Ahead of its forthcoming “Neighbor Day” special airing on Thanksgiving, Sesame Street will be welcoming a brand new puppet pal to its famous fictional crew. Ji-Young will be the first-ever Asian-American puppet to be featured on the beloved series in its 52-year run, marking an important milestone that will no doubt help boost representation for the show’s young Asian viewers, who have yet to see a Korean American character on the series.
Ji-Young is a 7-year-old who lives with her parents, her siblings, and her grandma, or halmeoni in Korean. She plays the electric guitar and has a band with Elmo, Abby Cadabby, and Tamir. “Ji-Young also loves playing soccer and rolling along the street on her skateboard,” noted the Sesame Workshop in their announcement of the new character. “Ji-Young is extremely close with her family and is proud of her Korean heritage. She loves playing music with her grandma and cooking her favorite food – tteokboki,” which are spicy Korean rice cakes. “Her family eats dinner together at the kitchen table every night, chatting in both Korean and English,” they added.
The upcoming special, called See Us Coming Together, will celebrate the “rich diversity of Asian and Pacific Islander communities as part of Sesame Workshop’s ongoing racial justice initiative,” per the description. Ji-Young will be performed by Sesame Workshop puppeteer Kathleen Kim, and the special will include both new music and a slew of incredible guest stars, including actors Simu Liu and Anna Cathcart, comic book artist Jim Lee, chef Melissa King, television personality Padma Lakshmi, and Olympian Naomi Osaka.
It’s slated to tackle anti-Asian discrimination and racism head-on, with TODAY Parents reporting Ji-Young will talk about another child telling her to “go home,” a common sentiment faced by members of the Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities, and which has ramped up due to racist hate crimes as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Alan Muraoka, a Japanese American actor who joined the Sesame Street cast in 1998, told TODAY Parents why it’s so important for the series to address racial justice in the Asian American community directly.
“Throughout the years [Sesame Street has] absolutely dealt with Asian American issues, but especially with both the pandemic and aftermath of anti-Asian American violence, it felt really necessary,” he said, adding 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.”
Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit educational organization behind the long-running series, has committed to helping children, parents, and educators alike understand the far-reaching impacts of racial justice and equality. See Us Coming Together: A Sesame Street Special will debut on Thursday, November 25 on HBO Max, PBS Kids, and Sesame Street’s YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram channels.
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