“Sesame Street” reiterated on its commitment to spotlighting diverse voices this week by unveiling a heartfelt segment featuring two new Black Muppets as well as other digital resources.
The roughly three-minute clip, titled “Explaining Race,” introduces viewers to 5-year-old Wesley Walker and his father, Elijah. As the pair are enjoying an afternoon nature walk, Elmo arrives to engage them in a short and age-appropriate conversation that touches on their Black identity.
Using autumn leaves as a metaphor, Elijah tells Wes and Elmo, “When people of all colors come together, we stand strong, like this tree.”
Released Tuesday, “Explaining Race” was included in “The ABCs of Racial Literacy,” a new digital content series produced by “Sesame Street” in conjunction with its ongoing “Coming Together” effort meant to emphasize racial justice.
At the moment, “Explaining Race” is a digital exclusive and will not air as part of “Sesame Street” television broadcasts. And though Wes and Elijah aren’t the franchise’s first characters of color, they were written with the hope of encouraging discussion about race and racism in a clear and direct way that “Sesame Street” had yet to explore in its nearly 52-year history. The character of Wes’ mom, Naomi, is reportedly in development and is expected to appear in a future segment.
“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,” said Jeanette Betancourt, a senior vice president at Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit behind the show, in a statement on Tuesday. “‘The ABCs of Racial Literacy’ is designed to foster open, age-appropriate conversations among families and support them in building racial literacy.”
“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,” she added.
Wes’ puppeteer, Bradley Freeman Jr., also praised “Explaining Race,” telling Time magazine that his character will continue to reveal himself as “very imaginative” in future installments.
“Sometimes he gets a little lost in his own emotions because he comes from a family that’s very big on communicating how they feel — he’s able to communicate, but he’s also 5 years old,” he said. “So sometimes things overwhelm him, and he can be angry or sad. So that’s where he really relies on his dad and his friends to make sure that he can come to the best solution possible.”
“Explaining Race” and “The ABCs of Racial Literacy” come almost a full year after “Sesame Street” responded to both the COVID-19 pandemic and racial inequality with a pair of virtual town halls for parents and children.
“The ABCs of COVID-19,” which aired in April, featured Big Bird in conversation with CNN’s Erica Hill and Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Two months later, “Coming Together: Standing Up to Racism” addressed viewer-submitted questions about the Black Lives Matter movement, among other topics.
Check out “Explaining Race” below.