Family calls for Sesame Place performer to be fired

A character waved off and shook her head at two Black girls, a video showed.

July 20, 2022, 9:04 PM

The legal team representing the family of two young Black girls who were seemingly waved off by a Sesame Place character is calling for the costumed performer to be fired.

"We want a genuine and authentic apology," attorney B'Ivory LaMarr said in a press conference Wednesday. "The second thing that we're requesting is for the immediate termination of that performer. The third thing that we're going to request is -- we're going to demand that they take care of any type of health care or mental care expenses that these children have realized."

In a video posted on Twitter, two young Black girls at Sesame Place Philadelphia waved excitedly and held out their arms as a performer dressed in a Rosita costume approached.

Sesame Street character Rosita reacts as people watch a parade at the Sesame Place theme park, on July 21, 2018 in Langhorne, Pa.
Helen89/Shutterstock, FILE

Rosita high-fives parkgoers as she walks down the line, before appearing to shake her head at and wave off the two girls as she walks away from them.

"#BabyPaige & her cute lil friends went to @SesamePlace this weekend to celebrate Paige's 4th birthday & this is how #SesamePlace treated these beautiful Black children," the tweet, posted by the apparent aunt of the girl celebrating her birthday, read.

Outrage ensued online, as more footage of similar incidents with park characters and Black children were posted online in response to the viral video. Calls to boycott Sesame Place are growing on social media.

"While we hate to speculate and consider 'race' as the motivating factor, which would explain the performer's actions, such actions both before and after the young girls reached out only leads us to one conclusion," said LaMarr, who is representing the family, in a statement to ABC News.

He continued, "Although Sesame Place purports to stand for inclusivity and equality, this was not demonstrated this past Saturday. We are currently investigating this incident and will exercise every legal remedy possible to further protect this family."

In the park's initial statement, the performer portraying Rosita is said to have intended the "no" hand gesture in response to requests to hold children for a photo and did not intentionally ignore the girls.

The park said it has apologized to the family directly and has invited them for a meet-and-greet with the characters. It has not responded to ABC News' request for comment on the family's employee termination demands.

Rosita, a muppet character from Sesame Street, looks on during an event in Washington, D.C, on Nov. 29, 2021.
Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images

Sesame Place Philadelphia released a second statement on the incident, saying, "We know that it's not OK. We are taking actions to do better. We are committed to making this right."

The park said it will conduct training for employees to deliver an "inclusive, equitable and entertaining" experience for parkgoers.

Sesame Place is a licensed park partner of Sesame Workshop and is owned by Sea World.

Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit that runs Sesame Street, said Sesame Place will "conduct bias training and a thorough review of the ways in which they engage families and guests" after a video of a potential racial bias incident went viral online.

"The videos that have surfaced over recent days are completely contrary to the values we stand for. It’s unacceptable that our beloved characters and brand have contributed in any way to the pain and hurt of any child or family. Sesame Workshop has always stood for diversity, equity, inclusion, and kindness," the organization said in a statement to ABC News. "We have been in active dialogue with SeaWorld, the licensed park partner who operates Sesame Place, to urge them to take immediate and significant actions, including thoroughly reviewing their policies, procedures, and training, addressing the concerns voiced by the families, and making changes to ensure that all children feel welcome and loved at Sesame Place."

In an interview with ABC News, the mother of the birthday girl Jodi Brown said she's happy the video went viral.

"These are innocent children. And the job of the character is to bring joy to the kids," she said. "I also think that a lot of parents, as you can see in the other videos that are now released, have went through a similar thing and just didn't speak up about it right away. So now they have the courage to say 'hey, this also happened to my child.'"

ABC News' Sabina Ghebremedhin and Kendall Ross contributed to this report.