Members of the Congressional Black Caucus are reportedly asking for a meeting with leadership at a Sesame Street theme park after video showing a costumed character waving off two six-year-old black girls during a parade went viral.
Jodi Brown, the mother of one of the girls, first shared the nine-second video clip last weekend, showing the Sesame Place character Rosita high-fiving a white child and woman, then gesturing ‘no’ and walking away from the two black girls who had their arms out for hugs.
Black Caucus members are seeking a meeting with the theme park’s general manager Cathy Valeriano to ‘discuss the changes, plans of action, and training the park plans to implement,’ Fox News reporter Chad Pergram said on Saturday.
The caucus said: ‘Over the past week, we’ve seen multiple glaring examples of racism coming from the park, including the viral video in which two beautiful little black girls were blatantly rejected by a character they idolized while white children were embraced.’
Jodi Brown, the mother of one of the girls who was snubbed at Sesame Place, appeared on MSNBC on Saturday to discuss the incident
Brown has claimed that Rosita immediately hugged a white child after snubbing her daughter and niece, though those events are not seen in the video.
On Saturday, Brown appeared on MSNBC and said she rejected the apologies that had been issued by Sesame Place, the theme park outside Philadelphia.
‘I don’t believe it was genuine, I believe they were just putting out statements due to how viral the video has gone,’ Brown said.
Brown’s attorney B’Ivory Lamarr appeared alongside the mother and reiterated his threat to sue the theme park and demand that the unidentified employee in the Rosita costume be fired.
‘It’s very important that there is accountability when it comes to corporations. What we’ve seen is excuses over accountability, and there is just no room for that especially when it deals with racism,’ said Lamrarr.
LaMarr, the family attorney, told the Associated Press on Tuesday that the family is appalled and disturbed by the incident and ‘the injuries propagated to their children.’
The theme park has already issued several statements about the incident since the video was posted last weekend by Jodi Brown – who took her daughter Skylar and niece Nylah, both 6, to the park on Saturday.
The video shows Rosita high-fiving a white woman and child
The character then waves a no gesture at the two black girls reaching for hugs
In a statement on Sunday, theme park officials called the now viral moment a ‘misunderstanding,’ saying the mascot likely did not see the girls due to limited vision in the costume’s unwieldy mask.
‘Our brand, our park and our employees stand for inclusivity and equality in all forms,’ the statement read. ‘That is what Sesame Place is all about and we do not tolerate any behaviors in our parks that are contrary to that commitment.’
‘We also are, and always have been, committed to making sure every family and every child has the best possible experience at our parks and we are incredibly disappointed when that does not happen.’
‘We spoke to the family and extended our apologies and invited them back for a special meet-and-greet opportunity with our characters,’ the statement read.
The park said the actor portraying Rosita – who was not named – ‘did not intentionally ignore the girls and is devastated about the misunderstanding.’
The statement alleged Rosita was gesturing ‘no’ to another guest who had requested they hold hold their child for a photo, ‘which is not permitted.’
The park also said the mascot likely did not see the girls due to limited vision in the costume’s unwieldy mask, which ‘sometimes make it difficult to see at lower levels’ leading actors to occasionally ‘miss hug requests from guests.’
‘We apologize to these guests for not delivering the experience they expected and we commit to do our best to earn their and all guests’ visit and support,’ the statement concluded.
Sesame Place confirmed the incident occurred in a statement posted to Instagram on Saturday, but said it was a ‘misunderstanding’
Sesame Workshop – which was careful to explain that Sesame Place is a licensed partner – then posted another statement on its social media Monday night
Moments later, Sesame Place posted a new statement on Twitter
However, many people expressed outrage online and some called for a boycott of the amusement park.
Sesame Workshop – which was careful to explain that Sesame Place is a licensed partner – then posted another statement on its social media Monday night.
‘What these children experienced is unacceptable,’ it wrote. ‘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.
‘We will continue working with our long-term partner Sesame Place to ensure that appropriate actions are taken and that incidents like this do not happen in the future.’
Moments later, Sesame Place posted a new statement on Twitter reading: ‘We sincerely apologize to the family for their experience in our park on Saturday; we know that it’s not OK.
‘We are taking actions to do better. We are committed to making this right. We will conduct training for our employees so they better understand, recognize and deliver an inclusive, equitable and entertaining experience to the guests.’
Both statements and the video triggered a stark response on social media, which LaMarr said helped shed a light on ‘the existence of these issues.’
LaMarr, the family attorney, told the Associated Press on Tuesday that the family is appalled and disturbed by the incident and ‘the injuries propagated to their children’
One of the young girls, Nylah Brown, stood silent at a press conference this week
‘A lot of African Americans tend to become very passive because we unfortunately are accustomed to dealing with this type of racism in various spaces,’ he said.
Sesame Place has been the official ‘Sesame Street’ theme park for more than four decades. It opened in 1980.
‘You would expect a reputable organization the one as well revered as Sesame Street and Sesame Place to stand on those principles and values in which they portray,’ LaMarr said. ‘Instead, what this family saw was a company that comes out and they´re very dismissive of the harms that were caused.’
Lamarr on Wednesday rejected the firm’s explanation that the costume prevented the actor from seeing the two girls, calling it ‘bogus.’
‘We reject any notion that the performer’s actions were not short of intentional,’ he said, asking: ‘How come they could see everybody else?’
‘The only acceptable action is for this performer to be terminated.’
Throughout the news conference on Wednesday, Lamarr claimed ‘this is not about money,’ noting: ‘We don’t want these kids dragged through a lawsuit’ as he pointed at young Nylah, one of the 6-year-old girls who was filmed reaching toward Rosita as the character walked past last weekend.
But, he said: ‘No other kid should go through what these kids went through.’
He said he has now reached out to representatives at Sesame Place to start a dialogue, and warned that if they do not issue an apology showing ‘acceptance of wrongdoing,’ he will release further evidence showing that Rosita embraced a white child next to them after the nine-second clip ends.
In fact, Lamarr noted, he has received evidence from 25 to 30 other black families of similar incidents at the Sesame Street-based theme park over the years.