Ms. Fara Salamat and the Levantine Cultural Center present a special benefit presentation of world-renowned comedian and actor Maz Jobrani, who explains what it's like to be an Iranian American in Hollywood in his new bestselling book, I'm Not a Terrorist, But I've Played One on TV, a hilarious and moving memoir of growing up Iranian in America, and the quest to make it in Hollywood without having to wear a turban, tote a bomb, or get kicked in the face by Chuck Norris. Following the book release, Jobrani has set out on a comedy tour to explain how he overcame Hollywood stereotypes and forged a path to stardom in an industry that only saw him as the perfect TV terrorist. Jobrani is a Levantine cultural ambassador. Read about the book from Maz Jobrani's POV here.
Included in the price of the ticket are a signed copy of the book, mezze (major hors d'oeuvres) and refreshments. Hosted in a private resident in Laguna Niguel (south Orange County). Advance RSVPs required here, or call 323.413.2001.
World-renowned comedian and actor Maz Jobrani, explains what it's like to be an Iranian American in Hollywood in his new bestselling book, I'm Not a Terrorist, But I've Played One on TV, a hilarious and moving memoir of growing up Iranian in America, and the quest to make it in Hollywood without having to wear a turban, tote a bomb, or get kicked in the face by Chuck Norris. Following the book release, Jobrani set out on a comedy tour explaining how he overcame Hollywood stereotypes and forged a path to stardom in an industry that only saw him as the perfect TV terrorist. Jobrani is a Levantine cultural ambassador.
Read about the book from Maz Jobrani's POV here.
Talk about peace and free speech! These American Arab, Iranian and Jewish stand-up comedians are very funny and very free. Here they share their ingenious universal humor on identity politics, Washington, sex, love and more on March 27th, in another edition of the Sultans of Satire: Middle East Comic Relief, the national comedy-satire show launched 10 years ago by the Levantine Cultural Center in Los Angeles. Featuring special guest Sunda Croonquist and with Sherwin Arae, Omar Elba, Sheno Khal, Maria Shehata and Melissa Shoshahi.
The Levantine Cultural Center has served the greater Los Angeles area for over 13 years by presenting arts and education programs on the Middle East and North Africa. Welcoming people of all nations and religions, the Center fosters friendship and open dialogue, fights ignorance and intolerance, and forges a stronger, more diverse American society through programs and services that that bridge political, cultural and religious divides. But don't be fooled: this comedy show is as funny as it gets.
Sharia, a new film from Algerian American director Anouar Smaine, presents the story of a couple in the United States that is grappling with American perceptions of Islam and the Quran, and a Muslim immigrant's attempt to distance himself from his religious heritage. In Sharia, three worlds collide—American, Arab and Muslim—and no one is ever quite the same. Smaine's film was screened in the Borrego Film Festival and has been accepted into the 2015 Cannes Film Festival. Meet the director, discuss the film with cast/crew including Said Faraj, Lauren Byrnes and Mike Batayeh. RSVPs 323.413.2001.
 In Sharia, Heather and Sofiane are a "mixed" couple—Heather is American, Sofiane is from the Middle East. She sees in him the spiritual change she'd been trying to make in her life for years, just as he sees in her the freedom he'd been longing for since he immigrated to America. But as their journey together begins, their vision diverges and it won't be long before Heather and Sofiane discover that what they've gotten themselves into isn't exactly what they had envisioned, but rather what they'd been trying to get away from.
Lebanese Americans Elmaz Abinader and Tony Khalife
Expect a rich and evocative evening of poetry and music from two Lebanese American artists at the top of their form, when poet/performance artist/playwright Elmaz Abinader makes her debut at the Levantine Center. She will be joined by returning musician-vocalist Tony Khalife and master percussionist Alex Spurkel. Elmaz Abinader's new collection of poetry, This House, My Bones, has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. "Elmaz Abinader is a poet fiercely committed to the world's beauty, to history, to lost voices and the people she loves." —David Mura
Says Patricia Smith (winner of the 2013 Lenore Marshal Poetry Prize) "This House, My Bones isa gorgeously scripted chronicle that probes the collective heart and the countries we inhabit when we dare to speak out loud. There's an insistent rhythm in these stanzas, a lyricism of light and lineage stamped with the undeniable signature of a poet at the height of her craft. Savor these poems, and be lifted by their music." More about This House, My Bones. Listen to the poet. Listen to the music. More tunes.
Nora Barrows-Friedman presents "In Our Power" with Boycott From Within Cofounder Ronnie Barkan
Electronic Intifada editor and author Nora Barrows-Friedman leads a public forum with special guest Ronnie Barkan, cofounder of Boycott From Within, on "U.S. Students and the Palestinian Solidarity Movement," with particular emphasis on Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS) and attempts to stifle or silence Students for Justice in Palestine. This is an open forum, all are welcome.
According to Samantha Brotman writing in Mondoweiss, "Nora Barrows-Friedman's In Our Power: U.S. Students Organize for Justice in Palestine, published by Just World Books, is a timely and powerful read, detailing the scope and substance of the Palestine solidarity movement in the United States. Barrows-Friedman situates the movement across both time and space, providing historical and contemporary context to the individual activists whose voices make up the book's primary content. As a result, In Our Power is at once practical and inspiring for anyone involved in Palestine solidarity or interested in becoming involved."
Detractors of student groups such as Students for Justice in Palestine, chapters of which are now found at hundreds of college campuses across the U.S., suggest that SJP is "anti-Semitic" or that they "invite speakers linked with terrorist groups." These two contentions are demonstrably false and are in fact desperate attempts to stifle critical thinking and public debate about Israel and the Palestinians. See related Mondoweiss article.
Partake in an evening of organic Afro-Arab trance with Bedouin X—soulful music from North Africa, West Africa and Nubia underlying Bedouin poetry, driven by polyrhythms and hypnotic grooves. Led by Alfred Madain, Bedouin X features artists Clarissa Bitar on oud, Ava Nahas on percussion and Dave Markowitz on the saz. The repertoire was created to revive and bring to the fore socially and politically conscientious music that sprang up in the African parts of the Arab world. Other performers include David Martinelli on percussion and Mike Gadsby on bass. This highly danceable music is known to induce a state of trance.
Opening for Bedouin X is Mahadev, a world music ensemble that plays an exciting and eclectic blend of Indian, Gypsy, African, Middle Eastern and American music mixed with original compositions that bridge the gap between these worlds of music. With Dave Cipriani on Indian slide guitar & voice, Chris Payne on cajon & frame drum and Neelamjit Dhillon on saxophone & tabla. Listen here.
Two great bands for the price of one ($20 in advance; $25 at the door). Seating is limited, however, and advance reservations are strongly suggested: 323.413.2001.
25 paintings in the spirit of Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī
The Inside/Outside Gallery in partnership is pleased to present "One," 25 new and recent works by independent artist Salma Arastu, in the spirit of poet Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī—paintings that reflect external beauty and an internal desire for peace. The exhibition opens February 27 and runs through March 28. A reception for the artist takes place Friday, Feb. 27, 6 to 10 pm. Gallery hours are 10 am-6 pm and by appointment. This exhibition is an initiative of Muslims for Progressive Values and is cosponsored by MPV.
"Have you ever heard the rippling sound of waters, humming winds and thundering clouds? Have you watched the hands of a tabla man and the moving feet of a Bharat Natyam dancer? Have you ever felt the urge of pure love, the satisfaction of sharing and giving? That same rhythm, rich classical music, selfless love or a moonlit night, I wish I could absorb and not miss a single detail then pour it all on my canvas." —Salma Arastu
This exhibit is entitled "One" in honor of Salma Arastu's mother, who inspired her deeply. ""My mother, a very spiritual person, believed in one God, who is the source of all life on this earth and beyond. Even though she was a practicing Hindu, she often said that we are the children of the same God and there is no difference between Hindus, Muslims, Christians or Jews. I am grateful to her for planting those thoughts in my young mind as today I am married to a Muslim and I have crossed the boundaries of religions."
Salma Arastu is San Francisco Bay Area painter, sculptor and poet who born in Rajasthan, India. She has been creating and exhibiting her paintings internationally since graduating with a Masters degree in Fine Arts from MS University, Baroda, India in 1975. Her work with continuous and lyrical line is influenced by her native culture and her residence after marriage in Iran and Kuwait before coming to the US in 1987.
Born into the Sindhi, Hindu tradition in her native India, she later embraced Islam through her marriage. At birth, Ms. Arastu was given the life-defining challenge of a left hand without fingers. Seeing the unity of an all-encompassing God, she was able to transcend the barriers often set-forth in the traditions of religion, culture and the cultural perceptions of handicap.
with Hector Aristizabal, Eva Baboun, Brian Biery, Kathleen Blakistone, Francisco Letelier
Can street theatre and community murals make a difference? Is this what we mean by "cultural diplomacy"?
The Levantine Cultural Center presents Art and Activism in Bil'in: from Los Angeles to Palestine, an evening of public conversation, photography and art in the context of dialogue and conflict resolution. In October 2014, a team of Los Angeles based-artists formed part of a historic effort in the West Bank village of Bil'in, Palestine, when Imaginaction director Hector Aristizabal brought together an international group of artists and creative activists for an arts residency that engaged hundreds in Bil'in and neighboring villages. Working with local and regional Palestinian cultural leaders, the group engaged community in art and theater workshops that resulted in public performances, large scale puppets and murals painted in collective fashion along roads and buildings.
The group also joined their talents to support Bil'ins emblematic weekly demonstrations. Bil'in is the West Bank village featured in Emad Burnat and Guy Davidi's award-winning documentary, 5 Broken Cameras. For over a decade the non-violent protests have become a symbol for Palestinian cultural resistance to the barrier wall that snakes through Bil'in's ancestral olive groves appropriating lands and fortifying the Israeli settlement of Modi'in Illit. During their time in Bil'in. the group witnessed celebration and harvest as well as danger and violence as they worked with the persistent and heroic people of Bil'in.