Sesame Street continues to diversify its characters with the introduction of the first-ever Asian American muppet. Meet, Ji-Young, a Korean American muppet whose presence in the beloved children's show aims to strengthen efforts to counter anti-Asian sentiments.
In the 52-year run of Sesame Street, it has never stopped innovating itself to champion inclusivity. The introduction of Ji-Young is the educational program's latest attempt to do just that.
With the recent issues on racial injustice happening in the west, the show felt the need to "meet the moment," said Kay Wilson Stallings, executive vice-president of Creative and Production for Sesame Workshop, in an AP exclusive.
The nonprofit organization developed what they dubbed as "Coming Together," which, according to AP, "is a multi-year initiative addressing how to talk to children about race, ethnicity, and culture."
Stallings said that in her debut episode, Ji-Young will exemplify what it means to be a good "upstander." What is an "upstander," you ask?
"Being an upstander means you point out things that are wrong or something that someone does or says that is based on their negative attitude towards the person because of the color of their skin or the language they speak or where they're from," Stallings explained.
Ji-Young's puppeteer, Kathleen Kim, who is also a Korean American, said she finds the new character's role important in combatting anti-Asian sentiments. Kim also says Ji-Young's presence in an institution like Sesame Streetwill definitely help in giving people like her representation.
"My one hope, obviously, is to actually help teach what racism is, help teach kids to be able to recognize it and then speak out against it. But then my other hope for Ji-Young is that she just normalizes seeing different kinds of looking kids on TV," Kim told AP.
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Aside from her role in shedding light on racism, viewers can look forward to what Ji-Young can add to make the popular street more upbeat and fun. She has two passions: "rocking out on her electric guitar and skateboarding."
Ji-Young will first appear in a special Sesame Street episode that will air on Thanksgiving Day. The episode will also feature some personalities of Asian descent like Simu Liu, Padma Lakshmi, and Naomi Osaka.
In previous years, Sesame Street has brought to life Muppets to raise awareness on various topics, which kids need to learn about, like homelessness and autism. On racism, the show also introduced two new Black Muppets just this year.
Last year, LEGO launched its first-ever Sesame Street set and it was designed by a Filipino. Click here to read the full story.