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Elmo, Big Bird vow to stand up to end racism in CNN special

Elmo vowed to stand up against racism in new CNN Town Hall special.
Elmo vowed to stand up against racism in new CNN Town Hall special.Victoria Will/Associated Press

The cast of “Sesame Street” and CNN’s Van Jones and Erica Hill joined together to host a town hall titled “Coming Together: Standing Up to Racism.”

The 60-minute special aired Saturday and focused on explaining the Black Lives Matter protests and injustices faced by people of color for little ones and their parents. The “Sesame Street” team previously appeared on the network for a family-friendly town hall about the coronavirus in April.

The broadcast opened with a video call between Elmo and his father, Louie, where the elder explained, “Not all streets are like Sesame Street.”

“On Sesame Street, we all love and respect one another,” Louie continued before waving his own “Peace Love Justice” picket sign. “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.”

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Big Bird, Rosita, and “Fairy in Training” Abby Cadabby also appeared alongside real-life notables including Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, psychologist Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum, and Drake University professor of religion Jennifer Harvey. The guests fielded questions from viewers and broke down racism, privilege, and how to recognize, address, and stand up against injustice at every age.

In response to a viewer question, Dr. Nia J. Heard-Garris, chair of minority health, equity, and inclusion at the American Academy of Pediatrics, said parents can start talking to their children about racism and its roots in slavery and prejudice at age 2.

She advised, “Start with history and start with context. ... Then you can start to build on that conversation to paint where we are now and how this has been going on for years and years and years, centuries. And that’s why we’re seeing what we’re seeing now.”

The guests also encouraged parents to practice inclusive and just behavior, because children often model the behavior they see.

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“Our children learn anti-racism and racial justice from us,” said Harvey. “If they watch us look away when we encounter racism, that’s what they learn the right thing to do is.”

The town hall closed with Elmo — en route to join Louie at a community center protest — and his co-hosts and guests vowing to “do better” in the face of racism.

Watch the full playback on CNN at cnn.com/sesamestreet