Welcome, Elijah and Wes, to the neighborhood!
Sesame Street just got a little bigger as the show introduced two Black muppets to the iconic neighborhood. The new characters, a dad named Elijah and his son, Wes, debuted in a short video created by Sesame Workshop in order to help children understand racial literacy.
In the video, Elijah and Wes take a break from their nature walk to chat with Elmo, who talks about how his fur is red and Wes's skin is brown. The father and son duo then teach Elmo about melanin.
"Melanin is something we each have inside our bodies that make the outside of our bodies the skin color that it is," Elijah responds. "It also gives us our eye and our hair color."
Elmo, Wes, and Elijah also compare race to the color of leaves during the fall. Elmo tells the family that he sees leaves that are all different colors and Elijah and Wes explain that the different colored leaves look good together and they all come from the same tree to sway together in the breeze.
"When people of all colors come together, we stand strong like this tree," Elijah says.
Sesame Street also released a music video called "Giant" which encourages children to feel strong in their own skin. The song starts with the lyrics, "My eyes are brown and your eyes are blue, but there is no difference, I am still the same as you. I am proud and you should be too." The characters continue throughout the song to sing lines such as "I am beautiful, you know," "I can be anything," and "I am strong in my skin."
“At Sesame Workshop, we look at every issue through the lens of a child. Children are not colorblind – not only do they first notice differences in race in infancy, but they also start forming their own sense of identity at a very young age,” Sesame Workshop's senior vice president Dr. Jeanette Betancourt said in a press release. “By encouraging these much-needed conversations through Coming Together, we can help children build a positive sense of identity and value the identities of others.”
The press release states that Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit arm behind Sesame Street is creating resources for parents and families to talk to their children about race and racism as part of Coming Together, the organization's commitment to racial justice. The program will include a racial justice educational framework, continuing research, and new content will be released at SesameWorkshop.org/ComingTogether.The resources for the project are developed through extensive research conducted by experts in the field. According to a recent study commissioned by Sesame Workshop to learn more about the voices of children between the ages of 6 and 11, nearly half of the children surveyed identified race as an issue that was at the forefront of their minds. A majority of parents were comfortable with children learning about race and racism, but only 23 percent reported that resources helped them prepare for these discussions. Therefore, Seasame Street's program aims to fill that gap for parents and help children spark conversations.
“Sesame Workshop has always stood for diversity, inclusion, equity, and kindness. As a trusted source for families, we have a responsibility to speak out for racial justice and empower families to have conversations about race and identity with their children at a young age,” said Kay Wilson Stallings, Executive Vice President of Creative and Production at Sesame Workshop. “The work to dismantle racism begins by helping children understand what racism is and how it hurts and impacts people. Sadly, today’s announcement comes at a time of racial and social discord when many families are in need of support in talking to their children about racism. We’re proud to reaffirm our Coming Together commitment to racial justice, which will be woven into new Sesame Workshop content for years to come.”
Another video will be posted to the site soon which will feature Rosita's mom and her friend Sofia who discuss a racist incident that happened at the grocery store. It will also celebrate the Spanish language and culture. Additional resources will feature real families talking about their experiences, some activities families can do together, and talking points for families to start the conversation.
Let us know in the comments what resources you'd like to see as a parent.