PHILADELPHIA — Sesame Place, facing ongoing backlash over recent viral videos of costumed characters at the park appearing to dismiss and ignore Black children, on Tuesday announced diversity and inclusion training for all employees and other measures to quell the withering criticism and make the amusement park more welcoming.
By the end of September, employees at the popular attraction in Bucks County “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,” the amusement park said.
The training will apply to new employees and will become a regular part of workplace development, the park said.
Controversy erupted over alleged racism at Sesame Place in July, with video posted online of an employee dressed as the turquoise Muppet Rosita appearing to refuse to high-five two 6-year-old Black girls during a parade. Sesame Place is now also facing a lawsuit alleging its costumed characters ignored another young Black girl in June.
Cathy Valeriano, president of Sesame Place Philadelphia, said in a statement: “We are committed to making sure our guests feel welcome, included and enriched by their visits to our park.”
Sesame Place will undergo a “racial equity assessment” that will include a review of policies and practices that “impact guests, employees, suppliers, and the community to identify opportunities for improvement,” the park said.
The changes will be developed and overseen by experts in civil rights and diversity, equity and inclusion, the park said.
The experts include Debo P. Adegbile, a commissioner on the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and the chair of the anti-discrimination practice at the law firm WilmerHale LLP.
Two other experts are Joseph West, of the law firm Duane Morris, and Sadiqa Reynolds, the longtime leader of the Louisville Urban League.
“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,” Valeriano said in her statement.
The video that sparked the initial Sesame Place controversy, recorded by Jodi Brown of New York, prompted calls to boycott the park and for an explanation from the company.
Sesame Place has issued three apologies since the video was posted online.
SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment owns and operates Sesame Place through a license with Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit responsible for the TV show “Sesame Street.”
Late last month, a Baltimore father filed a federal lawsuit in Philadelphia against Sesame Place and its parent company, SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment, for breach of contract. The lawsuit alleges Sesame Place violated its agreement with Burns and his 5-year-old Black daughter, Kennedi, when characters ignored the girl during a “meet and greet” event. Quinton Burns, the father, recorded a video of Sesame Place characters seeming to ignore his daughter and interact with other children, who appear to be white.