Sesame Place controversy: Civil rights leader Rev. Jesse Jackson meets with SeaWorld CEO

Civil Rights leader Rev. Jesse Jackson on Thursday joined lawyers representing the family of two young girls who were allegedly snubbed by a character at Sesame Place for a meeting with SeaWorld.

The accusations came after a video of two young Black girls being ignored by a theme park character went viral on social media. 

Jodi Brown posted the video last month of her daughter Skylar Brown, 6, and her niece Nylah Brown, 6, that appears to show the two girls being ignored by the character Rosita as other children are greeted during a parade at the theme park. 

"These children are bearing the burden of this racial incident," Rev. Jackson said. "Two children were affected directly by this."


Attorney B'Ivory LaMarr, who is representing the Brown family, described Thursday's meeting as "a day of progress." While the Brown family did not meet with SeaWorld leadership on Thursday, LaMarr said Sesame Place is open to sitting down with them to "address the harm and the grievances that the parents have realized." 

The theme park issued an apology on Instagram following the incident saying, "The performer portraying the Rosita character has confirmed that the ‘no’ hand gesture seen several times in the video was not directed to any specific person, rather it was a response to multiple requests from someone in the crowd who asked Rosita to hold their child for a photo which is not permitted." 

Two additional apologies followed, including a mea culpa from Sesame Workshop. The gestures caused more families to share 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 his five-year-old daughter Kennedi.

LaMarr said the Brown family never wanted to pursue litigation and instead wished for an open dialogue with the park. He called the conversations held on Thursday as the "beginning of long term change." 

"These issues will not go away overnight, we don't expect them to, racism in this country did not start yesterday and it's not going to go away tomorrow," LaMarr said.

Sesame Place recently announced new initiatives to reinforce diversity, equity and inclusion at the theme park on Tuesday, in the wake of the continued racial discrimination accusations. 

The new plan includes a racial equity assessment that will audit the park's current policies and procedures to identify opportunities for improvement. 

"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."

LaMarr said they will meet again with Sesame Place within two weeks to continue their conversations. 

"We'll se how serious they are, we'll see if these statements that have come out are authentic and genuine, and that they are in fact standing behind these promises that they made," Lamarr said. "But we are encouraged by that."