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$120,000 this week


Will The Markaz Grow or Disappear From Lack of Support?  

That is a question only you can answer, for in a few weeks we will have reached the start of our 16th year in Southern California, but our very survival is contingent on funding. Like public radio, we rely on your support.

The fact is, we’d love to be around for another 15 years, but we must raise $120,000 during this fund drive (April 2016) to underwrite the coming year of staff and overhead.

I’m kidding, right? Only $120,000 to guarantee that The Markaz have its basic needs met, to continue serving thousands of people each year? 

I wish I were. We simply cannot run on fumes.

We must raise $120,000 immediately to keep the cultural center open. We need these funds in order to cover our basic operations.  

Perhaps the question is, should we exist at all?

We almost didn’t. Back in 1999, after I’d spent nearly a decade in Los Angeles, while everyone else was talking about Y2K I was talking to almost everyone I met about the pressing need for a cultural arts center that represented the Middle East and North Africa. Two years later, we had a name and a plan. We shopped our Levantine Cultural Center proposal around town. It called for start-up funding of just $650,000. 

Everyone who read it said it was a brilliant idea whose time had come. They all said, “let me know how it goes,” but no one gave us the money. So we bootstrapped it—a handful of us launched the center with a few thousand dollars, holding events in rented and borrowed spaces around L.A.

When 9/11 occurred we thought it spelled death for the Levantine Cultural Center, but instead, that tragedy infused our efforts with new life. More and more Americans wanted to learn about the diverse Arab/Iranian/Turkish/North African region from people whose families and themselves were from the MENA. By the way, the reason we changed our name last year to The Markaz was that we felt "the center" (in Arabic, Hebrew, Persian, Turkish and Urdu) was a more universally-understood concept in the greater Middle East region—and a small learning curve for Americans.

We've given the Southern California community 15 years of continuous cultural arts programs, classes, workshops, conferences, art exhibits, a small research library, college & high school visits and more on the Middle East and North Africa. We’ve done it all on a shoestring, in a humble storefront that serves as a performance space, gallery, library, bookstore and classroom. (We’ve also conducted many programs in larger, off-site spaces.)

More than 1,000 filmmakers, writers, musicians, actors, poets, artists and educators have come through. Many friendships have been kindled at the Levantine Cultural Center/The Markaz, between Americans, Arabs, Iranians, Muslims, Jews, Christians and others. I daresay thousands. We know we served as many as 10,000 people a year in our busiest years, and as few as 2,500 in the early ones. (See hundreds of past events here and here.)

There are several thousand photographs of some of these occasions and people on our Flickr and Facebook pages. Videos on You Tube and Vimeo. Podcasts on Podomatic, and Soundcloud. We receive constant feedback on how vital The Markaz is.

But we must raise $120,000 immediately to keep the cultural center open. We need these funds in order to cover our basic operations.  

The fact is, it costs us $4,300 a month in our 1,400 square foot space in overhead to pay the rent, utilities and all basic operating expenses with insurance, and $5,658 a month to maintain a small staff of 2 (plus interns etc). That's $9,958, call it 10K per month, or $120,000 a year. That's what we've got to raise to survive for the next 12 months, while our team generates the rest of the funds needed for program expenses, above and beyond basic overhead and staff costs. Last year the center raised nearly $250,000, so $120,000 is about 50% of that. We're asking you to meet us halfway: 

It's a fact: We must raise $120,000 immediately to keep the cultural center open. We must do it this month, no later than April 30th.  

$120,000 will underwrite the creation of some 50 public programs, plus classes, workshops, high school & college educational visits and more. 

Please, at your earliest convenience, send your tax-deductible contribution in the form of a check to The Markaz/MPV, 5998 W. Pico Blvd, LA CA 90035. We will send you a receipt for your 2016 return. You can also call in a contribution, 310.657.5511, or go online.

Email us at info@themarkaz.org to let us know the amount of your pledge. 

Thanks very much for your time, solidarity and generosity. 


Jordan Elgrably

p.s. Here are just a few sample programs that The Markaz will be able to offer with your continuing support:

PUBLIC FORA thoughtful presentations and public discussion of complex issues

  • Refugees: The Future for Middle East Refugees in Europe, a talk by Suzie Abdou
  • Ask A Muslim: Women In Islam
  • Israel/Palestine: The Assault on the Arabic Language

CONCERTS music that brings people together

  • Dolunay: A Turkish-Rumeli concert and workshop
  • Mekaal Hasan: The hit Indo-Pakistani rock fusion band returns
  • Serpil Borazon: Love Songs of the East with Rowan Storm, Neil Seigel and Robyn Friend

• Donate—to make a tax-deductible contribution to support The Markaz, send your check payable to The Markaz/MPV: 

The Markaz
5998 W. Pico Blvd. 
Los Angeles CA 90035

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