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

NEW YORK (WPVI) — Civil rights attorney Ben Crump has joined the family of two young Black girls in a call for action after videos appear to show the children getting snubbed by a costumed character.

The group discussed the incident outside Jay-Z’s Roc Nation Social Justice Summit in Manhattan on Saturday 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, Pennsylvania.

“That character may have ignored them, but we will never ignore our Black children. They have every right to be given the full consideration and respect of any other child,” Crump said.

During an interview with Action News on Saturday, Cathy Valeriano the president and general manager of Sesame Place said the park has been looking at its internal practices, both immediate and long term.

“We are heartbroken as an organization that these girls experienced this and that’s on us,” she said.

Valeriano said the performer in the Rosita costume has not worked since July 16.

LaMarr said he has taken issue with the park’s response.

“It doesn’t take three statements over five days to recognize racism,” he said.

“We could have been more thoughtful in our initial statement and we own that going forward,” Valeriano said.

The Congressional Black Caucus is now requesting a meeting with Valeriano to discuss the changes, plans of action and the training the park plans to implement.

“We’re open for a meeting if we need to have a meeting. Absolutely, I understand emotions are raw but it’s something that we internally need to learn and grow from it’s not something we’re going to fix overnight,” Valeriano said.

SEE ALSO: New video shows different angle of Sesame Place incident

Earlier this week, Brown was joined by LaMarr at a press conference outside Sesame Workshop in New York City.

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

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?”

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.

SEE ALSO: Family demands Sesame Place do more amid racism claims, wants worker fired

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.

In an initial statement, 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.

In a new statement released Saturday, Sesame Place said they are “taking action.”

“We are taking action and are reviewing our practices to identify necessary changes, both in the immediate and long-term. We are instituting mandatory training for all our employees so that we can better recognize, understand, and deliver an inclusive, equitable and entertaining experience for all our guests. We have engaged with nationally recognized experts in this area.”

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.”

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.

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