'Speak up!' — 'Sesame Street' tackles racism in TV special

This image released by HBO shows some of the cast of "Sesame Street." In the wake of the national reckoning on race, "Sesame Street" is going further  teaching children to stand up against racism. Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit, educational organization behind the children's program, will air the half-hour anti-racist special "The Power of We Special," composed of skits and songs in a Zoom-like format that will stream on HBO Max and the PBS 24/7 streaming channel Oct. 15, and air on PBS Kids the same day. (Sesame Workshop/HBO via AP)
This image released by HBO shows some of the cast of "Sesame Street." In the wake of the national reckoning on race, "Sesame Street" is going further teaching children to stand up against racism. Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit, educational organization behind the children's program, will air the half-hour anti-racist special "The Power of We Special," composed of skits and songs in a Zoom-like format that will stream on HBO Max and the PBS 24/7 streaming channel Oct. 15, and air on PBS Kids the same day. (Sesame Workshop/HBO via AP)

NEW YORK – “Sesame Street" has always pressed for inclusion. Now in the wake of the national reckoning on race, it's going further — teaching children to stand up against racism.

Sesame Workshop — the nonprofit, educational organization behind “Sesame Street” — will later this month air the half-hour anti-racist special "The Power of We” and hopes families will watch together.

The special defines racism for younger viewers and shows how it can be hurtful. It urges children who encounter racism or hear someone else be the victim of it to call it out. “When you see something that's wrong, speak up and say, ‘That’s wrong' and tell an adult,” 6-year-old Gabrielle the Muppet advises.

The special, composed of little skits and songs in a Zoom-like format, will stream on HBO Max and PBS Kids and air on PBS stations beginning Oct. 15.

In one animated skit, a Black Muppet is told by a white Muppet that he can't dress up like a superhero because they're only white. Though hurt, the Black Muppet nevertheless refuses to stop playing superheroes, saying they can come in all colors. The white Muppet soon apologizes. “Racism hurts and it's wrong,” is the message.

In the song “How Do You Know?” racism is dealt with head-on. “Hey, Elmo, how would you feel if I said, 'I don't like you ‘cause I don’t like the color red?'” sings Tamir, a Black, 8-year-old Muppet. Elmo responds: ”Elmo wouldn't care what you said 'cause Elmo is proud, proud to be red!" It concludes with the lines: “Speak up. Say something. Don’t give in.”

“We believe that this moment calls for a direct discussion about racism to help children grasp the issues and teach them that they are never too young to be ‘upstanders’ for themselves, one another, and their communities,” said Kay Wilson Stallings, executive vice president of creative and production at Sesame Workshop, in a statement.

Current and former Sesame Street human cast members Alan, Charlie, Chris and Gordon take part in the special, alongside celebrity guests Yara Shahidi, the star of "grown-ish;" “Hamilton” star Christopher Jackson; and Grammy-nominated singer Andra Day.