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Black family sues Sesame Street theme park, alleging discrimination

The suit, which seeks class-action status, was filed in a federal court in Philadelphia against SeaWorld Parks, the owner of the Sesame Place.

PHILADELPHIA — A Baltimore family is suing a Sesame Street-themed amusement park for $25 million over claims of racial discrimination, alleging multiple costumed characters ignored a 5-year-old Black girl during a meet-and-greet event last month.

The lawsuit comes in the wake of a video, shared widely on social media, showing two other Black girls apparently being snubbed by a costumed employee during a parade at the park in Langhorne, outside Philadelphia. Sesame Place apologized in a statement and promised more training for its employees after the video went viral earlier this month.

The suit, which seeks class-action status, was filed in a federal court in Philadelphia against SeaWorld Parks, the owner of the Sesame Place, for “pervasive and appalling race discrimination.”

The lawsuit alleges four employees dressed as Sesame Street characters ignored Quinton Burns, his daughter Kennedi Burns and other Black guests during the meet-and-greet on June 18. The lawsuit says “SeaWorld's performers readily engaged with numerous similarly situated white customers.”

During a press conference held Wednesday, one of the family's attorneys, Malcolm Ruff, called for transparency from SeaWorld and for the company to compensate the Burns family. The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

Credit: AP
In this image from video provided by Jodi Brown, posted to Instagram on Saturday, July 16, 2022, a performer dressed as the character Rosita waves off Brown's daughter and another 6-year-old Black girl at the Sesame Place amusement park in Langhorne, Pa. (Jodi Brown via AP)

The park is one of two in the U.S. based entirely on the educational children's program. Park attractions include rides, shows and water slides suited for young children. It is also the first theme park in the world to become a certified autism center. 

Sesame Place opened in 1980. 

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