By: Jimena Ruiz Martinez
Ji-Young a 7-year-old Korean American girl is the new character joining Sesame Street, she is making history as being the first Asian American of the show since it started 56 years ago. She is described as a girl who is extremely close to her family and proud of her Korean heritage, she also loves playing the electric guitar, playing soccer and skateboarding. The new character will be introduce to the public in the upcoming Sesame Street Special episode “See us coming together” which will debut on Thursday, November 25.
The Sesame Street special; “See us coming together”, part of the organization’s ongoing racial justice initiative and celebrates the rich diversity of Asian and Pacific Islander (API) communities.
A long time Sesame Street cast member, Alan Muraoka, said in a press release “It’s a powerful thing when kids see people like themselves represented on screen and in stories – it supports them as they figure out who they are and who they want to be”, Muraoka is also co-directing the special episode. The episode will focus on anti-Asian racism.
Anti-Asian hate incidents increased during the COVID-19 pandemic, that’s when the Sesame Street producers started thinking what would be a great way to raise awareness about this topic and how to talk to children about race, ethnicity and culture.
“When we knew we were going to be doing this work that was going to focus on the Asian and Pacific Islanders experience, we of course knew we needed to create an Asian muppet as well,” said Kay Wilson Stallings, the executive vice-president of Creative and Production for Sesame Workshop. Sesame Street producers and crew think Ji-Young will help children to learn about racism and understand they can be upstanders.
“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.” said Kathleen Kim, Ji-Young’s puppeteer who is also Korean-American and gave part of her personality to the new character.
Special guests will join the “See us coming together” episode, such as actors Simu Liu and Anna Cathcart, TV host Padma Lakshmi, comic-book artist Jim Lee, Chef Melissa King and Tennis Player Naomi Osaka. The episode will be available on different platforms such as Cartoonitos, HBO Max, PBS Kids and the different Sesame Street social media accounts.