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There Is No 'Us and Them': A Public Forum on Cultural Diplomacy

Event Details
May 27 2010 6:45pm - 10:00pm
Donations requested (suggested $20 forum, $50 forum & reception)
Click here to RSVP
Mark Taper Auditorium
Los Angeles Central Public Library
5th and Flower Streets
Downtown Los Angeles 90071
Parking garage entrance on Fugueroa just south of 5th, $8.
Info, reservations 310.657.5511
May 27, 2010 Forum: There Is No "Us and Them"May 27, 2010 Forum: There Is No "Us and Them"

"In the Age of Global Civilization, There is No 'Us and Them'": How Cultural Diplomacy Can Bridge the United States & the Middle East

What is cultural diplomacy?
Read a new op-ed in the New York Times.

with Ms. Farah Pandith, Special Representative to Muslim Communities, U.S. Department of State, under Sec. Hillary Clinton, Simon Mainwaring & Alesia Weston with the Sundance Institute, with musical performances by the Naser Musa-Jim Grippo Trio with special guest Rowan Storm

moderated by Mariam Atash Nawabi

watch short video reel of this event
see photos of this event on our Flickr page
read a report in the Levantine Review from June 1, 2010
read article in Jewish Journal from June 3, 2010
read a Los Angeles Times article from June 5, 2010

Thursday, May 27th
Mark Taper Auditorium, Los Angeles Central Library
Fifth and Flower Streets, Los Angeles CA 90071
Parking entrance on Figueroa (validation $8)

7:00-8:30 pm Panel
8:30-10:00 pm VIP Reception (by invitation only)
Gourmet Food & Live Music by the Naser Musa-Jim Grippo Trio

Suggested Donation (panel) $20 - (panel & reception) $50

RSVP required by May 25th, as space is limited
For more information please contact 310.657.5511

Presented by the Levantine Cultural Center with PlanetPix Media (multicultural communications), and cosponsored by the City of Los Angeles Human Relations Commission, with generous sponsorship by OneNation ( and One World 2011, with support from the Muslim Public Affairs Council. Reception sponsored by the Caspian, fine Persian cuisine, Irvine.

This public forum on cultural diplomacy will examine the ways that the film and other media and arts can bind together people of diverse and sometimes conflicting cultures and beliefs. How can Hollywood produce film and television that reflects the way the world really is—broadening its storytelling capacities to include more films such as Slumdog Millionaire, or Amreeka? How can the arts reach Americans to broaden perceptions of the Arab/Muslim world? How can the arts and cultures address thorny issues such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, or the situation in Iran?

What is cultural diplomacy? Read a new op-ed in the New York Times.

We believe in the power of social change and the way that ideas of coexistence can spread across the globe. That's why we're hosting the above-named public forum.

Since 2001 the Levantine Cultural Center has been the Los Angeles nexus for Middle Eastern/North African cultures. The center has presented hundreds of public programs—on film, art, literature, music, theatre and conferences—to more than 50,000 people. We have partnered with many prominent organizations who share our vision of a global civilization with shared values.

Forum Bios (Click photos for more extensive bios.)

Farah PandithFarah PandithFarah Pandith, Special Representative to Muslim Communities, U.S. Department of State, under Sec. Hillary Clinton, will explore how we can create a grassroots partnership between the United States and the Muslim world with respect and dignity.

Simon MainwaringSimon Mainwaring
Simon Mainwaring
is a social media specialist providing strategies for building communities across traditional, digital and new media. He is a member of the Advisory Board of the Center on Public Diplomacy at the USC Annenberg School.

Alesia WestonAlesia WestonAlesia Weston oversees the international part of Sundance Institute's Feature Film Program, focusing on the selection and the year-round support of international Fellows. Since 2003, she's run the Sundance/NHK International Filmmakers Award and has been the point person for the international work of Sundance's Directors and Screenwriters Labs. During this time, she's shepherded the development of Hany Abu-Assad's PARADISE NOW, Andrea Arnold's RED ROAD, Andrucha Waddington's HOUSE OF SAND, Fernando Eimbcke's LAKE TAHOE, György Palfi's TAXIDERMIA, AMREEKA by Cherien Dabis and SON OF BABYLON by Mohamed Al Daradji among others. She's worked closely with Jordan's Royal Film Commission on establishing The RAWI Middle East Screenwriters Labs with Sundance Institute and led them since their inception in 2005. She spearheaded additional Sundance workshops for writers in Israel and South Africa and worked extensively with filmmakers from Latin America, Europe and Asia.

Mariam Atash NawabiMariam Atash NawabiMariam Atash Nawabi (moderator) is an attorney, social entrepreneur, activist and President of AMDi International, a marketing and consulting firm focusing on multicultural communications, rule of law and economic development.

Naser Musa on 'ud: read more at nasermusa.netNaser Musa on 'ud: read more at nasermusa.netThe Naser Musa-Jim Grippo Trio consists of 'ud master and vocalist Naser Musa, a Jordanian of Palestinian heritage, with Sam Janini on percussion, and American Jim Grippo on kanun.

Naser Musa is recognized by critics of Middle Eastern music as a talented singer, a gifted songwriter, an 'ud virtuoso, a valued composer, and a versatile studio musician. He has composed, arranged, and recorded numerous projects in the Middle East and in the United States. He has recorded with pop stars Shakira, Beyonce and Michael Sembello, and has shared the stage with Lebanese vocalists, Sabah and Ragheb Alame, and Egyptian vocalists, Hani Shaker and Hakim. Naser’s 'ud was heard on the soundtrack of the film "The Passion of the Christ" by director Mel Gibson.

Jim Grippo on kanunJim Grippo on kanunJim Grippo is a Ph.D. candidate in ethnomusicology, focusing on Egyptian popular music, at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB). With over fifteen years of experience performing Middle Eastern music on the ‘ud and qanun in the United States and Egypt, he is an accomplished teacher of technique, improvisation, and maqam (Arab modal theory). He has been the qanunist with the UCSB Middle East Ensemble for 10 years and with the Souhail Kaspar Near East Ensemble for three years. In addition to performing, Jim is a devoted teacher, sharing the wonders of music with students from early childhood to adulthood; currently, he is a lecturer of ethnomusicology at Ventura College.

Levantine Cultural Center has organized four previous forums in this vein:

Who Speaks For Islam? With Dalia Mogahed & Howard Gordon, April 2008, with OneNation, MPAC, USC's Center for Religion and Civic Culture et al, moderator Nile El Wardani

Arabs/Muslims in Hollywood, Jan 2009, with SAG and MPAC
with actors Shohreh Aghdashloo, Maz Jobrani, Raya Meddine, Omar Metwally & casting director April Webster ("Lost", "Iron Man"), moderator Jordan Elgrably

Dismantling the Axis of Evil, Revising Representations of Middle Easterns in FilmTV, Nov 2009, with the Iranian American Bar Association and the Library Foundation, with actors/authors Ahmed Ahmed, Reza Aslan, Shiva Rose, John Tehranian, moderator Maz Jobrani

Bridging America & the Middle East: the Art, Politics & Business of Film/TV, Dec 2009
with producers Mark Amin, Howard Gordon, Barrie Osborne, moderator Reza Aslan

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