A viral social media video showing two young Black girls snubbed by a Sesame Street performer at a parade has caused outrage and the girls’ family to cry racism.
For Jodi Brown and her 6-year-old daughter and niece of Brooklyn, New York, a weekend visit to Sesame Place theme park in Philadelphia was supposed to be a day of fun and smiles, but that was not the case on July 16.
“They went to the theme park, that was one of the primary reasons was to interact, to see the parade and interact with the characters,” said B’Ivory LaMar, attorney representing the girls’ family.
Brown captured the moment their day took a nosedive, as the Rosita Sesame Street performer is seen walking toward her daughter and niece eagerly watching the parade. Rosita is seen slapping hands and high-fiving white children nearby, but as she approached Brown’s daughter and niece the Rosita performer gestured “no” as the girls look stunned.
“These two young girls just seen one handshake with the Caucasian family, right before them then immediately after they got rejected, he or she immediately goes and interacts with another Caucasian girl immediately besides them, so this begs questions,” said LaMar.
Lamar says the girls were heartbroken and immediately ran over to Brown asking if they had done something wrong.
“I don’t know if that’s another part of the script that we’re unaware of that this character is supposed to portray, but in real life, this same character has done this on several occasions. I can’t even keep up with the amount of emails and phone calls that I’m getting from people all across the country, who are alleging and showing video of interactions with this very specific character and other characters as well at this theme park,” LaMar said.
Brown immediately took to social media calling the incident “disgusting,” and her posts continued, saying when she went to complain and learn who the person was underneath the costume, an employee of the park told her she did not know who the performer was. The video has gone viral, garnering comments from thousands of people including high-profile names like singer Kelly Rowland who tweeted, “those gorgeous girls will never forget that feeling.”
Sesame Place issued an apology to the family and tried to explain away the actions of the Rosita performer saying in part: “Our brand stands for inclusivity and equality in all forms…regarding the incident, the costumes our performers wear sometimes make it difficult to see at lower levels and sometimes our performers miss hug requests from guests.” The statement continues saying, “The performer portraying the Rosita character confirmed that the ‘no’ hand gesture was not directed to any specific person, rather it was a response to multiple requests from someone to hold their child for a photo which isn’t permitted.” LaMar says the family doesn’t buy Sesame Place’s explanation.
“Now they’re blaming it on the costumes, the costumes weren’t the blame when you could see the two Caucasian people standing right before the young girls and they weren’t the blame immediately after,” LaMar said. “Their excuses, their justifications and realizations are just completely egregious, I think it adds insult to injury as it’s been said by the family,” LaMar continued reacting to Sesame Place’s response.
The family has been on a crusade of media interviews and held a press conference before Sesame Place headquarters alongside another high-profile attorney, Ben Crump. LaMar says, no lawsuits have been filed yet, ultimately the family wants the performer fired and Sesame Place to take responsibility for their actions.
“We can believe our eyes, we don’t have to hide behind a fairytale, things happen, and bad things happen to good companies but it’s the time to say, recognize it, acknowledge it and do something about it,” LaMar said.