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Sesame Place announces diversity, inclusion training after viral video sparks backlash

A video showing two Black girls reaching out to the Sesame Street character Rosita and not being acknowledged has resulted in allegations of racism at Sesame Place Philadelphia.

WHYY - Sesame Place plans to take initiatives to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace following multiple racial discrimination allegations and a lawsuit.

According to a release sent to WHYY News, Sesame Place intends to conduct a racial equity assessment to review policies, processes, and practices that “impact guests, employees, suppliers, and the community to identify opportunities for improvement.” Engagement with key stakeholders will be included in the assessment.

By the end of September, employees will participate in training focusing on methods to address bias, promote inclusion, and prevent discrimination. The training will eventually become part of the onboarding process for new employees.

These initiatives are being overseen and developed by national experts involved in civil rights and diversity, equity, and inclusion, including Debo P. Adegbile, the chair of the Anti-Discrimination Practice at WilmerHale LLP and a commissioner on the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, Joseph West, the current co-chair of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and the chief diversity, equity, and inclusion officer at DuaneMorris, and Sadiqa Reynolds, the longtime leader of the Louisville Urban League and incoming CEO of Perception Institute.

“We are pleased to have this team of well-respected leaders joining us,” Sesame Place Philadelphia President Cathy Valeriano said in a release. “We have already begun engaging with employees, guests, civil rights groups as well as community leaders, and instituted some interim measures at the park while the review proceeds. The actions we are taking will help us deliver on our promise to provide an equitable and inclusive experience for all our guests every day. We are committed to making sure our guests feel welcome, included and enriched by their visits to our park.”

In July, multiple allegations of racial discrimination were mounted against Sesame Place. A video posted to Instagram shows the Rosita character refusing to interact with two Black children at the Bucks County amusement park. The post’s caption explained that the character hugged a white child just before walking past the Black children. Multiple videos depicting similar incidents involving Rosita and other Sesame Street characters have also been posted online.

Later that month, Maryland-based attorneys filed a discrimination lawsuit against Sesame Place over another allegation involving costumed employees not interacting with Black visitors.