Civil rights campaigner the Reverend Jesse Jackson has written to Sesame Place urging it to hire more black executives and mandate racial sensitivity training carried out by black instructors.
Jackson, 80, wrote to parent company SeaWorld some suggestions in the letter to remove the ‘stain’ of ‘racism’ after black children were filmed apparently being ignored by Sesame Street characters at parades at the Pennsylvania theme park.
The former presidential candidate wants them to bring black Americans into their board of directors and spend money on black-owned business.
He wrote: ‘Without sincere action from corporations, discriminatory acts always return. Sesame Place, which is owned by SeaWorld has not provided solutions that I trust will eradicate the culture that has stained this theme park with discriminatory practices. We need SeaWorld to take a stance against past practices and do what is necessary to end discriminatory acts at their theme parks.’
Jackson also wants SeaWorld to give the Philadelphia theme park an African American firm to handle sensitivity training for workers and what he phrases as ‘doing right by’ the family affected.
He didn’t comment further on what ‘doing right’ means. One family whose child was allegedly snubbed filed a $25 million lawsuit.
Skeptics have questioned whether the alleged acts of racism were actually just staff members in unwieldy costumes unable to see every child reaching out for attention.
The Reverend Jesse Jackson wrote a letter to the owners of Sesame Place after claims of racial discrimination
A family is alleging multiple costumed characters ignored their five-year-old daughter during a meet-and-greet event last month because she was black, although others have questioned whether the person in the Rosarita outfit was just unable to see every child in front of them
He added: ‘SeaWorld has an opportunity to be different than previous companies that have failed when faced with adversity. SeaWorld can turn this negative situation into a positive if they bring forth a sustainable action plan that will be a long-term solution to ending racial discrimination at their theme park.’
Jackson spoke after a Baltimore family sued for $25 million.
They alleged four employees dressed as Sesame Street characters ignored Quinton Burns, his daughter Kennedi Burns and other black guests during the meet-and-greet on June 18.
‘Just looking at her face, it makes me want to cry every time I see it,’ Quinton Burns said during a press conference.
The lawsuit comes after a viral video showing two other black girls from New York apparently being snubbed by Rosita during a parade at the park in Langhorne, outside Philadelphia.
Sesame Place apologized in a statement for that incident and explained that the actor inside the Rosita suit simply couldn’t see their daughter due to the costume’s limited field of vison.
The furor triggered more families to come forward with similar experiences.
Quinton Burns, left, spoke of his anguish Wednesday as he filed a lawsuit claiming daughter Kennedi, right, was ignored by characters at a Sesame Street theme park parade because she is black
The lawsuit comes in the wake of a video, shared widely on social media, showing two other black girls from New York apparently being snubbed by a costumed employee during a parade at the park in Langhorne, outside Philadelphia
The lawsuit says ‘SeaWorld’s performers readily engaged with numerous similarly situated white customers.’
During a press conference held Wednesday, one of the family’s attorneys, Malcolm Ruff, called for transparency from SeaWorld and for the company to compensate the Burns family.
‘She was ignored amongst a sea of other young white children who were able to interact, give hugs, high fives,’ Ruff said.
‘Kennedi was forced to experience racism at the age of 5. This is unacceptable and we will not stand by and let this continue,’ Ruff continued.
Sesame Workshop – which was careful to explain that Sesame Place is a licensed partner – then posted another statement on its social media Monday night
Sesame Place responded to the lawsuit in a statement sent to Eyewitness News, saying: ‘We will review the lawsuit filed on behalf of Mr. Burns. We look forward to addressing that claim through the established legal process. We are committed to deliver an inclusive, equitable and entertaining experience for all our guests.”
The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.
Members of the Congressional Black Caucus reportedly asked for a meeting with leadership at a Sesame Street theme park after video showing a costumed character waving off two six-year-old black girls during a parade went viral.
Jodi Brown, the mother of one of the girls, first shared the nine-second video clip last weekend, showing the Sesame Place character Rosita high-fiving a white child and woman, then gesturing ‘no’ and walking away from the two black girls who had their arms out for hugs.