Arizona Education Leaders Are Blasted After They Mistook African-American DJ at School Fundraiser for White Man in Blackface
Adam Manno, Daily Mail, April 17, 2022
A pair of Arizona diversity, equity and inclusion ‘experts’ have been blasted for falsely accusing an African-American DJ of wearing blackface at an event.
Jill Lassen and Stuart Rhoden, who advocate for diversity at the Scottsdale Unified School District in various capacities, wrote scathing letters of complaint after DJ Kim Koko Hunter appeared at a PTA event, and they mistook him for a white man.
Stuart and Rhoden have since apologized, with some noting the irony of ‘diversity and inclusion’ activists rushing to such false conclusions.
But Rhoden also sought to double down on his initial allegation, and speculated as to whether Hunter may have used cosmetic products to make his skin appear darker.
‘When you are so hell bent on pointing out everyone as a racist, only to uncover yourself as the racist,’ one person tweeted.
The PTA at Hopi Elementary in Phoenix hired Hunter to entertain the crowd at its largest fundraiser of the year on April 9. It was a success, and drew in over $300,000 for ‘essential programs and services’ that are not paid for by the Scottsdale Unified School District.
But Lassen and Rhoden decided to take umbrage with Hunter’s skin-tone, after mistaking him for a white man in a racist outfit according to the Arizona Daily Independent.
The pair complained about the apparent racist incident to the school’s principal and the head of the PTA, who quickly clarified that Hunter is actually a black man.
Hunter, the Scottsdale school district and the Hopi PTA did not immediately respond to requests for comment from DailyMail.com.
Kim Koko Hunter played at the Hopi Elementary PTA’s ‘Hopi Night Fever’ fundraiser on April 9. The event brought in more than $300,000, according to Scottsdale schools activist Amanda Wray.
The DJ has 1,500 followers on Instagram, where he posted videos of himself in 1970s, Disco-inspired attire at the event, complete with roller skates and a shiny, gold shirt.
After the fundraiser, Stuart Rhoden reportedly emailed the principal complaining about Hunter.
Rhoden is an instructor at Arizona State University who also serves on the Scottsdale school district’s Equity and Inclusion Committee.
He questioned the PTA’s acceptance of blackface, wherein a person, usually white, paints their skin to portray a black person. The practice has roots in early 19th century American theater and is now widely considered racist.
In a Facebook post last week, he apologized to ‘dude’ for the mistake, only to then double-down and suggest that Hunter was wearing makeup to make himself look darker.
‘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,’ Rhoden said.
‘So here’s what I want to say. I apologize to dude for the implication, but the sentiment still stands, Black face by anyone, in this day and age is problematic. I also apologize to folks who reposted and made other statements based on my assumption.’
Rhoden wasn’t the only one who took offense to Hunter’s appearance.
Jill Lassen, co-chair of the Scottsdale Parent Council’s diversity, equity and inclusion committee, also sent out an email complaining about the incident, according to the Arizona Daily Independent.
PTA head Megan Livengood responded, ‘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.’
Livengood added: ‘The DJ that the Hopi PTA hire was, in fact a Black man.’
Lassen apologized profusely in a follow-up email.
‘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,’ wrote Lassen, who describes herself as an ‘ardent community volunteer, activist, and ally to the LGBTQ+ community.’
‘Again I truly apologize. I hope that you can find it in your heart to forgive me and not harbor resentment towards SPC.’
The accusations have garnered some ridicule on social media, with one person tweeting: ‘More DEI. It’s working.’
Amanda Wray, the school activist, says the pair’s apologies aren’t enough.
‘When these community activists were informed that their accusations were wrong, they didn’t apologize, they doubled-down,’ she told the Independent.
‘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.’
Wray is currently involved in a lawsuit filed by the father of a Scottsdale school board member.
The father, Mark Greenburg, says she invaded his privacy and defamed him by sharing the contents of a Google Drive he created without his consent, according to the Arizona Republic.
Wray runs the group SUSD-CAN, which ‘is dedicated to propagating anti-mask policies, anti-vaccine policies, anti-LGBTQ policies, and anti-Critical Race Theory policies within the Scottsdale Unified School District,’ according to Greenburg’s filing.
In her remarks against Rhoden and Lassen’s blackface accusations, Wray made sure to include some jabs at the Scottsdale Parent Council, which Lassen is part of.
‘SPC invoices every Scottsdale Unified School District PTO/PTA/APT for dues each year and then uses those funds to attack community members,’ Wray said.
‘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.’