The family of two young Black girls who were seemingly snubbed by a costumed character at Sesame Place Philadelphia in a viral video last week stepped up pressure Saturday for the amusement park to turn the incident into a “teachable moment” about racial bias.
At a news conference in New York, attorneys for the family pressed Sesame Place and its owner, SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment, to make amends after the company issued several statements in the last week that the family suggested were insincere.
“The ball is in your corner, SeaWorld,” said Ben Crump, a civil rights attorney. “Our community is going to stand firm for our children. The question is, are you standing with us? Or are you going to stand against us? … Let’s make this a teachable moment, Sesame Street, for American society. Now more than ever, we need it.”
Another attorney, B’Ivory LaMarr, called on those who were outraged by the incident to take action.
“We charge the community, activists, organizations, and people across this country who truly believe in liberty and justice for us all — what are you prepared to do … ?” LaMarr said at the news conference outside Jay-Z’s Roc Nation Social Justice Summit. “Are you finally ready to engage in these issues?”
The incident became national news last weekend after an employee dressed as the Muppet Rosita was recorded appearing to refuse to high-five two 6-year-old Black girls during a parade at Sesame Place in Langhorne. Jodi Brown of New York posted the video of her daughter and niece, prompting calls to boycott Sesame Place.,
“We have offered to meet the family and their attorneys in person to personally deliver an apology and an acknowledgement that we are holding ourselves accountable for what happened,” the company said. “We want to listen to them to understand how the experience impacted their family and to understand what we can do better for them and all guests who visit our parks. We are committed to learning all we can from this situation to make meaningful change. We want every child who comes to our park to feel included, seen and inspired.”
The Brown family said a second video, shot by a bystander, casts doubt on Sesame Place’s initial explanation that the employee wearing the Rosita costume was shaking off another family holding a child when the two girls, their arms outstretched for a hug, are bypassed. After passing the two girls, the Rosita character went on to hug a white child.
“It doesn’t take three statements over five days to recognize racism,” said attorney LaMarr. “Willful blindness has always been an issue when it comes to social justice. You could blame it on a costume. You could blame it on some fictitious individual holding a child. You can blame it on whatever you want, but America sees exactly what it is.”
Sesame Place said it is taking the incident “extremely seriously.”
“We are taking action and are reviewing our practices to identify necessary changes, both in the immediate and long-term,” it said in its statement. “We are instituting mandatory training for all our employees so that we can better recognize, understand, and deliver an inclusive, equitable and entertaining experience for all our guests. We have engaged with nationally recognized experts in this area.”
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