Ben Crump joins family in call for action amid Sesame Place racism claims

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Sunday, July 24, 2022
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"That character may have ignored them, but we will never ignore our Black children," Crump said.

MANHATTAN, New York (WABC) -- The family of two young Black girls at the center of a viral video recorded at Sesame Place outside Philadelphia held a news conference Saturday with their attorneys, including civil rights attorney Ben Crump.

The group discussed the incident outside Jay-Z's Roc Nation Social Justice Summit on Fifth Avenue at 12 p.m. and delivered a call to action for those outraged by the incident.

"We charge the community, activists, organizations and people across this country who truly believe in liberty and justice for us all -- what are you prepared to do about?" said family attorney B'Ivory LaMarr. "Are you finally ready to engage in these issues?"

It comes after a nine-second video, posted to Instagram on July 16 by Jodi Brown, the mother of one of the girls, showed the character Rosita high-fiving a white child and woman, then gesturing "no" and walking away from the two girls who had their arms stretched out for a hug and high-five during the parade at Sesame Place in Langhorne, outside Philadelphia.

In a statement, Sesame Place called the family's experience "unacceptable," and says they would like to personally deliver an in-person apology and hear from the family.

"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."

Despite the park's apology, Brown says she is not convinced as the backlash over the incident continues to grow.

"I shouldn't have to explain what racism is to 6-year-olds, it's not fair to me," Brown said. "For them to think they did something wrong when all they were supposed to be doing was enjoying themselves at a park for kids, it's absolutely unacceptable."

Renowned civil rights attorney Ben Crump demanded that Seaworld take advantage of the moment and make it a teachable one, not with their words, but with their actions.

"That character may have ignored them, but we will never ignore our Black children, they have every right to be given a full consideration and respect of any child whether white, Brown, red or Black," Crump said.

Brown was also joined by LaMarr for a press conference outside Sesame Workshop in New York City earlier in the week on Wednesday.

The family of the two little girls is demanding Sesame Place do more to make amends.

Lamarr said they don't want to sue the company, that this isn't about money, but it is about making things right -- and that that hasn't happened yet.

"You told these kids for years, 'Come and play, everything's OK, friendly neighbors there, that's where we meet, can you tell me how to get to Sesame Street?'" he said. "And once these kids figure out how to get to Sesame Street...they reach out in open arms to these friendly neighbors, for what? To be dismissed? To be rejected? And to leave your park inferior?"

Watch the full press conference:

LaMarr said he has more documentation from the incident and may release it depending on Sesame Place's further actions

"We have information that we possess - we are going to give this company, they got less than 12 hours to come out with information with a very genuine and authentic apology - or we're going to put out evidence showing exactly what took place in addition to the video you've already seen," LaMarr said.

LaMarr said the evidence refers to the family's comments that after passing the two girls, the Rosita character went on to hug a white child.

WPVI-TV in Philadelphia spoke with Sesame Place Park President and General Manager Cathy Valeriano. She said she is aware of the protests that took place Saturday afternoon.

She said the park has been looking at their internal practices, both immediate and long term.

"W e are heartbroken as an organization that these girls experienced this, and that's on us," said Valeriano.

"The performer in the Rosita costume has not worked since that night," said Valeriano, who said she could not comment further on their employment.

In an initial statement Sunday, Sesame Place said the park and its employees stand for "inclusivity and equality in all forms." The statement also noted that performers sometimes miss requests for hugs because the costumes they wear make it difficult to see at lower levels.

"The Rosita performer did not intentionally ignore the girls and is devastated by the misunderstanding," the statement said.

However, many people expressed outrage online and some called for a boycott of the amusement park.

The park issued a second statement Monday, apologizing again and promising that it was "taking action to do better." Among those efforts would be inclusivity training for employees.

The family said they showed the video to Sesame Place right after it happened, saying the character did not behave this way toward white children who were there.

"This mother tried to resolve this issue immediately," Lamarr said. "This wasn't about any publicity. This wasn't about any money. She went to management immediately at the park. She showed them the same video that millions of people across this country and the world have seen. Sesame Place had an opportunity to see that video at that time. They chose to reject it. They chose to dismiss this family."

Brown said employees told her there was no supervisor available at the park at the time.

The company also invited the family to return to the park, promising a better experience, but their lawyer said they were not ready to accept that.

"I just feel the apologies were not genuine, and I believe the apologies are now being put out because it has caused so much uproar," Brown said. "I want them to be able to do the right thing being that me, my niece and my daughter have all suffered embarrassment (and) discriminatory behavior."

RELATED | Sesame Place to undergo bias training after viral video of potential racial bias

Lamarr said they want the person in the Rosita costume fired, and he also wants the park to pay for any mental care expenses the kids will need as a result of the incident.

The family and lawyer said Brown's daughter who was not at the press conference was at home in isolation.

"We reject any notion that the performer's actions this past Saturday was anything short of intentional," Lamarr said. "I know our Black girls are magic, but I didn't know they were invisible. We are tired of your excuses. We are tired of justifications. We will not tolerate racism in this country."

Lamarr said a major problem is that this wasn't an isolated incident, and he's been contacted by at least two dozen more families alleging they experienced racism at Sesame Place.

He said those claims are being investigated.

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