'Sesame Street' and CNN to host town hall on racism, protests following death of George Floyd

CNN and Sesame Street will host a June 6 town hall to discuss racism with kids and families. (Photo: Courtesy of CNN)

Sesame Street and CNN are hosting a frank conversation with families about racism in a 60-minute show called Coming Together: Standing Up to Racism. The kid-friendly episode airs on Saturday, June 6 at 10 a.m. ET and unpacks the national protests that erupted since George Floyd was killed in police custody in Minneapolis, Minn. on May 25.

Big Bird and his neighbors Elmo, Abby Cadabby (a fairy) and Rosita (a monster who speaks Spanish and English) will team up with CNN anchor Van Jones and national correspondent Erica Hill, according to an announcement from the network, to answer audience questions submitted before the show.

CNN is asking for submissions from children and their families to have their questions addressed, opening up a forum on its website asking parents: “Do your children have questions about the ongoing nationwide protests and racism? Parents, do you have questions about talking to your kids about these issues and embracing diversity?”

With graphic images of police-protester interactions all over news broadcasts and social media, discussing racism in an age-appropriate way can help children grow. This week, Dr. Jacqueline Douge, a pediatrician, told Today that children as young as six months are aware of race, although they lack the language to describe it. Around age 2 or 3, she says, kids slowly understand how they might be treated differently based on their race. To educate preschoolers, Douge suggests introducing books with diverse characters, and as children grow, embracing their blunt questions ("Why does that person have a certain type of hair?") as opportunities to inform. "You're not overtly talking about racism but you're acknowledging what they’re thinking about race and differences," she said.

According to the non-profit news organization Chalkbeat, teachers are including George Floyd’s death in virtual classrooms and education groups have made donations to social justice organizations. California Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond also called on national public schools to address systematic racism adding, “It has been difficult for me to make sense of how a man can beg and plead for his life and still have his life snuffed out.”

The Sesame Street-CNN project will be its second collaboration— in April, The ABCs of COVID-19 town hall helped to teach children about the coronavirus pandemic.

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