Attorneys for a New York mother claiming her 6-year-old daughter and niece were intentionally ignored by a Sesame Place character because they’re Black said they’re calling on the park’s owners to make changes to operations so that such an incident “never happens again.”
As the attorneys and mother Jodi Brown held a press conference in New York Saturday afternoon, a handful of protesters gathered outside the park. Talks of a larger protest did not materialize, although there was a heavy police and media presence.
At the press conference, civil rights attorney Ben Crump said he and other attorneys for Brown have been in talks with executives of SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment, which owns Sesame Place.
“This is an opportunity for them to not only do right by Skylar and Nylah, but also an opportunity for them to become a better company,” said civil rights attorney Ben Crump. “Hopefully they will look back at this moment, this painful moment, and try to turn it into something powerful, not only for the Black community but for their community.”
Sesame Place has repeatedly apologized to Brown, calling the incident “unacceptable.” The park announced Thursday that it is reviewing its practices to identify immediate and long-term changes, has hired a “nationally recognized” expert to assist them and has implemented new mandatory bias training for employees.
The park has said that the performer was gesturing toward another park guest not visible in the video, who wanted “Rosita” to hold their child for a photo, which is not permitted. The park also stated the character costumes that performers wear can sometimes make it difficult to see guests at lower levels.
Brown’s attorneys, however, pointed to newly released video that they say contradicts the theme park’s version of what occurred, as well as videos that have been released by other Black parents who claim their children were ignored by costumed characters who went on to interact with children of other races.
Attorney B’Ivory LaMarr contends the video shows no one appears to be standing behind the two 6-year-old girls when an employee in a “Rosita” costume gestures “no” to the girls, who were seeking hugs, after high-fiving white guests. The 31-second video of the July 16 parade was taken by another parent and released to Brown’s attorneys.
Brooklyn mom says “Rosita” ignored girlsSesame Place blames Rosita costume issues for snub that mom calls racist in viral video
A Sesame Place spokeswoman did not immediately respond to an email Friday seeking comment on the new footage or if the “Rosita” performer had been disciplined. In its initial statement, the park said the employee was “devastated” to learn of the misunderstanding.
Brown’s original 9-second cellphone video of the encounter posted on social media last week ignited a firestorm of criticism of the popular children’s theme park, its handling of the Brown’s claims and allegations of insensitive behavior by employees toward Black guests.
Brown contends that the performer intentionally rejected hug requests from her daughter and niece, and instead high-fived adults and children of different races on either side of them.
Brown said Saturday she was there with her daughter Skylar and niece Nylah for a birthday celebration. After the snub, she asked to speak to park management but said she was denied.
“I was upset,” she said. “I couldn’t believe it.”
She said she was grateful for the support on social media and determined “to get answers for my children.”
LaMarr contends the new, longer video, which appears to have been shot from a wider angle and the other side of the parade route, supports his client’s version of what happened. The footage was filmed and provided by another guest at the same parade, LaMarr said.
The last seconds of the new video appear to show no one is standing behind or between a white woman in a purple shirt and Brown’s daughter and niece in the parade line.
LaMarr added that the video clip also confirms Brown’s claims that after rejecting her daughter and niece, the employee in the Rosita costume interacted with another child of a different race, which is what Brown claims happened after her video cut off.
“To be clear, the issue here is not so much the racist incident,” LaMarr said Saturday. “It’s how the company responded to it. It doesn’t take three statements over five days to recognize racism.
“Videos going viral on social media is not justice,” Lamarr continued. “It brings awareness, but it does not bring accountability.”
Brown and others are calling for the immediate identification and termination of the performer.
LaMarr has claimed that “multiple families” with similar negative experiences with character performers have reached out to his law office since Brown posted her video on Twitter and Instagram.
York Pa. dad says Elmo snubbed his childYork father joins chorus of parents who say Sesame Place characters snub Black children
A south central Pennsylvania man, who is Black, has posted a video of what he says shows an employee wearing an “Elmo” costume ignoring his 5-year-old daughter’s high-five request during a July 4 visit to the theme park.
The Instagram video has more than 30,000 views as of Friday morning.
In its most recent public statement, Sesame Place said that it has been in contact with Brown and her attorney and has extended an offer to meet in-person with Brown and LaMarr to deliver a personal apology and an “acknowledgment that we are holding ourselves accountable for what happened.”
“We want to listen to them to understand how the experience impacted their family and to understand what we can do better for them and all guests who visit our parks,” the park said.
More Fall out from Sesame snub incidentMore videos emerge showing apparent racial snubs of children at Sesame Place