Sesame Street welcomes its first Asian-American Muppet

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The children’s television series Sesame Street getting ready to welcome a new friend.

Ji-Young joins the neighborhood filled with puppets, known as the Muppets. She will be the first Asian American Muppet on Sesame Street. The program aired for 52 seasons.

Journalists from The Associated Press recently got to know Ji-Young and his story.

Ji-Young is seven years old. She is Korean American. She has two favorite activities: playing her musical instrument, electric guitar and going skateboarding.

She explained the meaning of her Korean name this way. “Ji means, kind, intelligent or wise. And Young means, like, brave or courageous and strong, ”Ji-Young said. “But we were looking for that and to guess what? Ji also means sesame. Sesame is a kind of little seed. It is also, of course, in the name of the program.

Ji-Young will be officially featured in “See Us Coming Together: A Sesame Street Special. ”The TV special will air on HBO Max on November 25. It is the same day as the American Thanksgiving holiday.

It will also be available on Sesame Street social media services and local public television stations in the United States Simu Liu, Padma Lakshmi and Naomi Osaka are among the famous people appearing on the special.

Part of Ji-Young’s personality comes from his puppeteer – the human behind his performance.

Its puppeteer is Kathleen Kim, who is also of Korean descent. She is 41 years old. She got into puppetry in her thirties. In 2014, she was accepted into a Sesame Street workshop. The following year, she was part of the team.

Being a puppeteer on the show was a dream come true for her. And helping to shape a new Muppet is amazing.

“I feel like I have a lot of weight that I maybe put on myself to teach these lessons and to be that representative that I didn’t have as a kid,” Kim said.

Ji-Young’s appearance is the result of much discussion following the events of 2020. Among them is an increase in reports of anti-Asian hate crimes.

Those who work for Sesame Street reflected on how the show might “respond to momentKay Wilson Stallings said. She is executive vice president of creation and production for Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit organization behind Sesame Street.

Sesame Workshop established two working groups – one to review its content and another to review its own the diversity. What has developed is Coming Together, a major project focused on how to talk to children about race, ethnicity and culture.

One result was Tamir, eight years old. Although he was not the first Black Muppet in the series, he was one of the first to talk about topics like racism.

These new Muppets – their personalities and their looks – were created in just a few months. The process normally takes at least several years.

Kim said it was important to her that Ji-Young wasn’t just “pan-Asian”. In other words, she wanted Ji-Young to be identified as Korean-American, not an Asian puppet who could come from anywhere.

“Because it’s something all Asian Americans have gone through,” Kim said. “So it was very important that she be More precisely Korean American, not just like, generically Korean, but she was born here.

One thing Ji-Young will help teach children is how to be a good “starter”. Sesame Street first used the term on her TV show “The Power of We” last year. This show also included the Muppet Tamir.

Stallings said: “Being honest means you are reporting things that are wrong or something someone is doing or saying based on their negative attitude towards the person because of their race or culture.

In “See us coming together”, Sesame Street getting ready for Neighbors Day, when everyone shares their culture’s food, music or dance. Ji-Young is injured after a child tells her to “come home.” But Ji-Young feels better after other Asian Americans, with stars appearing on the show and friends like Elmo telling her that she belongs as much as anyone else.

Ji-Young will appear throughout the show’s 53rd season next year, Stallings said. It will not be used only for matters related to race.

Vanessa Leung is the Co-Executive Director of the Coalition for Asian American Children and Families. The organization was not involved in the creation of Ji-Young. But in the past, he helped develop anti-racist material for Sesame Workshop.

Leung said she was thrilled with Ji-Young’s inclusion in Sesame Street. Leung added that the program helps develop an “early understanding of the diversity of our community, the beauty of the diversity of our community.”

I am Ashley Thompson. And I am Anna Mateo.

The Associated Press reported this story. Ashley Thompson adapted it for VOA Learning English. Mario Ritter, Jr. was the editor.

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Words in this story

puppet -not. a doll that you move by putting your hand inside or pulling on strings or threads attached to it

Skateboard -not. a short board that is on wheels and on which a person stands to move on a surface or to perform tricks; –v. ride or perform on a skateboard

guess what -expression an informal way of saying you have surprising news

moment -not. a short period of time

the diversity -not. the state of having people who are of different races or have different cultures in a group or organization

More precisely –Adv. in a definite and exact way

generically –Adv. in a general way

negative attitude -not. centered on what is bad about people or things


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