‘Sesame Street’ Takes On A New Challenge: Teaching Military Kids About Racial Justice

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As part of a special project targeted at military kids, Sesame Workshop and its Muppets are tackling the subjects of race, diversity, and discrimination.

Speaker 1: 00:00 Oscar, the grouch big bird and the rest of the Sesame street Muppets have been teaching kids their ABCs since 1969, but they also tackle difficult issues in a kid-friendly way. Their newest project targets, military families, and how to talk about racism from New York Deseret Doloria reports for the American home front project.

Speaker 2: 00:24 Can I tell you what story? Yes, please. Well, you knew one day, Alison, the supermarket with my mommy that’s

Speaker 3: 00:30 Rosita the feisty teal colored Muppet with a shock of yellow hair. I met her at Sesame workshop in New York city, a modern office space with giant chalk drawings of cookie monster on the walls. Rosita tells me about the time she went to the supermarket with her mom and a customer told her to speak English, not Spanish. It made the five-year-old furry monster feel sad and scared. What I told my mommy

Speaker 2: 00:54 Was that I thought that speaking Spanish was the super palate. And then she said, well, yes, of course it’s the super power. And then I told her, well, you know, I don’t want that to happen to other people when they go to the supermarket.

Speaker 3: 01:08 So they got the manager to hang a sign that said all languages. Well,

Speaker 2: 01:12 And I put my head up high, like this changed my neck. And I felt so proud of myself. This lesson,

Speaker 3: 01:19 How to stand up for yourself. And for others is one theme in a new Sesame workshop initiative. It’s a collection of racial justice resources developed for military families, the videos, games, and activities, explain racism to children and help them develop a sense of self.

Speaker 4: 01:36 We do the videos for the kids, but we also do the videos for the parents to be able to communicate with the kids and

Speaker 3: 01:43 OST bar is Rosita’s puppeteer. She’s been working on Sesame Street’s military family series for 15 years. They don’t shy away from sensitive topics. Parents

Speaker 4: 01:52 Were being deployed over and over and over. So we did one for deployment dealing with changes, not just basically, but they invisible injuries and Rosita and her family go through that with the military families

Speaker 3: 02:07 While the show’s cast has always been diverse Sesame workshop’s Rosio Galarza says they’re only now starting to tackle the subject of race head-on you weren’t

Speaker 5: 02:17 Explicit about race or racism. And we are being explicit now. And that’s something new, not only for the general public, but also for military families

Speaker 6: 02:27 Sometimes.

Speaker 3: 02:32 So Galarza gathered up Wes and Elijah, two black Muppets who joined the cast earlier this year and Rosita and Elmo who come from military families together. They created a music video called great things about how to handle the emotions that can occur after experiencing bias.

Speaker 2: 02:50 So Lenny, I tell myself these words out loud, stand up tall and say, I’m super proud.

Speaker 3: 03:01 So Larissa says the project came about because military parents said they need help.

Speaker 5: 03:05 Military families have been living in a diverse community. They have been trying to address some of these issues before. This is not new for a lot of them. So what they wanted was support.

Speaker 3: 03:17 How do you explain something as complex, as discrimination to a four year

Speaker 5: 03:22 Old, but when it comes to young kids, it actually starts simply with the idea of who I am. And then once I understand myself, once I understand that I can be strong in my skin. Once I understand that there’s a lot of good in me inside and out, then we start understanding the differences in others. That’s

Speaker 3: 03:39 Why Rosita has such strong feelings about her identity.

Speaker 2: 03:43 My daddy’s a veteran proud that went from Mexico and we speak two languages. We are a very loving, caring and nice. Most of the family Galarza

Speaker 3: 03:54 Says the feedback from military families so far has been positive and she hopes the project will make tough conversations about race, a little easier

Speaker 1: 04:07 Deseret Diorio in New York. The story was produced by the American Homefront project, a public media collaboration that reports on American military life and veterans funding comes from the corporation for public broadcasting.

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