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‘Sesame Street’ will debut Asian American muppet during Thanksgiving special

Ji-Young, right, a new muppet from the popular children's series "Sesame Street," appears alongside Ernie, a longtime character on the show. (Noreen Nasir/Associated Press)
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The sunny days of Sesame Street will now shine over the series’ first Asian American character, who will debut during an upcoming special.

Ji-Young, a 7-year-old Korean American muppet performed by Sesame Workshop puppeteer Kathleen Kim, will debut in “See Us Coming Together: A Sesame Street Special,” a Thanksgiving show celebrating diversity among the Asian and Pacific Islander communities.

The show comes after nearly two years of increased violence toward the Asian and Pacific Island community following the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, which reignited conversations and activism surrounding anti-Asian hate.

Kay Wilson Stallings, Sesame Workshop’s executive vice president of creative and production, said in a news release that the special is part of the series’ mission to empower children and families of all races to value their unique identities.

“ ‘See Us Coming Together’ continues Sesame Street’s proud legacy of representation with an engaging story that encourages empathy and acceptance and uplifts Asian and Pacific Islander communities,” Stallings said.

The special will follow Ji-Young through a “Neighbor Day” celebration where she will be joined by other notable celebrities of Asian descent, including tennis star Naomi Osaka, action actor Simu Liu and others.

The show will also tackle anti-Asian racism as part of the Sesame Workshop’s ongoing effort to support families in discussions about race.

An off-screen encounter with another character will confront Ji-Young with anti-Asian racism when she is told to “go back home,” a refrain often used against people of Asian descent. The show will follow Ji-Young’s conversations with trusted adults and friends who help her understand that she is where she should be.

A viewing guide with accompanying activities will be available to families the week the special airs.

Ji-Young told the Associated Press in a recent interview that her name has special meaning.

“In Korean, traditionally the two syllables they each mean something different and Ji means, like, smart or wise. And Young means, like, brave or courageous and strong,” she said. “But we were looking it up and guess what? Ji also means sesame.”

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