New video footage released on Thursday shows the moment a 5-year-old black girl was allegedly snubbed at Sesame Place by multiple park employees dressed as characters during a meet-and-greet event last month.
Quinton Burns, the girl’s father, has filed a $25 million class-action lawsuit against SeaWorld Parks, the owner of Sesame Place, for “pervasive and appalling race discrimination,” after he claims his daughter, Kennedi, was ignored.
The video, shared by the law firm representing the Baltimore family, shows an employee dressed as the Telly Monster walk to the side of the street as other characters dance in the street.
The Telly character appears to offer his hand for a shake to one young spectator, but blow by Kennedi, who had also reached out her hand.
The girl then turns around to the camera and frowns, clearly confused and upset at what just happened.
The video cuts to another employee dressed as Ernie also shaking hands with other children, but not the young black girl as she desperately holds out her hand. She turns and says something to the camera, disappointed again.
“Just looking at her face, it makes me want to cry every time I see it,” Burns said during a press conference with his attorneys on Wednesday, CBS Baltimore reported.
The lawsuit alleges Kennedi was ignored by four characters in all at the June 18 event at the Pennsylvania park due to her race: “SeaWorld’s performers readily engaged with numerous similarly situated white customers.”
“We stand here before you today simply trying to fight and protect little Black children and their fundamental civil rights,” attorney Malcolm Ruff told reporters.
“She was ignored amongst a sea of other young white children who were able to interact, give hugs, high fives,” Ruff said.
Ruff said Burns contacted his law firm after viewing a viral clip showing two other black girls from New York allegedly passed over in favor of white children in the crowd during a parade.
“Kennedi was forced to experience racism at the age of 5. This is unacceptable and we will not stand by and let this continue,” Ruff said.
Lawyers representing the New York family told CBS they are not part of this lawsuit.
Sesame Place said in a statement that it is reviewing its practices to identify any necessary changes. It has also announced that all staff will undergo bias training as a result of the incidents.
“We will review the lawsuit filed on behalf of Mr. Burns,” the park said in a statement to CBS Baltimore. “We look forward to addressing that claim through the established legal process. We are committed to deliver an inclusive, equitable and entertaining experience for all our guests.”