Sesame Place called out after character rebuffs Black kids

Sesame Place, a Sesame Street-themed amusement park in Pennsylvania, is getting more attention for its reaction to a viral video that showed one of its characters appearing to reject two children who approached them during a parade.

The venue was blown up on Sunday when the children’s mother posted the clip to Instagram, which shows the park’s costumed Rosita character walking past the children, who are black, and claims the performer “openly said NO to our children.” and then the little white girl next to her hugged her.

“I’ll keep posting this because it got me hot,” the mom, who goes by @__jodiii__ on Instagram, said in the caption.

“We were on our way out of Sesame Place and the kids wanted to stop to see the characters. This gross person bluntly said NO to our kids and then hugged the little white girl next to us! Then when I complained about it, they looked at me like I was crazy,” she wrote. “I asked the lady who the character was and I wanted to see a supervisor and she told me SHE DID NOT KNOW!! I will never set foot in @sesameplace again! And please don’t hesitate to repost this. Actually leave me my money…so angry I stopped the video but it made me so angry when he bluntly told them no.

The mother’s video, which was cropped after the character appeared to say “no” in front of her children, gained more traction after it was picked up by several activists and trending culture account Shade Room, where thousands of the account’s 27 million followers live themselves to the alleged racism.

“For me it was the look on the kids faces!!! Crush as mom,” wrote The Boy Is Mine singer Monica.

“I’m so sad about it @SesamePlace would do that to children… to all children!!!!! WHY?!!!!!” tweeted Abbott Elementary star Sheryl Lee Ralph.

“I swear. I watched the video my sister @__jodiii__ posted of my niece @sesameplace about 50 times. My heart breaks for my baby Sky has turned to anger. All she wanted was a hit five It’s bad enough our kids can’t wear hoodies or have a bag of skittles Now this,” mobile bartender Yanie Brown wrote.

Destiny’s Child alum Kelly Rowland also shared the footage on her Instagram stories with the caption, “OH HELL NAWWW!!” and “That just made me so angry!!”

“OK. If that had been me, the whole parade would have gone up in flames,” she said. “How are you serious? They won’t speak to my child? And did you see the baby’s face at the end? The little one with the Pink on. She deserves an explanation. Hello.”

The statement came later Sunday, as the park — which is owned and operated by SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment and claims to be a “live embodiment” of the Sesame Street program — issued a statement about inclusivity and equality published. But it didn’t go down well.

“Our brand, our park and our employees stand for inclusion and equality in all forms. This is what Sesame Place is all about, and we do not tolerate behavior at our parks that violates this commitment. We are, and have always been, committed to ensuring that every family and child has the best possible experience at our parks, and we are incredibly disappointed when that doesn’t happen,” the statement, posted to Instagram, read.

“Regarding yesterday’s incident, the costumes worn by our cast members sometimes make it difficult to see at lower levels, and sometimes our cast members miss hug requests from guests,” it said. “The actor portraying the Rosita character has confirmed that the ‘no’ hand gesture seen several times in the video was not directed at a specific person, but was a response to multiple requests from someone in the crowd asking for Rosita to hold her child for an unauthorized photo. The Rosita actor didn’t intentionally ignore the girls and is devastated at the misunderstanding.”

The statement went on to say that representatives spoke to the family, apologized and invited them to a meet-and-greet with the characters.

“We apologize to these guests for not having the expected experience, and we are committed to doing our best to deserve their and all guests’ visit and support.”

The statement fell short for several critics, who flooded the post’s comments section, calling it “a pathetic mess” and “so sad and disappointing.” Many called it a lie.

“I’ve been accused of being unreasonable so even though I burned about it all day I waited to see how @sesameplace would react,” social justice activist Tamika D. Mallory wrote, releasing the statement from Sesame Place relaunched her Instagram account. “Are you serious??? We can see with our eyes as bright as day that damn person is looking at the children and waving NO, NO, NO straight at them. Are you kidding? I can’t even believe they took that person’s word and told the world. The boldness…

“I’ll tell you what… they should release the race of the person in the costume. I want to see something!” she added.

“When they say that (white) children are too young to learn about race, they are deliberately ignoring the fact that little black children are attacked by it in the womb, at birth, infancy and childhood,” added Lauren Napier Beauty founder Lauren Napier. “Every black kid has experienced that level of racism from a white person — probably an adult.”

On Sunday, the children’s mother shared an update on Instagram Stories, expressing disappointment at Sesame Place’s statement.

“Wow sth [shaking my head]! Now this,” she wrote, releasing a copy of the statement.

“I never asked for this character to take a picture and as I watch my video I don’t think the family asked for it,” she added. “I feel with all my heart that this statement was released to save face. Also one [manager] reached me earlier by telephone convo. I [responded] confirm via dm. Since the post went viral, there has been no communication since! @sesameplace Instead of trying to save face, you should publicly apologize to my girls! This statement disrespectful and tasteless. Talk about adding insults to injuries. I will repost this video every day until it is fixed.”

The mum said she tried to deal with the situation as calmly as possible and believes the park’s response “made it worse”.

“The character could have just waved at everyone or just walked on, but openly look at my kids and say no! I’m not [accepting] that,” she wrote in another Instagram story. “Don’t try to tell me he can’t see lower levels. He looked at her and said no!! So embarrassing and hurtful… Autographed: A Hurt Mother”

She also previously thanked those who have supported her since the video went viral, letting her girls know that so “a lot of people have their backs.”

She did not immediately respond to the Times request for comment.

Located 25 miles northeast of Philadelphia in Langhorne, Pennsylvania, Sesame Place opened in 1980. SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment operates the park under an exclusive license from Sesame Workshop, the non-profit organization that owns Sesame Street. A second park, Sesame Place San Diego, opened in Chula Vista in March.

https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/story/2022-07-18/sesame-place-racism-rosita-character-kelly-rowland Sesame Place called out after character rebuffs Black kids

Sarah Ridley

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