A lot or a little?
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that the star-studded The Power of We: A Sesame Street Special is an excellent way to teach preschoolers how to be anti-racist. In age-appropriate ways with simple language, it helps young kids understand what racism is, what it looks like, and how to stand up against it. The Power of We has a positive tone and does not focus on upsetting historical or contemporary acts of racism, making it appropriate for young kids. Parents should know that there is one animated scene where a Black boy is told he can't pretend to be a superhero because superheroes are white, and this is upsetting to the Black child. It is shown in the context of the white child's actions being clearly wrong, and he apologizes. Overall, this uplifting special is a great place for families with young kids to start learning about anti-racism.
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What's the story?
In the wake of 2020's racial uprisings in the United States, THE POWER OF WE: A SESAME STREET SPECIAL is very timely. Elmo and Abby Cadabby talk about race with their friends Gabrielle and Tamir, two Black kid Muppets. Gabrielle and Tamir are in a "Power of We" group, a virtual discussion group for Black kids to talk about racism, lead by Christopher Jackson (Hamilton, Moana). They hang up from that video call and join Elmo and Abby for a virtual playdate, and share what they've learned. Gabrielle and Tamir explain what racism is, and they share a bit of what it's like to experience anti-Black racism. The friends decide to host a virtual community singalong to protest racism (virtual because the special takes place in socially-distanced Coronavirus times). They make sidewalk chalk art to show their solidarity, and posters to hold for the community singalong. Sesame Street muppets, real kids, and celebrity guest stars Jackson, singer Andra Day, and actress Yara Shahidi (Black-ish, Grown-ish) come together for the singalong. They sing an uplifting song, and end on a note of hope for the future.
Is it any good?
For grown-ups grappling with how to explain racism to the youngest kids, watch this special together and let the beloved Sesame Street characters start the conversation. While inclusivity has been at the core of Sesame's mission since its inception 50 years ago, The Power of We: A Sesame Street Special stands out for explicitly talking about race and anti-Black racism. The Muppets approach the topic in ways preschoolers can understand, like asking Elmo how he'd feel if people liked him less because he's red, or Abby how she would feel if she was treated better because she's pink. The special defines what it means to be an "upstander," someone that stands up for what's right, and explains how kids can be an upstander in real life. There are also several stellar songs sung by the Muppets and celebrity guest stars that may inspire grown-ups to reach for the tissues.
This special follows Sesame's live CNN town hall broadcast Standing Up to Racism, which touched on some of these issues. Because the CNN special touched on the historical roots of racism, police brutality, and current events, there was a lot of content geared more towards older kids and adults. The Power of We, however, repeats preschooler-perfect language over and over, ensuring that the message will stick with young kids. One example is the chant that characters repeat several time throughout the show: "You plus me makes the power of we. Build a better world for you and me. Let's stand up for what is right. Listen, act, unite." As the show itself acknowledges, there's a lot that needs to be changed when it comes to racism. But this special gives grown-ups hope that our youngest generation has the power to make change, especially if they learn these lessons right from the start.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about race. Do you understand what race is, and what racism is? Why is racism unfair?
What can your family do to show compassion for other people, especially people who experience racism? Could you make a sidewalk decoration or a sign like they did in the show, or do you have other ideas you'd like to try?
This special talks about acting with integrity, and being an upstander when you see something that's wrong. What should you do if you or someone else is being treated unfairly due to the color of their skin?
- Premiere date: October 15, 2020
- Cast: Andra Day, Christopher Jackson, Yara Shahidi
- Networks: PBS Kids, HBO Max
- Genre: Educational
- Topics: Activism, Great Boy Role Models, Great Girl Role Models
- Character strengths: Compassion, Integrity
- TV rating: TV-Y
- Available on: Streaming
- Award: Common Sense Selection
- Last updated: August 30, 2021
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