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SYFY WIRE Sesame Street

'We all need to stand up': CNN and Sesame Street town hall educates kids about racism

By Josh Weiss
Sesame Street racism town hall

In their second town hall of 2020, CNN and Sesame Street set out to teach kids about racism in the wake of nationwide protests that are taking place after the death of George Floyd. Moderated by Van Jones and Erica Hill, Coming Together: Standing Up to Racism featured appearances from familiar puppet characters like Elmo, Big Bird, and Abby Cadabby, as well as real-world figures such as Atlanta mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and psychologist Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum.

The special, which aired Saturday, kicked off with a conversation between Elmo and his dad, Louie, about the persistent nature of bigotry in the United States and the people's right to gather and demand change.

"Not all streets are like Sesame Street. On Sesame Street, we all love and respect one another," Louie said. "But across the country, people of color, especially in the black community, are being treated unfairly because of how they look, their culture, race and who they are. What we are seeing is people saying, ‘Enough is enough.’ They want to end racism."

Later in the event, Abby shared an anecdote meant to teach young viewers the meaning and importance of having empathy toward others who are being mistreated for the way they look.

"This one time, my friend Big Bird, he was bullied by some other birds because of his yellow feathers and because of how big he is and, well, it wasn’t kind and it wasn’t fair,” she recounted. “I wouldn’t want to be treated like that, so I understand how Big Bird was upset."

Big Bird literally stood up and out of frame when it was his turn to appear at the town hall. "We all need to stand up," he said. "That's me standing up to racism. Now, how do we stop it?"

"When we say 'standing up,' we mean coming together to make changes happen," Jones said. "We gotta just do a better job to ensure that all this unfairness stops. Racism has been happening in our country for a very long time."

Mayor Bottoms, meanwhile, fielded questions from kids across the country. When 9-year-old Sean from Dunlap, Illinois, asked why black people are still treated poorly after contributing so much to the well-being of America and the world, she said:

"It's a question that we've been asking ourselves for generations. And Sean, I don't know if we will ever have the answer to that. But what I know is that just like Martin Luther King had a dream for his four children, that they would be judged for the content of their character and not by the color of their skin, we have to continue to dream and hope and work on [making] this country live up to that."

Check out some segments below:

You can watch the entire town hall on CNN's website right here. The news outlet and Sesame Street plan to hold a follow-up coronavirus town hall next Saturday (June 13).