Culture

Black Family Files $25M Lawsuit Against Sesame Place

A Black father has filed a class-action lawsuit, alleging that his daughter was ignored by costumed characters at Sesame Place.

Sesame Place is under fire yet again. One week after two Black girls were visibly ignored by costumed character Rosita during a parade at the Philadelphia theme park, a Black Baltimorean father, Quinton Burns, has filed a lawsuit against the park’s parent company, SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment. Burns has alleged that Kennedi Burns (his five-year-old daughter) and other Black guests were ignored by costumed characters during a meet and greet on June 8 at the Philadelphia theme park. Burns also claimed that while Black guests were disregarded, “SeaWorld’s performers readily engaged with numerous similarly situated white customers.”

According to The Baltimore Sun, Burns filed the lawsuit in a Philadelphia federal court for “pervasive and appalling race discrimination.” Filed in in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, the lawsuit demands $25 million in damages, while attorney Malcolm Ruff has been hired to represent the Baltimore family. Ruff has asked for SeaWorld to offer transparency on how performers interact with children of all races.

“We stand before you here today simply trying to fight and protect little Black children and their fundamental civil rights,” Ruff said during a press conference on Wednesday (July 27). “Sesame Place said they will look into the lawsuit and “are committed to [delivering] an inclusive, equitable and entertaining experience for all our guests.”

Documents in the lawsuit note that “Elmo,” “Ernie,” “Telly Monster” and “Abby Cadabby” did not interact with the Burns family, “ignoring them and all other Black guests in attendance.” Per CNN, all employees at the theme park are named as defendants. Earlier this month, the park went viral after clips showing Black children being ignored and pushed by costumed characters were posted on social media. Sesame Place issued multiple statements, claiming it to be “committed to doing a better job making children and families feel special.”

Jaelani Turner-Williams

Jaelani Turner-Williams is a contributing news writer for Okayplayer with bylines at Billboard, MTV News, NYLON, Recording Academy and more. Read her mind on Twitter at @hernameisjae.

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