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Sesame Street Introduces New Characters For Powerful Program

For over 50 years, Sesame Street has entertained the whole family. While the exact geographical location of Sesame Street shall always remain a mystery — since the theme song only asks how to get to Sesame Street — the show lives squarely in the world of edutainment. Every year, the cast and crew behind Sesame Street find new ways to entertain and educate viewers on a spectrum of subjects. The program has tackled racism, autism, and even death, all without speaking down to its target demographic. No wonder the show has won a staggering number of Daytime Emmys (via Guinness World Records).

But, since Sesame Street is almost old enough to collect Social Security benefits, it has to evolve with the times. Some lessons, such as numbers and the alphabet, are timeless, while others are tailored to current real-world issues. Granted, part of the show's charm is that these lessons are taught by puppets almost every color of the rainbow. However, the latest message tackles a real-world problem by adding one more color to the show's palette of puppets: Black.

Teaching racial literacy through a family of African American puppets

Recently, Sesame Street's dedicated community education portal, Sesame Street in Communities, introduced a new program to its list of topics: racial literacy. The subject, which the website describes as "the skills needed to talk thoughtfully about race and to identify and respond to racism," is being taught by two new puppets, Wes and his father Elijah. While Wes and Elijah exhibit many distinctly Muppet-esque facial features, they are designed to look more human than their felt compatriots, especially when it comes to skin color.

Wes and Elijah premiered in the Sesame Street in Communities video "Explaining What is Race?," where they tell Elmo why they are Black and he is red. Their answer is the amount of melanin in their skin and hair, but Wes and Elijah also stress that the differences aren't a problem since, ultimately, everyone is human. To drive the point home, they liken humans to leaves falling from a tree: Everyone is a different color, but they come from the same source. That's the kind of easily digestible analogy audiences have come to expect from Sesame Street. Wes also appeared alongside other Sesame Street characters in another piece of Sesame Street in Communities media: the music video "I Am Somebody."

Since the racial literacy section is still in its infancy, audiences can probably expect more videos on the subject featuring Wes and Elijah.