Mom who said Sesame Place character ignored two Black girls speaks out: "They were sad, heartbroken"
The woman who accused a performer at Sesame Place of ignoring her daughter and niece is denying the park's explanation of the incident, saying that it wasn't just a misunderstanding.
The Philadelphia-area theme park, which is based on the popular children's TV show "Sesame Street," came under fire after Jodi Brown shared a video of a performer dressed like the character Rosita appearing to dismiss her daughter and niece, who are Black, during a parade.
Brown's video, which went viral on Instagram, shows the performer apparently gesturing "no" to the girls after high-fiving and interacting with several other guests.
Brown told CBS News that when the character walked away from the children, she immediately stopped recording the video and asked for a supervisor.
She said the girls wanted to know what they did to warrant the dismissal from the performer. "I had to explain to them, 'You didn't do anything. It's okay. I'm going to speak to a manager and find out why it happened,'" she said, adding that the girls were "sad" and "heartbroken."
Sesame Place said Tuesday in a statement that the park stands for "inclusivity and equality in all forms," and that it does not tolerate any behavior in the parks that is contrary to that commitment.
"Regarding the incident yesterday, the costumes our performers wear sometimes make it difficult to see at lower levels and sometimes our performers miss hug requests from our guests," the statement, posted on Instagram on Monday, reads.
Sesame Place said the performer was not directing the "no" gesture at the two young girls, but said it was a response to someone else in the crowd who had repeatedly asked the performer to hold their baby for a photo, which is not allowed. "The Rosita character did not intentionally ignore the girls and is devastated by the misunderstanding," the statement said.
The park said it has spoken with the family, apologized and invited them back to meet the characters.
Brown, however, told CBS News that isn't what happened. "No, standing next to me, there wasn't anyone asking them to hold a child or take a photo," she said.
Since Brown's video gained widespread attention, videos showing similar situations where a Sesame Place character appears to ignore children have been shared by other Black parents.
Brown's lawyer, B'Ivory LaMarr, told CBS News that they have been in contact with the park, and said that "a couple things" need to happen to resolve the incident, "the first being a formal apology that we believe is authentic and genuine."
"We believe Sesame Place made a gross mistake in their first statement," he said. "We believe their assertions are completely false and we believe we have evidence to refute that."
LaMarr also said the individual in the costume should be fired. "We believe that there is no room for racism to exist at any theme park," he said.
He also wants Sesame Place to take accountability and responsibility for any mental health distress families have faced in their park.
LaMarr said he believes there is a pattern of this behavior at the theme park, adding that he has been contacted by 20 to 30 families with similar allegations.
"I will say that the company has reached out, we are now in a dialogue to try to reach an amicable resolution as it relates to this issue," LaMarr said.
In a statement to CBS News on Thursday, Sesame Place said that "We sincerely and wholeheartedly apologize to the Brown family for what they experienced. To be very clear, what the two young girls experienced, what the family experienced, is unacceptable. It happened in our park, with our team, and we own that. It is our responsibility to make this better for the children and the family and to be better for all families."
The park said that it is still in communication with Brown and LaMarr and reiterated that it is willing to meet with and apologize to the family in person.
"We are committed to learning all we can from this situation to make meaningful change. We want every child who comes to our park to feel included, seen and inspired," the park said, adding that it is "instituting mandatory training for all of our employees so that we can better recognize, understand, and deliver an inclusive, equitable and entertaining experience for all our guests."
"We take this extremely seriously; we are heartbroken by what these young girls and this family experienced in our park," Sesame Place said.
The Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit behind the television show "Sesame Street," said in a statement that what the children experienced is unacceptable and it has reached out to the park, which is a licensed partner. The theme park is owned and operated by SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment.
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