Sesame Place announces diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives following racial bias claims

Actions include a comprehensive racial equity assessment, anti-bias training and education.

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Thursday, August 11, 2022
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Following claims of racial bias, Sesame Place has announced a series of initiatives to expand its commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion.

PENNSYLVANIA (WABC) -- Sesame Place announced a series of initiatives on Tuesday as part of an expansion of its commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion following claims of racial bias.

This follows outrage over a viral video that appeared to show the costumed character, Rosita, snubbing two young Black girls during a parade at the park.

Jodi Brown says her daughter and niece were snubbed by the Rosita character on Saturday, July 16.

SEE ALSO:Attorney Ben Crump joins family in call for action following Sesame Place snub

The nine-second video, posted to Instagram by Brown, showed the character 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.

Brown says the character was intentionally racist toward her family.

Last month, a Baltimore-based law firm filed a class action lawsuit against Sesame Place after a different family said they were treated unfairly due to the color of their skin.

The law firm released its own video that it says shows several Sesame Place characters snubbing 5-year-old Kennedi Burns, a Black child visiting from Maryland.

The child's family says four Sesame Place characters ignored her when they visited the park on Father's Day of this year.

SEE ALSO: Law firm files class action lawsuit against Sesame Place following claims of racial bias

The lawsuit alleges that SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment, Inc. engages in pervasive and appalling race discrimination against children in the operation of Sesame Place Philadelphia.

The Tuesday announcement by Sesame Place said the initiatives include a comprehensive racial equity assessment, the development and implementation of an anti-bias training and education program, and enhancements to ensure a best-in-class diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) program.

The work will be overseen by national experts, officials said.

"The racial equity assessment will include a review of policies, processes, and practices that impact guests, employees, suppliers, and the community to identify opportunities for improvement. The assessment will include engagement with both internal and external stakeholders. Experts will remain engaged after the completion of the assessment to monitor our progress toward established goals," the statement said.

Read the full statement from Sesame Place below:

"Sesame Place today announced a series of initiatives as part of an expansion of its commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. Initiatives include a comprehensive racial equity assessment, the development and implementation of an anti-bias training and education program, and enhancements to ensure a best-in-class diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) program. This work will be overseen by national experts.

The racial equity assessment will include a review of policies, processes, and practices that impact guests, employees, suppliers, and the community to identify opportunities for improvement. The assessment will include engagement with both internal and external stakeholders. Experts will remain engaged after the completion of the assessment to monitor our progress toward established goals.

By the end of September 2022, all employees will participate in a substantive training and education program designed to address bias, promote inclusion, prevent discrimination, and ensure all guests and employees feel safe and welcome. This training will be incorporated into the onboarding of all new employees and will become a regular part of our training and workforce development.

The racial equity assessment, training and education program, and DE&I program enhancements are being developed and overseen by national experts in civil rights and diversity, equity, and inclusion. These experts include 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, a research consortium that uniquely leverages insights from the social sciences to create effective interventions for inclusion and belonging.

"We are pleased to have this team of well-respected leaders joining us. 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," said Cathy Valeriano, President of Sesame Place Philadelphia. "We are committed to making sure our guests feel welcome, included and enriched by their visits to our park."

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