Tia Oso, Convicted Embezzler Who "Occupied" Presidential Candidates' Stage, to Appear at ASU

Tia Oso, the Black Lives Matter activist — and convicted embezzler — who interrupted a town hall meeting for Democratic presidential candidates in July, will be a guest speaker at an Arizona State University event on Tuesday as part of Ethnic Studies Week.

Oso is scheduled to appear with H.L.T. Quan, an ASU Justice and Social Inquiry associate professor, and Barbara Ransby, a professor and director of the Social Justice Initiative at the University of Illinois at Chicago, from noon to 1:30 p.m. at the Tempe campus' West Hall, Room 135. The event is open to the public, and guests are asked to RSVP on the Black Lives Matter Facebook site.

Ransby will deliver a keynote speech, "Forging an Insurgent Praxis within the Neoliberal University: Lessons from Black Lives Matter," at Old Main's Carson Ballroom later that day.

Oso, also a national organizer for Black Alliance for Just Immigration, has received much press attention since she was allowed by the Netroots Nation town hall moderator in July to interrupt presidential candidate Martin O'Malley. While O'Malley was on stage, she took a mic handed to her by moderator Jose Antonio Vargas and gave a 15-minute speech about racial inequality and the Black Lives Matter campaign. Black Lives Matter activists interrupted candidate Bernie Sanders a little while later.

O'Malley later issued an apology for responding to Oso that "all lives matter." His statement was blasted by liberal activists and pundits.

In an Arizona Republic article Thursday about Oso's upcoming appearance, ASU assistant professor Wendy Cheng, who organized the event, is quoted as saying Oso is the "perfect person" to speak on public racial experiences.

In 2009, as New Times reported in July, Oso was convicted of felony theft for stealing $11,000 over the course of a year from her employer, the nonprofit Arizona Citizens for the Arts/Arizona Action for the Arts. She was the group's business manager at the time and still lists the position on her online résumé.

The Republic article did not mention the embezzlement conviction.

Court records also show that Oso pleaded guilty in 2008 to driving with her license suspended or revoked for failure to appear in court.

Oso did make amends for her 2009 theft: She paid monthly restitution, and after paying back the arts center completely as of last year, her felony was reduced to a misdemeanor.

But records show the crime had an impact on the arts group, which challenged its members to "win back the trust of donors" in the aftermath of the business manager's arrest.

Oso, a Los Angeles-area resident and ASU graduate, did not respond to New Times' attempt to reach her for comment.

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Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.
Contact: Ray Stern