro­tec­tion”, looked like­ly to be next to fall to the Axis pow­ers. Had that hap­pened, the entire out­come of the war could have changed

The sto­ry fol­lows an Amer­i­can jour­nal­ist who is search­ing for a refugee sci­en­tist believed to be hid­ing with­in Cairo’s large Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ty. Juliana’s life­long inter­est in her own roots and in the his­to­ry of Jew­ish-Arab rela­tions inspired her to write this nov­el, which is now being devel­oped as a motion pic­ture film.

Dr. Saree Makdisi

Lebanese-Pales­tin­ian-Amer­i­can schol­ar and writer Saree Mak­disi has already carved a niche for him­self in aca­d­e­m­ic and intel­lec­tu­al cir­cles. He is the author of Roman­tic Impe­ri­al­ism: Uni­ver­sal Empire and the Cul­ture of Moder­ni­ty and William Blake and the Impos­si­ble His­to­ry of the 1790s. Also a pro­lif­ic writer on polit­i­cal affairs, in 2008 he pub­lished his third book,Pales­tine Inside Out: An Every­day Occu­pa­tion (Nor­ton). He has writ­ten in pub­li­ca­tions rang­ing from Stud­ies in Roman­ti­cism, the Oxford Ency­clo­pe­dia of British Lit­er­a­ture, Race and Impe­r­i­al Cul­ture, and the Cam­bridge Com­pan­ion to Eng­lish Lit­er­a­ture, 1740–1830, to the South Atlantic Quar­ter­lyBound­ary 2Crit­i­cal Inquiry, and the Lon­don Review of Books. On a recent vis­it to Cairo, Mak­disi gave three lec­tures at Ain Shams Uni­ver­si­ty and the Amer­i­can Uni­ver­si­ty in Cairo on “The revival of Ori­en­tal­ism”, “William Blake” and the “Pales­tin­ian Nakba.”

Terrence McNally

Ter­rence McNal­ly is a radio host (KPFK 90.7fm in LA, WBAI 99.5fm in NY), fea­tured jour­nal­ist at, and a pop­u­lar speak­er, con­sul­tant and coach, spe­cial­iz­ing in mes­sage, sto­ry, and nar­ra­tive for non­prof­its and social entre­pre­neurs. A few years out of Har­vard, Ter­rence left Boston and teach­ing for Los Ange­les and the enter­tain­ment indus­try. He want­ed to reach larg­er audi­ences. After twen­ty years as an actor, direc­tor, screen­writer (Earth Girls Are Easy—star­ring Geena Davis, Jeff Gold­blum and Jim Car­rey), song­writer and record pro­duc­er (clas­sic nov­el­ty songs and Julie Brown’s God­dess in Progress, #4 EP in the Vil­lage Voice 1985 Crit­ics Poll), he real­ized he wasn’t ful­fill­ing his vision. Now it all comes togeth­er in his media and con­sult­ing work, as he seeks, spreads, and encour­ages sto­ries of a world that just might work.

On Free Forum—his week­ly radio show in Los Ange­les (KPFK 90.7fm) and New York (WBAI 99.5fm)—McNally engages the most vision­ary thinkers, writ­ers, and doers he can find to make sense of the cur­rent moment and shed light on the path ahead.

One week Michael Lewis explains the Wall Street crash, the next Father Greg Boyle and one of the thou­sands of gang mem­bers he’s hired at LA’s Home­boy Indus­tries, offer hope. Oth­er recent guests include Atul Gawande MD of The New York­er, Tem­ple Grandin, Nicholas Kristof of The New York Times, out­spo­ken Afghanistan Par­lia­ment mem­ber Malalai Joya, Cor­nel West, Craig Ven­ter, and Robert Wright. Guests are invit­ed to express their authen­tic selves, share their pas­sion as well as their ideas, and explore new ter­ri­to­ry. Final­ly, Ter­rence makes sure com­plex and impor­tant ideas make sense to lis­ten­ers. All based on the fact that he believes we can do bet­ter, and wants to find out how. McNal­ly is also a recur­ring host on KCRW’s syn­di­cat­ed NPR shows, To the Point and Left, Right, and Cen­ter. Inter­views appear in print at

As a speak­er, writer, con­sul­tant, and coach, Ter­rence helps foun­da­tions, non-prof­its, pub­lic agen­cies, and pro­gres­sive cor­po­ra­tions tell their best sto­ries. He speaks and offers work­shops on how to tap the unique pow­er of narrative—not only to engage audi­ences, both inside and out­side your orga­ni­za­tion, but also to bet­ter define for your­self who you are. He works with indi­vid­u­als and orga­ni­za­tions to more effec­tive­ly deliv­er their mes­sages in per­son or in writ­ing, live or through the media.

Clients include Arent Fox, Bank Of Amer­i­ca Neigh­bor­hood Excel­lence Ini­tia­tive, CERES, CDC/Centers for Dis­ease Con­trol, Friends Of The Earth, Glaxo-SmithK­line Patient Advo­cates, Green­peace USA, Intel Cor­po­ra­tion, Inter­face Floor­ing, The Robert Wood John­son Foun­da­tion, John D. & Cather­ine T. Macarthur Foun­da­tion, Her­man Miller, NASA, NASD Investor Edu­ca­tion Foun­da­tion, Nemours Foun­da­tion, Pfiz­er Foun­da­tion, US Cli­mate Action Net­work, and Vol­un­teers Of America.

McNal­ly is also a respect­ed facil­i­ta­tor and mod­er­a­tor. In prac­tice, he mod­els and pro­motes respect and pro­duc­tive lis­ten­ing, encour­ages and focus­es com­mu­ni­ca­tion, cre­ativ­i­ty, and coop­er­a­tion; resolves con­flicts; clar­i­fies and aligns vision, mis­sion and objec­tives; and devel­ops plans for effec­tive action.

He is also co-author with Hyla Cass MD of Kava: Nature’s Answer to Stress, Anx­i­ety, and Insom­nia. Ter­rence has served on the boards of Earth Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Office, Show Coali­tion, and Edu­ca­tion 1st, and is an annu­al par­tic­i­pant at the Con­fer­ence on World Affairs in Boul­der, Colorado.

Vis­it his web site.

Vera Mijojlic

Vera Mijo­jlic has been a jour­nal­ist and cul­tur­al reporter as a well as an activist on behalf of human rights and refugees. Hail­ing from ex-Yugoslavia, her career path reflects her diverse inter­ests in cin­e­ma, his­to­ry, cul­tur­al her­itage and the pol­i­tics of cul­ture of the Balka­ns and East­ern Europe. In Los Ange­les since 1992, she found­ed the first-ever fes­ti­val of films from South East Europe, the South­east Euro­pean Film Fes­ti­val. Pri­or to 1992 Vera worked for major inter­na­tion­al motion pic­ture com­pa­nies film­ing in ex-Yugoslavia, includ­ing loca­tion film­ing for the his­toric ’84 Win­ter Olympic Games in Sara­je­vo. She also served as direc­tor of mar­ket­ing and PR for the Avala Film Stu­dios in Bel­grade, and wrote exten­sive­ly about films and cul­tur­al events for numer­ous dai­ly papers, mag­a­zines, and cul­tur­al reviews. Vera is a fre­quent pub­lic speak­er at trade and com­mu­ni­ty events, and guest lec­tur­er at uni­ver­si­ties. She takes pride in her com­mu­ni­ty ser­vice, and has a dis­tin­guished record in human­i­tar­i­an work.

Amitis Motevalli

Although new to the Lev­an­tine advi­so­ry board in 2012, Ami­tis Mote­val­li was privy to the ear­ly con­ver­sa­tions about cre­at­ing a Mid­dle East­ern cul­tur­al arts cen­ter for Los Ange­les back in 2000. Born in Tehran, Iran, Ami­tis moved to the US in 1977; in 1995 she received a BA from SFSU in Art with a minor in Women’s stud­ies, and in 1998 an MFA from Clare­mont Grad­u­ate Uni­ver­si­ty. Her work as an artist incor­po­rates a com­bi­na­tion of near-east­ern aes­thet­ic with a west­ern art edu­ca­tion. Mote­val­li states, “Being an immi­grant in the US shows in my work cul­tur­al plu­ral­i­ty, nat­ur­al and learned. In all of my work, I cre­ate a dia­logue that presents alter­na­tives to dom­i­nant canons in research and reflec­tion of the present as well as history.”

Ami­tis Mote­val­li is a recent recip­i­ent of the Cen­ter for Cul­tur­al Inno­va­tion Artis­tic Inno­va­tion Award, the Dan­ish Arts Coun­cil Inter­na­tion­al Res­i­dent Artist Award, the Cal­i­for­nia Com­mu­ni­ty Foun­da­tion Fel­low­ship and the Visions of Cal­i­for­nia Award, a James Irvine Foun­da­tion Fel­low­ship and the NEA/Warhol Foun­da­tion artist fel­low. Mote­val­li is also the direc­tor of The William Grant Still Arts Cen­ter. She cur­rent­ly lives and works in Los Ange­les, exhibit­ing art inter­na­tion­al­ly as well as orga­niz­ing to cre­ate an active and resis­tant cul­tur­al dis­course through infor­ma­tion exchange, either in art, ped­a­gogy or orga­niz­ing artist and edu­ca­tors. Vis­it her site.

Heather Raffo

Heather Raf­fo is the recip­i­ent of a Susan Smith Black­burn Prize Spe­cial Com­men­da­tion and the Mar­i­an Seldes-Gar­son Kanin Fel­low­ship for “Nine Parts of Desire”. Most recent­ly she has received a 2005 Lucille Lor­tel award for Best Solo show as well as an Out­er Crit­ics Cir­cle Nom­i­na­tion and a Dra­ma League nom­i­na­tion for Out­stand­ing Performance.

Raffo’s oth­er recent act­ing cred­its include: Sarah Woodruff in the world pre­miere of The French Lieutenant’s Woman, Ful­ton Opera House. Off-Broad­way: Over The Riv­er and Through the Woods, the Off Broadway/National Tour of Mac­beth (Lady Mac­beth), The Mer­ry Wives of Wind­sor (Mis­tress Page) and The Rivals all with The Act­ing Com­pa­ny. Region­al­ly: Oth­el­lo (dir. Jack O’Brien), Romeo and Juli­et (dir. Daniel Sul­li­van), As You Like It (dir. Stephen Wadsworth), Mac­beth (dir. Nicholas Mar­tin), and Com­e­dy of Errors (dir. John Ran­do) all with The Old Globe The­atre in San Diego.

Raf­fo received her BA from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Michi­gan, her MFA from the Uni­ver­si­ty of San Diego and stud­ied at the Roy­al Acad­e­my of Dra­mat­ic Art, Lon­don. Orig­i­nal­ly from Michi­gan, she now divides her time betwee New York and Los Ange­les. Her father is from Iraq and her moth­er is Amer­i­can. She ded­i­cates “Nine Parts of Desire” to the many mem­bers of her fam­i­ly still liv­ing in Bagh­dad today and to the Iraqi women she has inter­viewed. Vis­it her web site.

Janet Sternburg

Janet Stern­burg is a poet and essay­ist, best known in the lit­er­ary world for edit­ing the clas­sic two-vol­ume set, The Writer on Her Work, long rec­og­nized as a ground­break­ing work on women and writ­ing. Nor­ton issued a spe­cial anniver­sary edi­tion in 2000 with a new intro­duc­tion by Julia Alvarez. The Writer on Her Work has been named one of the 500 Great Books by Women: Thir­teenth Cen­tu­ry to the Present, and has been rec­og­nized by the Lit­er­ary Guild, Writ­ers Digest Book Club, Qual­i­ty Book Club and the Com­mon Reader.

Stern­burg has also had a career in film and the­ater. She pro­duced and direct­ed award-win­ning films for pub­lic tele­vi­sion, among them Vir­ginia Woolf: The Moment Whole, fea­tur­ing Mar­i­an Seldes, on being a woman and a writer. She cre­at­ed, curat­ed, and wrote the thir­teen-part series, Through Her Eyes, the first nation­al­ly tele­vised series of inde­pen­dent films by women. In addi­tion, Stern­burg served as the Senior Pro­gram Offi­cer in Media for the Rock­e­feller Foun­da­tion, where she direct­ed an inter­na­tion­al fel­low­ship pro­gram. For sev­en years she served as direc­tor of the Writ­ers in Per­for­mance Series at the Man­hat­tan The­atre Club, where she pio­neered new ways to present lit­er­a­ture on stage. Those events includ­ed Stockard Chan­ning in Colette and Zoe Cald­well in Isak Dine­sen.

Also an accom­plished pho­tog­ra­ph­er, Sternburg’s pho­tog­ra­phy has been exhib­it­ed nation­al­ly and inter­na­tion­al­ly, pur­chased by major col­lec­tors, and is in the per­ma­nent col­lec­tion of the muse­um of the Uni­ver­si­ty of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia. In 2002, a six-page port­fo­lio of her work appeared in the dis­tin­guished inter­na­tion­al pho­tog­ra­phy mag­a­zine Aper­ture, along with a solo show at the James Fran­cis Trez­za gallery in New York City. Art Jour­nal also pub­lished an eight-page port­fo­lio of her work.

Stern­burg cur­rent­ly is a mem­ber of the fac­ul­ty of crit­i­cal stud­ies at the Cal­i­for­nia Insti­tute of the Arts, where she teach­es in the writ­ing pro­gram. She has received many awards and fel­low­ships includ­ing the Albert Camus Award in French Lit­er­a­ture from the New School, the Dale Djeras­si Fel­low at the Djeras­si Artist Res­i­dence Pro­gram, and fel­low of the Mac­Dow­ell Colony, the Mil­lay Colony and the Blue Moun­tain Artist Retreat, as well as mul­ti­ple Nation­al Endow­ment for the Human­i­ties grants. She cur­rent­ly serves on the board of direc­tors of PEN Cen­ter West, where she has served as vice pres­i­dent and chair of the Lit­er­ary Awards.

Rowan Storm

Rowan Storm has been an active mem­ber and per­former with the  Lev­an­tine Cul­tur­al Cen­ter for sev­er­al years. In 2012 she joined the nation­al  advi­so­ry board. With more than 25 years of expe­ri­ence with cul­tures and drum­ming of the Mid­dle East and Mediter­ranean, Rowan Storm is rec­og­nized inter­na­tion­al­ly as a per­former, edu­ca­tor and frame drum design­er. Rowan is pio­neer­ing the sym­met­ri­cal frame drum play­ing posi­tion with her most recent design, Remo’s Thin­line Frame Drum. The nar­row frame and light weight enable both hands to engage equal­ly in cre­ative rhyth­mic expres­sion, pro­mot­ing bal­ance between both brain hemi­spheres. Rowan’s first sig­na­ture drum is an updat­ed ver­sion of the arche­typ­al women’s frame drum of Iran, the Rowan Storm Day­ereh by Coop­er­man and by Remo.

Based in Athens, Greece for many years, Rowan has col­lab­o­rat­ed with some of the great­est mas­ters of Mid­dle East­ern music, includ­ing Nas­er Musa, Soheil Kas­par, Souren Baron­ian, Ross Daly, Omar Faruk Tek­bilek, Sah­ba Motallebi and Moham­mad Reza Lot­fi. Rowan teach­es frame drum work­shops and per­forms in pres­ti­gious venues through­out the US, Europe and the Mid­dle East, includ­ing Istanbul’s Cemal Reşit Rey Con­cert Hall, Ankara’s Mid­dle East Tech­ni­cal Uni­ver­si­ty, Greece’s Epi­davros Ancient Amphithe­ater, Euro­pean Music Con­ser­va­to­ries, New York’s Lin­coln Cen­ter, San Francisco’s Asian Art Muse­um, Craft and Folk Art Muse­um of Los Ange­les and the Los Ange­les Coun­ty Muse­um of Art (LACMA).Vis­it her site.

Susanna Whitmore Fránek

Susan­na Whit­more Fránek is a native of Los Ange­les and a descen­dent of one of L.A.’s His­pan­ic found­ing fam­i­lies whose roots go back to California’s pre-mis­sion days. She spent many years abroad, liv­ing and trav­el­ing exten­sive­ly in both Mex­i­co and Spain. An ongo­ing inter­est in Ara­bic music and cul­ture led her to teach and per­form Mid­dle East­ern dance dur­ing her sev­en years in Spain, while she also pur­sued stud­ies in Fla­men­co and North Africa dance forms. More recent­ly she has made a point of attend­ing the Mid­dle East Music and Dance Camp in Men­do­ci­no each year.

Upon her return to L.A. in the 80s, Susan­na went to work for La Opinión, L.A.’s Span­ish-lan­guage dai­ly news­pa­per, where she expand­ed the port­fo­lio of adver­tis­ers, served as a cul­tur­al liai­son between cor­po­rate Amer­i­ca and the His­pan­ic com­mu­ni­ty, col­lab­o­rat­ed on var­i­ous sales-relat­ed projects with the Los Ange­les Times. Susan­na also worked as VP of Sales at the Wave Com­mu­ni­ty News­pa­pers, a group of week­ly pub­li­ca­tions tar­get­ing South­ern California’s African Amer­i­can and His­pan­ic communities.

Cur­rent­ly Susan­na is a co-founder/­part own­er of a mul­ti­cul­tur­al mar­ket research bou­tique as Prin­ci­pal and SVP of Busi­ness Devel­op­ment where she has devel­oped key rela­tion­ships with­in major cor­po­ra­tions and mul­ti­cul­tur­al adver­tis­ing agen­cies, sell­ing His­pan­ic, Asian and African Amer­i­can con­sumer-relat­ed qual­i­ta­tive and quan­ti­ta­tive research and con­sult­ing. She has also spear­head­ed doc­u­men­tary-style film pro­duc­tion, com­pli­ment­ing stud­ies on His­pan­ic urban youth, bar­ber­shop dis­cus­sions with African Amer­i­can men, iden­ti­ty mak­ing among Hmong stu­dents, an exposé on L.A.’s Asian Indi­an com­mu­ni­ty, and the growth of store-front Evan­gel­i­cal church­es cater­ing to His­pan­ic immigrants.

Susan­na grad­u­at­ed from UC San­ta Bar­bara with a BA in Inter­dis­ci­pli­nary Stud­ies com­bin­ing Span­ish Lit­er­a­ture, His­to­ry and Anthro­pol­o­gy. She is cur­rent­ly work­ing on a Master’s Degree in Cul­tur­al Anthro­pol­o­gy at Cal­i­for­nia State Uni­ver­si­ty, Los Ange­les. Her the­sis top­ic is on the cul­tur­al move­ment evolv­ing with­in the Mid­dle East­ern music scene in Los Ange­les, and the musi­cians that are using musi­cal per­for­mance and col­lab­o­ra­tion to encour­age inter­cul­tur­al exchange and under­stand­ing to pro­mote a dia­logue of co-exis­tence and peace. Her goal is to make a doc­u­men­tary film to nar­rate this grow­ing movement.

Joyce Zonana

Joyce Zonana, born in Cairo and raised in New York City, earned her Ph.D. in Eng­lish at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Penn­syl­va­nia. Before com­ing to BMCC (Bor­ough of Man­hat­tan Com­mu­ni­ty Col­lege) in 2006, she taught for 15 years at the Uni­ver­si­ty of New Orleans, where she was also Direc­tor of Women’s Stud­ies. Sev­er­al chap­ters from her new mem­oir, Dream Homes: From Cairo to Kat­ri­na, an Exile’s Jour­ney (Fem­i­nist Press 2008), have appeared in jour­nals and books, includ­ing Merid­i­ans, Inter­na­tion­al Sephardic Jour­nal, Jew­ish Women’s Lit­er­ary Annu­al, and Becom­ing Amer­i­can: Per­son­al Essays by First Gen­er­a­tion Immi­grant Women. Her schol­ar­ly arti­cles, on fem­i­nist the­o­ry and 19th cen­tu­ry British lit­er­a­ture, have appeared in Hud­son Review, Signs, Vic­to­ri­an Poet­ry, Tul­sa Stud­ies in Women’s Lit­er­a­ture, and Jour­nal of Nar­ra­tive Technique.