Sesame Street theme park apologizes after mascot denies Black girls hugs
Park and employees stand for 'inclusivity and equality in all forms,' Sesame Place says
A Sesame Street-themed amusement park has apologized and promised more training for its employees after a video showing a costumed character waving off two six-year-old Black girls during a parade went viral online.
The nine-second video, posted to Instagram on Saturday by Jodi Brown, the mother of one of the girls, showed the character Rosita high-fiving a white child and woman, then gesturing "no" and walking away from the two girls who had their arms stretched out for a hug and high-five during the parade at Sesame Place in Philadelphia.
"I will never step foot in @sesameplace ever again," Brown said online.
The family's lawyer, B'Ivory LaMarr, told The Associated Press on Tuesday that the family is appalled and disturbed by the incident and "the injuries propagated to their children."
In an initial statement Sunday, Sesame Place said the park and its employees stand for "inclusivity and equality in all forms." The statement also noted that performers sometimes miss requests for hugs because the costumes they wear make it difficult to see at lower levels.
"The Rosita performer did not intentionally ignore the girls and is devastated by the misunderstanding," the statement said.
Calls for boycott
However, many people expressed outrage online and some called for a boycott of the amusement park.
The park issued a second statement Monday, apologizing again and promising that it was "taking action to do better." Among those efforts would be inclusivity training for employees.
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."
"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.
Located in Langhorne, a neighborhood in Philadelphia, 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."