Plaintiffs file $25 million lawsuit over claims of racial discrimination at Sesame Place 

The class action lawsuit was reportedly filed on behalf of Black families who believe they "suffered disparate treatment" from park performers.

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Just weeks after a video of performers appearing to ignore Black children at the Sesame Place Philadelphia amusement park went viral and caused a fury, a $25 million class action lawsuit has been filed on behalf of affected families. 

According to NBC Philadelphia, the plaintiffs named in the lawsuit are Quinton Burns and his 5-year-old daughter, hailing from Baltimore, Maryland. They are seeking at least $25 million in damages from SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment, which owns the park. All Black people who visited the park since July 27, 2018 — and who believe they “suffered disparate treatment” from SeaWorld employees who ignored Black children “while interacting with similarly situated white children” — are eligible to file a claim. 

Attorney B’Ivory Lamarr stands in New York with community activists and members of the family of two young girls he says were ignored by a Sesame Place actor dressed as Rosita at Sesame Place in Philadelphia due to their race. (Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

“Racism is horrible when it’s perpetrated against adults, but it’s in a separate category altogether of horror when it’s perpetrated against kids, who can’t fight back and who have to struggle to understand how ugly it is and how it must be eliminated from every aspect of American life,” William Murphy, one of the lawyers for the Burns family, said at a press conference this week in Philadelphia.

Murphy claims his clients were ignored during a meet-and-greet last month while Sesame Place performers “readily” engaged with white children. 

As previously reported, a video in which two young Black girls appear to be rebuffed by a character at Sesame Place went viral earlier this month. It was captured by digital strategist Leslie Mac, whose daughter, Paige, was celebrating her 4th birthday. In the clip, the toddler and another little girl are standing, their extended arms raised toward a park worker dressed as Rosita, the bilingual “Sesame Street” character. The performer appears to wave off Paige and her friend, shaking her head and turning away from them, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

The lawyers for the Burns family filed the lawsuit after the video of Mac’s daughter and her friend went viral. The girls’ mother and aunt have demanded the firing of the costumed Rosita performer — though Mac had stated that she wanted to avoid a lawsuit. Family attorney B’Ivory Lamarr said Sesame Place Philadelphia should be made to pay for any mental health treatment for the girls, who are now facing “severe emotional distress.”

After the incident went public, Sesame Park Philadelphia issued several statements of apology, and one was garnered from Sesame Workshop, which licenses its characters and images to the amusement park. Sesame Place has committed to cultural sensitivity training — which is also being requested in the class action lawsuit. 

Burns’ lawsuit says he bought two tickets to Sesame Place on or around June 18, where he and his child-guest attempted to enjoy its meet-and-greet with “Sesame Street” characters. His suit alleges the performers dressed as Abby Cadabby, Elmo, Ernie and Telly Monster ignored them and other Black youngsters while engaging with white children.

A video the family released shows the Burns child standing in line during a Sesame Place performers’ parade. The person costumed as Telly Monster walks over and crouches down, clearly greeting others in front of the girl, who is reaching her hand out for attention. The Telly Monster character walks off, appearing to wave at other youngsters. The child turns toward the camera, then frowns.

The clip also shows the “Sesame Street” Ernie character near the child high-fiving other children, and as she extends her hand toward him, he walks off, waving to others also in line before rejoining the procession.

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