As many people have seen over Facebook the last few days there has been a lot of discuss surrounding Tribal Fest 2016. However due to the variety of people commenting and it being spread across Facebook there are many questions and people are not getting the whole story. We are just sharing all the information that is currently being presented and wishing the best and healing to those effected by this.
On Sunday night a Public Statement regarding Tribal Fest was made by several prominent dancers. You can view the public statement here.
This statement was posted by several prominent dancers in the tribal belly dance community including Ebony, Zoe Jakes, Rachel Brice, Kami Liddle, Jill Parker, April Rose, and many more which you can view on the Public Statement. This statement explains why these teachers will not be at Tribal Fest 2016 and what has happened.
There was many Facebook posts about this, but I feel that Rachel Brice's Post on Facebook best sums up how she and her fellow dancers are feeling.
" Many of you have already seen or heard about the "Public Statement Regarding Tribal Fest®" and may have a million questions (if you haven’t seen it, you can find the statement here: http://teachersunitedpublicstatement.tumblr.com/).
Before you continue reading, hold in your mind and heart the atrocities of war that are occurring all over the globe right now and keep this situation in perspective.
We wrote this statement because we wanted people to be alerted that there’d be a change in the teaching lineup this year. When we heard about this private group, we (teachers and women who were posted about) took comfort in talking with each other. The statement was written after much discussion among us, and Kajira was informed within 48 hours, in person, about our response to the discovery.
The person who created this private Facebook group thought his posts were private and shared only among his colleagues. The things he posted were never meant to be seen by people outside the group.
That being said, when I saw the screenshots, it was easy for me to decide that I didn't want to work with anyone who felt that way about women.
Some people will feel that this behavior should warrant non-participation with the festival, and some won't. It's up to every individual to make up their own mind about it. Some people will find it offensive, and some will dismiss it as "locker room talk.” Like politics, religion, cultural appropriation, and vegetarianism, I feel it’s important to allow people their own opinions.
Let's not objectify the person who created the group by calling him names. We do that and we're no different. If we want to say "no" to dehumanization of any person or group of people, we shouldn’t dehumanize him either.
Why aren’t we naming this person? My hope is that he comes forward and talks openly about it so he can begin to be free of it and set the record straight. It’s becoming a big crazy deal, in part because of the speculation and gossip. He could change that.
It's been three weeks since we told the organizers that we knew about the group, so they had time to make their own statement if they’d wanted to do that. It sounds like they may be posting a response to our statement in the next few days.
The "we" included me, several of my colleagues, and many of the women who were posted about in the private group. Initially our statement was not signed so that each person could share in the way they felt comfortable. Some have posted publicly, some are dealing with it privately. Names may be added in the future.
I hope this helps shed some light on the situation. There will be lots of questions about the details I’m sure, but I ask that you be patient to give the organizers an opportunity to set this right. Hopefully all will be revealed and they’ll be able to deal with this issue directly and rebuild.
There was an apology and explanation posted by Tribal Fest Co-Founders Kajira and Chuck on the Tribal Fest Page on Facebook. There is also a variety of other posts from dancers on the Tribal Fest page about how they are feeling about this. You can view the Tribal Fest Facebook page here.
As embarrassed and ashamed as I am to admit this, some of what you hearing is true and I wanted to apologize because I really do care about this community.
There was a private page on Facebook that started out as a place for DJs to go and vent and bitch and complain about events and people within our DJ community. As time went on, pictures of dancers were also posted and comments made that I am not proud of -- nor did I stop them from being posted by others. I did not think that speaking of people in this manner could truly cause serious trauma to the individual and have considered and evaluated the impact it had on the women. I was told that I acted like an insensitive 12 year old boy trying to impress others. This does not excuse my actions.
Kajira did not know about this page, nor does it reflect on her love and support and admiration of the bellydance community. I am learning a painful lesson. I'm deeply ashamed to have hurt the community and my wife. I am hoping that you will continue to support Kajira, even if you cannot forgive me. This is not her fault. I was insensitive, obscene and rude.
When I found out that posts from this group had been made public, I was angry that the private posts were shared. But now I realize that it's really a giant painful life lesson. I am sorry for the actions that I took the first day this came to my attention.
I did try and reach out to a number of dancers privately to apologize. I understand that if at this time you are not able to forgive me. I tried to reach out and make amends before Sunday’s "Public Statement Regarding Tribal Fest" went public, so that I could avoid the shame and embarrassment this would bring to my wife and her event, but I wasn't able to find a way to effectively apologize.
It I realize now that words and images can hurt just as much and it was never my intention to cause that hurt. I am sorry that I violated the trust of friends, festival employees and attendees.
I am going to be seeking help for my issues and actions.
I understand why people are upset. What I did was beyond stupid and uncaring. I can only hope that time will show how sorry I am and how much I regret what I have done. To everyone I have upset and hurt, let me just say how sorry I am and offer my sincere apologies and I ask for your forgiveness. For those who reached out to me and talked to me and shared their feelings and thoughts on this, I say thank you."
You can view Chuck's original post here.
"Dear Tribal Fest® Attendees, Teachers, Dancers, Supporters, Vendors & Friends,
Please feel free to share this everywhere.
I am so very sorry, shocked, saddened, betrayed, disappointed and truly heartbroken to have found out that my husband and TF® Co-Producer for the past 8 years, Chuck, had a “secret” Facebook page in which there were photos of as many as ten different dancers who had to suffer sexist and rude comments by Chuck and other members of the group. I knew absolutely nothing at all about that page’s contents until the matter was made known to me, or I absolutely would have had it shut down immediately.
I have never condoned that sort of behavior from anyone, and it hurts me more deeply than I can express to know that the very people I created Tribal Fest® for in the first place have been equally devastated. I was notified by a dear friend and dance ally about the situation when it went public.
As soon as I found out, I immediately reached out with love and compassion to everyone in the photos via voice messages, texts and/or in a letter emailed on my behalf by the same friend, because I knew I could reach absolutely everybody in said group with my emailed message of support and sisterhood. I also confronted Chuck, and he is no longer TF® Co-Producer or a staff member.
Though only two teachers called me back, I was gratified to hear from them and feel good about our conversations, if not about the subject matter. I sent another message to the group and called and texted some more in the hopes that more of them would consent to talk about this, to no avail. In the meantime, I was not allowed to see any portion of their conversations or be involved in any way.
I believe it to be of utmost importance that you know absolutely that in no way have I, Kajira Djoumahna, or my beloved event, Tribal Fest®, EVER engaged in or promoted “stereotyping, dehumanization and belittling comments”! My event and I are completely innocent of these charges, and those of you who have attended TF® have seen and felt in your hearts and souls the love and that “special vibe” that makes Tribal Fest ours – yours and mine.
From inception more than fifteen years ago, TF was created out of my own pure love for tribal belly dance to be a place where we of like mind could gather to be ourselves. It was created to be a welcome home for all those who love tribal belly dance and its related forms, and it will continue to be so with your help and support.
My promise to you is that my original goal of co-creating with you the most wonderful, safe, supportive and accepting place to share your heart and art with others from around the world will never change. I am here and listening to what you need to continue to make Tribal Fest® the place you want to be. I will continue to do my utmost to bring love, beauty, acceptance and joy to the world!
Please help me to help our community move forward and heal from our collective wound. With this goal in mind, I am in the process of setting up the new Tanya Tandoc Tribal Fest® Scholarship Fund to benefit dancers unable to attend TF® without help from the community. This scholarship is in the name of our tribal bellydance sister, Tanya Tandoc, who was recently a victim of domestic violence.
Tribal Fest® will also contribute to the woman’s rights organization/s chosen by attendees via popular vote. Information about participation in both of these endeavors will be on the TF® web site when it opens on December 1.
I am here for you to call or text anytime: (+1) 1 707 978 8116. I am not the best with Facebook or email, but I will be working on checking and responding on a more regular basis. Thank you so very much for reading and for caring. Yours, Kajira Djoumahna"
You can view her original post here.
While everyone will need to decide how they feel and to heal in their own way, Tempest's post on this offers some enlightening thoughts. She also is offering at the Waking Persephone Festival happening October 16th-18th a community discussion and open table talk with Kajira. We are not expressing an opinion on the matter and hope that all this information will help everyone to reach their own decisions. Most importantly everyone please spread love and support through our community as everyone comes to terms with this.
****Since this original post, Chuck has removed his apology. Feel free to share his original post which is above.
October 1st Update
Kajira, founder of Tribal Fest has released a final statement on Facebook about Tribal Fest.
"FINAL Public Statement Regarding Tribal Fest® from Kajira Djoumahna
This letter was written from Sept. 27-30, 2015.
Please post and email this Letter to anyone involved in this issue.
A wise person once said, “There are only two ways one can choose to face any situation in life. You can choose to come from a place of love or from a place of fear.”
Dear Friends, Extended Dance Family, and Supporters and Fans of Tribal Fest®,
THANK YOU ALL for your wonderful (and numerous! ) texts and voice mails. I’ve been so encouraged by your messages of love and unflagging support for both me and my event. Your positive thinking, understanding, healing energy, invitations and blessings have truly helped to make the past few weeks of confusion and personal tragedy that much more bearable for me. Each and every one of you has made an important, positive difference to me.
I trust that you will understand that even positive messages can be extremely emotional for me right now. I just really need to step away for a while. Thank you for your patience, you are so very precious to me. Know that I will reply as soon I can. Your words are, and have been, my anchor to kindness and reasonable thought from our dance community of late. You are my true friends, and I want to thank you each and every one of you publically herein once more, until I can do so privately.
And I really want to thank all of you wonderful teachers, workshop attendees, performers and vendors who have contacted me to tell me you’re still looking forward to coming back this May. I just love you guys for being willing – that means everything! – I won’t forget who you are.
And to those of you with the courage to speak out in public in favor of me and TF®, or as voices of reason, or as a person in favor of justice who have pled with people, asking them to please consider learning the facts from the accused as well as her accusers before joining those willing to rip her livelihood out from under her, all while denying her their information, and to those who have asked for “cooler heads” in the discussions, only to be verbally and violently attacked yourselves on the public forums: I thank you, too, so VERY much.
I am honored to know each of you. I understand that you took a personal risk when you spoke out in this climate of anger and hate, and to do so is above and beyond the bonds of friendship. In my opinion, your strong, fair and uncompromising personal ethics are what the detractors can only aspire to.
It gives me hope to know that there are people like you out there who know that the truth at the heart of any matter is always more important than politics and popularity contests.
And because, as I have learned from reading the ignorant assumptions and hateful comments from so many here recently in our online community, by realizing just how quickly – some people will victimize an innocent person simply because it’s popular, and how many will support or join a destructive cause or group, all without knowing or even caring about what really happened, that the climate is ripe for your turn tomorrow.
To Tanya Tandoc’s dance partner, troupe sisters and extended dance family:
I truly and sincerely appreciate your kind and enthusiastic texts in support of the Scholarship Fund in her memory proposed in my previous Letter. I will not forget her, or you. May you always dance with joy!
THE FUTURE of TRIBAL FEST®
Though my heart has absolutely broken from this difficult life lesson, I have learned so much of value that I couldn’t have seen otherwise. I have found more strength within myself than I ever thought I was capable of having. I have learned who my friends are and who they are not. I know now who those are that bow to their fear. I have learned who the people are who play lip service to friendship and I know who has personal honor and integrity in our community. I know all of you, and myself, so much better.
I’ve realized that I have been gullible, trusting and naïve. I actually believed that many people who have become the leaders of this campaign had been sincere in their dealings with me. That their words and emotions expressed had been real all of these years. And then these same people orchestrated the demise of my festival for no reason other than anger at my husband. So, even if you’ve joined the destructive club, remember you have now seen what some people are capable of.
So, finally having come to the painful realization that I can never again regain the purity or strength of the energy present, felt, looked forward to and commented on at every Tribal Fest® since inception, I have decided to let Tribal Fest® go, and allow the record of my event to speak for itself throughout posterity through our YouTube channel, photos and word of mouth.
NO MORE MISSUS NICE GRRL
As I’ve stated previously, as soon as I found out about this situation I immediately sent an email through my friend to the original secret group. In it I promised that:
Chuck would not be present at TF® or online during the planning stages, so no one would have to deal with him. That he is seeking counseling, voluntarily. That I would think of positive ideas to help facilitate healing in our community, such as the Scholarship Fund and donations to women’s charities.
In addition, I offered them this previously unheard-of and highly significant opportunity to organize, plan and share the profits equally in an entirely new version of Tribal Fest® in order to make sure that the planning of future festivals could be in their own hands, thus ensuring their cause would be honored. I offered them the role of co-producers, and the chance to have the first collectively-run festival ever! In my opinion, I gave them an incredible opportunity to further their causes in a positive manner, and I did so without even knowing WHO everyone was that I was offering this to, in order to demonstrate my total sincerity. But, as you now know, NOT ONE of them responded to any of those ideas.
My second, and last, email to this secret group, plus the phone calls and texts as was done previously, was to clarify for them the fact that Tribal Fest® was a 100% woman-owned business. This seemed to be, in part, a women’s rights issue, so I felt that point to be pertinent. I told them that everything about TF® from the business license to the debt is in my name ONLY. That by targeting my festival, they would only be hurting a fellow innocent female victim! I actually BEGGED them not to punish me and TF® because of something that Chuck did that I not only knew nothing about but also had no control over. No response.
The public is now aware of how hard I tried to work with these people in order to gain something positive for them, myself and the people who attend TF® from this experience, which had also been claimed as one of their intentions.
But as one of them later wrote, “My mind was made up as soon as I saw the screenshots.” It would seem this person would have the wisdom to know that everything has more than one layer to consider. What’s worse to me personally is that this was from a person I previously had enjoyed NOTHING BUT positive interactions with, who had posed as a caring friend in times of need, who’s shared long conversations with me over the years and who, I believed, knew me well enough to know that I would never condone what my husband did.
Extreme thought, especially when coupled with purposely, and therefore dangerously, closed minds and active recruitment of others to the same ideals truly frightens me. The darkness and finality of this type or manner of thought, and the consequential actions of it, are something to be aware of, in my opinion.
Because it’s extremely important to me to leave this ugliness behind with nothing left unclarified to draw me backwards, I feel I must address the COMPLETELY ERRONEOUS implications and statements in the “Public Statement Regarding Tribal Fest®” in which the authors wrote (the bold type is mine): “We cannot participate in an event or associate with an organization whose members use their standing (etc.)…”
The way that statement reads above, my EVENT, Tribal Fest®, was at fault. Not Chuck, who you have seen is not mentioned, only Tribal Fest® itself. That’s beyond ridiculous, and it is INCORRECT. It was worded the way that they chose above due to the use of “legal-ese.” They could not mention Chuck by name, so attacked me and my event instead. And since they knew the facts, yet chose to ignore them, they could only have gone forward using what seems to have been, in my opinion, deliberately contrived erroneous statements.
Furthermore, they also stated that Tribal Fest® is or was an “organization!” That is ALSO NOT CORRECT! Tribal Fest® has always been a SOLE PROPRIETORSHIP. It was NEVER an “organization,” and has NEVER HAD “MEMBERS”! It was all mine, Kajira’s, not Chuck’s or anyone else’s, and has always been so. This type of information is also a matter of public record, available from the county clerk’s offices and city offices where the business is located.
This secret email group has claimed in their public letter to not be an organized group. How could that be possible? They already were a group on a secret FB page. Their original letter contained e-signatures and, like their public letter, was written as a group for maximum impact, though I’ve no way of knowing who everyone was since I was never allowed a copy of the letter or to read it in entirety.
This secret email “non-group” added people’s names to their original letter without those people’s permission. It was snowballed through the community for the sole purpose of gathering more supporters to stand together as a united front (all without being a “group”) to buoy their cause, whether just or unjust, and without any facts or information from both sides presented.
Those who had dared to even think of publicly supporting us have been made to feel threatened. The group has even used these same intimidation tactics to force others to not attend out of fear of repercussion towards them. They’ve deliberately gathered as many others as they could by misleading the masses about this issue and by minimizing or ignoring important facts. They have not only censored any info about who they are to me, but have made decisions for others. They also made sure that no one was allowed to communicate with me privately.
It seems clear to me that they felt their cause would be best furthered if they presented themselves as one organized group when their initial email campaign to gather followers was going on. At one point they must have agreed that the ruling of the group as a whole was more important than allowing one another to make up their own minds and respond as individuals. For example, one teacher wrote that she “had to wait to see how the other teachers” were voting before she could respond to me.
I have quoted their letter here so you can remember their exact words: “We have no desire to start a campaign against anyone or fight hate with hate. To the contrary, we hope to bring attention to the deeply negative impact of derogatory speech toward any group of people so that something positive can come from this experience.”
IF THE GROUP’S GOAL HAD TRULY BEEN WHAT THEY CLAIMED above, WHY were they STILL so adamantly against my event and myself once they knew of my proposed ideas and the sole proprietorship? I have been, and am, in support of raising awareness NOT ONLY OF DEROGATORY SPEECH, but perhaps even more importantly, DEROGATORY ACTIONS, which in my opinion, speak MUCH louder than words.
Despite the paragraph in their letter claiming that this campaign was “not a reflection of our feelings for her (meaning me) as a person or a dancer,” not one of those behind this campaign would even talk with me during the decision-making process so that they could be better informed. I’ve never heard of a group of judges, self-appointed or not, who didn’t want to hear from all parties. I don’t think that’s okay.
THE REAL REASON
I was only very recently made aware of the REAL REASON that they are not attending TF® and are asking the same of others.
The real reason I, Kajira Djoumahna, and my event, Tribal Fest®, was ostracized by that email group, even AFTER I had offered them EVERYTHING possible I could think of and that they have said they wanted, is because they were “AFRAID THAT IF KAJIRA MADE ANY MONEY THIS YEAR AT TRIBAL FEST® THAT CHUCK MIGHT BENEFIT, TOO.”
NOW you know WHY these “leaders of the community” purposely set out to take away my business, despite knowing that I did nothing wrong. They would rather see me and my supporters suffer desperately than allow my husband to share my food and a roof.
It should now be obvious that their first imperative was not “to help bring attention to the deeply negative impact of derogatory speech toward any group of people so that something positive can come from this experience.” Because if that were true, they would have, at the very least, CONSIDERED my generous offers to DO just that! From where I’m sitting, it seems their words about “something positive” coming from this collective nightmare has not been at all important so far.
When I learned this TRUE reason behind their machinations, I was floored! I can hardly believe it of the people I used to think so highly of, but the proof is here and cannot be denied. I personally was suffering horribly, not understanding what I could have possibly done to deserve such a hateful attack upon myself until some people clued me in. I am not capable of thinking such devious thoughts, so that idea had never occurred to me! That is the single most deliberately harmful thing I have ever heard of!
IMPORTANT KEY POINTS for THE RECORD
There are some key points to this issue that I feel a need to address before I say goodbye to the online community and close my FB pages, at least for the time being. Thank you for bearing with me.
Some of this has been said before, but seems to need to be said one more time for posterity, and just in case someone out there is still wondering, and because the truth, to me, is the single most important thing in any situation.
I knew absolutely nothing about Chuck’s secret Facebook page’s contents. After all, I rarely got online before, and it will be even more rarely now. I didn’t even know how to sign onto Facebook, let alone check up on my husband’s secret page! And because he deleted the page as soon as I got home, we have had nothing to look at to help me or him understand or even verify some of what we’ve heard.
My friend may have been given limited information the one time I was allowed to view anything. When I went to my friend’s house and sat next to her as we looked at her laptop, I saw what I have already said I saw of the screenshots and no more.
I later wondered if all of the screenshots had been there for us. And if not, why was my friend only given what she showed me? I know that’s all she had at the time because we scrolled to the end. Perhaps more were created or added later.
When I asked her to send me the link to the screenshots so that I could make sure I could be certain to contact everyone and know all the content, she asked permission of the person who took them, since she was not a member of the group herself. That person told my friend to tell me that, “(He) is not comfortable sharing the link with you (Kajira), but would be glad to show them to me (Kajira) in person.”
Why not share the actual link?
Why wasn’t I allowed to see everything everyone else did?
Why has that link that was shared so freely with who knows how many people, except for me, been disabled now?
When I asked for a list of the people in that secret group in order to be sure I could personally contact everyone, I was provided with a list of only SEVENTEEN names, total!
This group deliberately kept all the screenshots, their original letter of intent to boycott, AND the identities of the members of their group from me. I still don’t know who you all were.
People have bashed me on this page for not contacting them, all while denying me the names of those I heard were against me and any other information. Since I wasn’t allowed to know who you were, it would be impossible for me to contact you. Hence my letters to the group and all its members, since that was the only avenue I was allowed to follow.
Why did no one at all but my one friend, who was not even a member of the group, come to me to say or ask anything at all?
The only way my friend even knew anything was because one member of that secret FB page (that morphed into the secret email group) asked the others to wait to publish their letter of intention to boycott TF® until I could at least be told about the transgressions of my husband’s and the plans of that group as a professional courtesy.
If it weren’t for her, I’d have found out with the open public letter that had already been prepared by the mob and made ready for release, which was later rewritten with all names removed and words much more carefully chosen before it was posted to Tumblr.
The fact remains that the majority originally wanted me to be completely blindsided.
On that fateful day, the first thing my friend did was to read to me the first two paragraphs of the letter from her laptop as I sat next to her freaking out. Why only two paragraphs? Because I was SO SHOCKED I couldn’t even begin to understand how I felt. Since the letter was talking about “screenshots,” which I had never heard of previously, I asked to go straight to those to see what they were talking about. We never did finish the letter, though apparently many members of that group assumed I knew everything.
And OF COURSE I asked for a copy of that letter so I could read it in entirety once I could calm down enough to understand it. But it had been deleted, so I was never allowed to see that, either.
After seeing the screenshots, I was almost hysterical, just as any reasonable, innocent woman who had just found out that her husband had been so utterly disrespectful and hurtful, and that her teachers and friends in the dance community who she has supported all of her career had turned on her SO QUICKLY due to no fault of her own would be! To know that I was considered to be collateral damage.
Put yourself in my place in your mind just for a moment and see if you can find the compassion to understand even a little how I must have felt on that day and for the weeks afterwards. It will be a very long time before I can begin to heal from such deep betrayal from all sides.
Again, only two ladies who were in photos called me back. NO ONE ELSE replied to my calls, texts or the two emailed letters sent to EVERYONE in that group via my friend.
Lastly, I will NOT listen to or read any more hate speech and accusations. I’ve devoted more than enough time to that. I will welcome only positive interactions. I have learned that no matter what I say, the haters will find fault. So, to those who care for me and to those who loved Tribal Fest®, it may be best to stay off this page. And you already know the truth.
This page and my personal one will be closed in a couple of days.
My personal page’s closure will hopefully be temporary.
Please pass this letter around in entirety, so that nothing can be taken out of context. Thank you!
MY FUTURE IS BRIGHT!
Dear friends, supporters and dance family worldwide,
I am looking forward to seeing you at my local classes, events everywhere and in my travels far and wide. I am more excited than ever to see you, work with you, dance with you and to share my knowledge, encouragement and love with each and every one of you!
I am looking forward to being able to devote more time, and to go more deeply into my dance formats, solo and group projects different from those of my own formats and troupes, and to creating bright, new offerings for everyone who wishes to enjoy them with me.
I may even write more. But wherever my newfound freedom takes me, I will continue to do my best in every way and in every thing that I do as I look towards a future of almost limitless possibilities!
Again, I will be closing both this page and my personal page in two days."