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Sesame Place apologizes after Muppet seems to snub Black girls in video

Sesame Place in Langhorne, Pa. (Jeff Chiu/AP)

Sesame Place Philadelphia has apologized after a woman’s claim that a performer intentionally ignored her young Black daughters sparked online backlash.

A woman posted a video to Instagram on Saturday that she says shows a performer playing the “Sesame Street” character Rosita brushing off her daughter and niece as they asked the character for high-fives during a parade. The nine-second video shows the performer portraying Rosita — a bilingual Muppet on the legendary children’s show — waving and high-fiving other visitors before appearing to wave off the 6-year-old girls in their “Sesame Street” backpacks. The girls were disappointed and confused after they had come in from Brooklyn for the day with their families, B’Ivory LaMarr, the family’s attorney, told The Washington Post.

“We were on our way out of Sesame Place and the kids wanted to stop to see the characters. THIS DISGUSTING person blatantly told our kids NO then proceeded to hug the little white girl next to us!” Jodi Brown wrote on Instagram. “Then when I went to complain about it, they looking at me like I’m crazy.”

The video has gone viral in recent days, with many online calling for a boycott of the park.

Sesame Place Philadelphia initially apologized in a statement to Instagram but noted on Sunday that the costumes “sometimes make it difficult to see at lower levels” and that sometimes “performers miss hug requests from guests.” The park said that the performer’s “no” hand gesture was not specifically directed at the girls but in “response to multiple requests from someone in the crowd who asked Rosita to hold their child for a photo which is not permitted.”

“The Rosita performer did not intentionally ignore the girls and is devastated about the misunderstanding,” the park said.

But as the family rejected the apology and Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit behind “Sesame Street,” called the experience the children went through “unacceptable,” the park issued a more direct apology to The Post on Tuesday.

“We sincerely apologize to the family for their experience in our park on Saturday; we know that it’s not okay,” a spokesperson said in a statement. “We are taking actions to do better. We are committed to making this right.”

A park spokesperson added that Sesame Place Philadelphia would “conduct training for our employees so they better understand, recognize and deliver an inclusive, equitable and entertaining experience to our guests.”

LaMarr told The Post that the family is considering its options, including a potential lawsuit, as other videos allegedly show the performer in question refusing to engage with children of color at the park.

“We don’t want to just jump to race all the time, but unfortunately, only one logical deduction can be made off this set of facts,” LaMarr said.

Located just outside Philadelphia, Sesame Place has entertained millions of guests for the past 42 years. It is one of only two parks in the United States to be based entirely on “Sesame Street,” one of the longest-running TV programs in the world. The park has a licensing agreement with Sesame Workshop and is operated by SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment.

Rosita, a turquoise, bilingual Muppet hailing from Mexico, first appeared on “Sesame Street” in 1991. She is often featured playing the “Spanish word of the day” on the show.

The Sesame Place performer portraying Rosita on Saturday at one of the park’s parades is shown waving to patrons ahead of a float featuring Elmo, according to the Instagram video. After high-fiving a young girl, Brown’s daughter and niece extend their arms in the hope of interacting with Rosita. But when the performer appears to wave “no” at them before walking away, one of the young girls looks dejected as the character walks out of the frame.

The video, which has been viewed more than 555,000 times, led to an online furor. Actor Wendell Pierce related the incident to an experience from his own childhood, and called it “violent” and “scarring.” Singer Kelly Rowland said on her Instagram story that watching the video made her “so mad.”

“Had that been me, that whole parade would have been in flames,” Rowland said. “Like, are you serious? You’re not going to speak to my child? And did you see that baby’s face at the end? The little one with the pink on? She deserves an explanation.”

When Sesame Place released its first apology, LaMarr said the family believed the statement was “just completely not genuine.”

“They’re trying to say anything to appease the public, considering they’re putting in jeopardy one of the ‘Sesame Street’ characters we’ve all come to love,” the attorney said. “These 6-year-old girls, who are very fond of this character, have been disheartened; their hearts have been shattered.”

Brown echoed the sentiment, responding in her Instagram story that Sesame Place was only “adding insult to injury.”

“I really tried to handle this situation [as] calm as possible but I am hurt, and that response just made it worse! The character could’ve just waved to everyone or just kept walking, but to blatantly look at my kids and say no … Don’t try to tell me he can’t see lower levels. He looked at them and said no!! So embarrassing and hurtful.”

The performer has not been publicly identified, and it’s unclear whether the employee has faced any discipline since the video went viral. Sesame Place emphasized that the park “has worked to uphold the values of respect, inclusion and belonging.”

“We are committed to doing a better job making children and families feel special, seen and included when they come to our parks,” the spokesperson said.

LaMarr told The Post that the family’s ultimate goal is to bring accountability to the park. He noted that the 6-year-old girls are so hurt that they are planning to go to therapy in response to what the family says was discriminatory behavior at the park.

“It’s about principle,” LaMarr said. “We want to make sure they don’t continue with business as usual.”

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