'Sesame Street' Introduces Two Black Muppets as Part of Racial Literacy Initiative

Sesame Street Workshop launched the ABCs of Racial Literacy program on Tuesday

Sesame Street is updating its cast with two new Black Muppets, 5-year-old Wes and his father Elijah.

In a new clip from Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit media and educational organization behind the popular children's program, Wes and Elijah explain the concepts of melanin and race to Elmo.

"Elmo wants to know why Wes' skin is brown," the character asks as the trio look at different colored leaves in the park

"I know why, Elmo! My mom and dad told me, it's because of melanin, right Dad?" Wes responds.

"That's right," Elijah confirms, later adding, "Melanin is something that we each have inside our bodies that makes the outside of our bodies the skin color that it is. It also gives us our eye and our hair color."

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Explaining Race on Sesame Street with Elmo
Sesame Street/YouTube

"The color of our skin is an important part of who we are but we should all know that it's okay that we all look different in so very many ways," he says.

Rocio Galarza, the assistant Vice President for U.S. Social Impact at Sesame Workshop, told Good Morning America Wednesday that the clip, and others like it, are a way to explain difficult concepts about race to young children.

"Young kids, since infancy, start understanding differences and giving value to those differences," she told the outlet. "The idea here is, how do we address it in an age-appropriate way?"

Wes and Elijah are just one of many aspects of the organization's ABCs of Racial Literacy program, which launched on Tuesday with a variety of resources "designed to help all families celebrate their own unique identities" and offer "strategies to answer sometimes-tough questions around race and racism," according to a press release.

In another upcoming video, the Muppets tackle how to handle incidents of racism. The clip will show Rosita's mom and her friend Sofia helping her cope with a racist incident in the grocery store, while also celebrating speaking Spanish.

"At Sesame Workshop, we look at every issue through the lens of a child. 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," Dr. Jeanette Betancourt, the Senior Vice President at Sesame Workshop said in the release.

"'The ABCs of Racial Literacy' is designed to foster open, age-appropriate conversations among families and support them in building racial literacy," she continued. "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."

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