Sesame Place Announces Diversity, Inclusion Initiative Following Accusations of Racism

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Sesame Place is striving to enhance diversity, equity and inclusion. After allegations of racism at the Philadelphia theme park surfaced, the company announced the "comprehensive actions" it's taking to address visitors' concerns.

In a Tuesday press release, Sesame Place said it'd be undertaking initiatives including a comprehensive racial equity assessment, the development and implementation of an anti-bias training and education program, and enhancements to ensure a best-in-class diversity, equity, and inclusion program.

The racial equity assessment will include a review of policies, processes, and practices that impact guests, employees, suppliers and the community to identify opportunities for improvement.

Additionally, by the end of Sept. 2022, all employees 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. This training will be incorporated into the onboarding of all new employees and will become a regular part of training and workforce development.

All of the initiatives have been developed and will be overseen by national experts: 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, the current co-Chair of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and the Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer at DuaneMorris; and Sadiqa Reynolds, the longtime leader of the Louisville Urban League and incoming CEO of Perception Institute.

"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," 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."

The controversy began last month when, in a video posted to social media, a performer in a Rosita costume at Sesame Place Philadelphia appeared to blatantly ignore two young Black girls as they reached out for high-fives and hugs just moments after engaging with white visitors at the park. While some were quick to dismiss the interaction as a misunderstanding, multiple videos of similar incidents involving Black children have surfaced online. 

ET spoke to Kelly Rowland following the viral incident, and she said she was "livid" about the situation.

"I know, me personally, I would've burned the place down. I've said it before and I really mean it," she said. "... When I saw this and it was an extension of what I grew up learning and loving about Sesame Street and Sesame Place, I don't know what place this is that I saw. It made two beautiful little girls feel like they were just not there."

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