LANGHORNE, Pa. – Civil rights leader Reverend Jesse Jackson joined attorneys representing the family of two young girls who were allegedly snubbed by a figure at Sesame Place on Thursday for a meeting with SeaWorld.
The charges came after a video of two young black girls being ignored by a theme park character went viral on social media.
Jodi Brown posted video last month of her daughter Skylar Brown, 6, and niece Nylah Brown, 6, which appears to show the two girls being ignored by Rosita’s character as other children are welcomed during a parade at the theme park.
“These children carry the burden of this racial incident,” Reverend Jackson said. “Two children were directly affected by this.”
Attorney B’Ivory LaMarr, who represents the Brown family, described Thursday’s meeting as “a day of progress.” Although the Brown family did not meet with SeaWorld executives on Thursday, LaMarr said Sesame Place was willing to sit down with them to “address the hurt and grievances that the parents have realized.”
The theme park posted an apology on Instagram following the incident saying, “The performer portraying the character of Rosita confirmed that the ‘no’ hand gesture seen repeatedly in the video was not aimed at a specific person, but rather a response to several requests from someone in the crowd who asked Rosita to hold their child for a photo which is not permitted.”
Two more apologies followed, including a mea culpa from Sesame Workshop. The gestures have led to more families sharing allegations and videos of similar experiences at the park.
Days later, a law firm filed a class action lawsuit against SeaWorld, seeking millions in damages for alleged discrimination on behalf of another family, Quinton Burns and her five-year-old daughter Kennedi.
LaMarr said the Brown family never wanted to sue and instead wanted an open dialogue with the park. He called the conversations held on Thursday “the beginning of long-term change.”
“These issues won’t go away overnight, we don’t expect them to, racism in this country didn’t start yesterday and it’s not going to go away tomorrow,” LaMarr said.
Sesame Place recently announced new initiatives on Tuesday to bolster diversity, equity and inclusion at the theme park, following persistent accusations of racial discrimination.
The new plan includes a racial equity assessment that will audit current park policies and procedures to identify opportunities for improvement.
“The steps we are taking will help us deliver on our promise to provide a fair and inclusive experience for all of our customers every day,” said Cathy Valeriano, president of Sesame Place Philadelphia. “We are committed to making our guests feel welcome, included and enriched by their visits to our park.”
LaMarr said they would meet again with Sesame Place within two weeks to continue their conversations.
“We’ll see how serious they are, we’ll see if these statements that have been made are genuine and authentic, and if they actually support the promises that they made,” Lamarr said. “But we are encouraged by that.”