After a video of a Sesame Place Philadelphia character ignoring two black children went viral amid accusations of racism, the organization is promising to make changes.
The footage shared by a mother — who has now retained a lawyer, according to TMZ — on Instagram shows her young daughters being ignored by the Rosita character from “Sesame Street.” The Muppet appears to high-five the park visitors around them, but skipped over the two little girls of color.
“I’m going to keep posting this, because this had me hot,” one of the girl’s mothers, posting under the Instagram handle @__jodiii__, wrote Saturday.
The original video has racked up more than 550,000 views as of Tuesday morning. A repost of the video on Twitter has gained over 8.5 million additional views.
The incident caught the attention of many celebrities, including actress Yvette Nicole Brown, who tweeted, “Every Black woman was once a little Black girl who made this face when the way things are for us in America first broke her heart.”
Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit behind “Sesame Street,” responded to the situation in a statement on social media.
“We have been in contact with Sesame Place, our licensed park partner, and they have assured us that they will conduct bias training and a thorough review of the ways in which they engage with families and guests,” they wrote in the statement.
“As a global nonprofit educational organization with a mission to help children grow smarter, stronger and kinder, Sesame Workshop has always stood for respect, inclusion and belonging and is committed to providing the highest quality engaging experiences for all children and families,” the statement went on.
Moments after the nonprofit shared its statement, Sesame Place Philadelphia shared a new statement that read, “We sincerely apologize to the family for their experience in our park on Saturday; we know that it’s not OK.”
“We will conduct training for our employees so they better understand, recognize and deliver an inclusive, equitable and entertaining experience to our guests,” it continued.
This comes after Sesame Place Philadelphia’s initial statement in defense, claiming the incident was not racially motivated.
“The performer portraying the Rosita character has confirmed that the ‘no’ hand gesture seen several times in the video was not directed to any specific person, rather it was a response to multiple requests from someone in the crowd who asked Rosita to hold their child for a photo which is not permitted,” the original response read.
“The Rosita performer did not intentionally ignore the girls and is devastated about the misunderstanding,” it continued.
Reps also claimed that the park “spoke to the family and extended our apologies and invited them back for a special meet-and-greet opportunity with our characters,” but digital strategist Leslie Mac said that never happened.
“This statement is the first & only time the family heard about this offer & Sesame Place has cut off email communications. The entire statement is a lie,” she tweeted.
The family has now attained an attorney to investigate the situation — and potentially sue, according to TMZ.
B’Ivory LaMarr, the attorney representing the family, told TMZ they want to interview other people who were in attendance and evaluate other Rosita videos that have been appearing online showing similar situations.
“While we hate to rush to judgment to consider ‘race’ as the motivating factor to explain the performer’s actions, such actions both before and after the young girl’s request only lead to one conclusion,” LaMarr said.
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