This week, an ASU instructor, and a librarian, who hold themselves out as being Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) gurus, falsely accused a Black DJ of wearing blackface during a charity event for the Scottsdale Unified school district.
Stuart Rhoden and Jill Lassen attacked the Scottsdale Unified School District’s Hopi Elementary PTA for hiring Koko Kim Hunter to host their charity auction. The two were informed after their attack that Mr. Hunter is, in fact, a Black man, who was not wearing blackface.
Rhoden, who is an instructor in ASU’s University College teaching an entry level college-orientation type class and one upper level general education class, is a member of Scottsdale Unified’s Equity and Inclusion Committee and the Scottsdale Human Relations Commission, which claims to “promote all dimensions of diversity” as an advisory body to the mayor, city council and staff. Critics say the Commission may promote some levels of diversity, but not diversity of thought.
Lassen, who has earned a reputation for her abusive behavior towards other parents she refers to as “super rich White Karens,” serves as a co-chair for the Scottsdale Parent Council (SPC) DEI Committee. The Council is an organization, according to District sources, created to support the administration’s agenda and all of its policies and practices.
The embarrassing incident for Rhodes and Lassen began when they made the blackface accusation after Hopi PTA posted pictures of a Disco-themed charity auction. In one of the pictures, Koko is seen with a number of attendees wearing garb from the 1970’s.
Lassen, who describes herself as a “an ardent community volunteer, activist, and ally to the LGBTQ+ community,” then sent out an email to Megan Livengood, head of the Hopi PTA, accusing the group of promoting racism. Livengood responded to Lassen:
I am deeply offended by this email even with the included apology. The Scottsdale Parent Council is an organization that claims to encourage diversity and inclusion; accusing the Hopi PTA and myself a hiring a DJ that participated in racist behavior is absolutely against your mission. The DJ that the Hopi PTA hire was, in fact a Black man. It is insulting that you feel myself or PTA condone racist behavior or encourage it by posting on social media. After such a successful event to support our school it’s disheartening to to (sic) believe in organization we pay to be part of (SPC) would send out such an aggressive response without checking the facts first or simply picking up the phone to discuss. Your accusations are false and hurtful on both the PTA level and a personal level. I know the goal of the Scottsdale Parent council is to unite the educational community and you are doing the complete opposite. I will encourage Hopi PTA not to be part of this group in the future.
I expect you to share my response with anyone you have shared your initial email with. I do not like false rumors starting about a school I love and spent countless hours supporting.
Lassen responded to Livengood:
You are right, we should’ve reached out and inquired before making such accusations. I cannot fathom the hurt, anger and frustration you felt after you and others volunteered countless hours on your event. Again I truly apologize. I hope that you can find it in your heart to forgive me and not harbor resentment towards SPC.
Per your request, I’ve shared your email with the( number of people) who saw my initial email. They are the same people CC’d here.
If there anything else I can do to make amends?
When it was pointed out that the DJ is actually a Black man, Rhoden posted on Facebook:
“Let me be clear, a Black man, apparently in Black face is an entirely different discussion than a White person. However, I did not state that the person was White. It was assumed that was my intent, and perhaps it was, but nonetheless, looking on his FB page (photos below), it seems at the very least he is in darker make-up if not “Black face” or I am completely mistaken and it’s the lighting of the patio.”
The Arizona Daily Independent reached out to Rhoden for an explanation of his actual intent, but he did not respond as of press time.
A posting on social media offered praise for Koko, who for his part, holds no hard feelings:
Who is Kim Koko Hunter who the Scottsdale Propaganda Council Distorted Dysfunctional Division Committee leaders accused of cultural appropriation?
Koko is local to Phoenix, a graduate from South Mountain HS. He’s a community leader who is passionate about engaging youth and has established multiple programs across Valley communities and through Boys & Girls Clubs. He helped Elevate Phoenix raise over $1M last November. He is a strong education advocate and was an administrator at a local charter high school until recently retiring to focus full-time on his entertainment company.
This is the man SPC insulted when they attacked Hopi for being racist. The man Stuart referred to as dude.
Oh and his brother has fostered 50 youth and adopted 7.
While Koko has put the episode behind him, his supporters and parents in the District are not. They say he is just one more victim of the stalk and destroy crew that supports Superintendent Scott Menzel’s parent-unfriendly administration.
“When these community activists were informed that their accusations were wrong, they didn’t apologize, they doubled-down,” said Scottsdale Unified School District parents and public school activist, Amanda Wray. “Stuart Rhoden dismissively referring to Kim Koko Hunter as “dude” said “looking on his FB page (photos below), it seems at the very least he is in darker make-up if not “Black face…”
“The SPC is so intent on finding racism they will go so far as to accuse a member of one of the communities they claim to advocate for of reprehensible behavior. SPC invoices every Scottsdale Unified School District PTO/PTA/APT for dues each year and then uses those funds to attack community members,” said Wray.
“This same organization and its leaders, President Emmie Cardella, accused me of violating the code of ethics last year for questioning the District’s misuse of tax payer dollars and violating AZ Open Meeting Laws, while they knowingly violating their own bylaws,” explained Wray.
“This hateful nonsense has to stop. This organization needs to be defunded by every Scottsdale PTA/PTO/APT.” Wray concluded, “If you are an SUSD parent, I encourage you to contact your parent organization and ask that they stop funding this hate group.”
— James T Harris (@JamesTHarris) April 15, 2022