Big Bird is about to take a few classes to learn how to properly deal with Black folks.
At least the guy who wears the Big Bird costume and waves to guests at the Sesame Place Philadelphia theme park will have to do so. The park, which is owned by Sea World Parks and Entertainment, says it is mandating that every employee go through bias training and that it will conduct a company review, after it was sued last month by the father of a Black girl who was allegedly ignored by the park’s characters that had seconds before engaged with white children.
All the park’s employees will receive the training by the end of September, NBC News reported. A company press release says that Sesame Place has engaged several diversity and inclusion experts to help it draw up a racial equity plan going forward. Those 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, co-chair of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and the Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer at DuaneMorris and Sadiqa Reynolds, who leads the Louisville Urban League.
On July 27, the law firm of Murphy, Falcon & Murphy filed a $25 million lawsuit on behalf of Quinton Burns, who recorded cell phone of Sesame Place actors walking away from his five-year-old daughter, Kennedi, while the Maryland family was on a summer trip to the park. As we reported then, the video shows Kennedi give the camera a look of puzzlement after characters played with other kids but danced away from her outstretched hands.
The lawsuit claims that the interaction represents a breach of contract between Sesame Place and the Burnses.
Sesame Place has been under fire since early June, when other Black families went public with videos that they said depict the park’s actors ignoring their children as well. The company has apologized and said that its actors didn’t intend to discriminate against the children but rather were following rules about how to interact, such as not being allowed to physically pick up or hold children.