Things That Matter

If You Grew Up With A Family Member In Prison, This Retro ‘Sesame Street’ Episode Will Pull On Your Heartstrings

Sesame Street In Communities / Youtube

In a video that may tug on a few heartstrings for some of us who grew up with both “Sesame Street” in our lives and an incarcerated family member (or two), the video from 2013 introducing viewers to Alex, a muppet that revealed his dad was in prison, was trending this week. His story was part of Sesame Street’s tool kit, a series of online educational videos designed to help address issues that don’t normally get talked about in children’s programming.

Like so many of us who experienced this, Alex tries to get out of talking about his dad.

Credit: Sesame Street / PBS

A common issue among children with family members who are incarcerated is feeling shame whenever anyone even remotely mentions them. Doesn’t matter who the family member is. If it’s an uncle, cousin, sibling, the moment someone brings them up, it’s like “My uncle? Sure, yeah. Hey, some weather we’re having, huh?”

Sofia, the non-muppet, played by actress Jasmine Romero, recounts her own family incarceration story.

Credit: Sesame Street / PBS

Sofia goes through the motions of what it looks like for kids growing up in this situation. Writing letters, lots of tears with family and drawings being sent back and forth. For those who experienced this: isn’t it amazing how the drawings coming back from those incarcerated look like actual works of art?

This part of the video series is on the “Sesame Street” site in Spanish.

Credit: Sesame Street / PBS

This is great for bilingual households dealing with this as well, especially since these issues are seldom spoken about openly in Latino households. You know, how like maybe your tío wasn’t in prison, he was just “upstate.”

Heartbreakingly, Alex asks “what If I do grow up to be like him?”

Credit: Sesame Street / PBS

Alex ponders if it’s all his fault as Sofia talks to him about her experiences with her dad being in prison. His question is triggered by Sofia’s reveal that she thought her dad’s fate was somehow her fault, too. This one hits home for anyone who grew up around this, as kids are always affected by these issues the most.

Of the character and “Incarceration” theme, Jeanette Betancourt, VP of Outreach and Educational Practices at Sesame Workshop said in a 2013 interview with USA Today:

“We are looking not at the cause of the incarceration of the parent, but at the impact of the incarceration on the lives of children and their caregivers… We’re tackling this very difficult topic, but also acknowledging this very invisible community… We’ve heard quite a bit from adults who experienced this as children and who never talked about it out of guilt or shame.”

Aside from Alex, Sesame Street has been in the news a lot lately, most notably because PBS’ funding is being jeopardized by government budget cuts.

“Aaaaaaaah!”

Fortunately, Sesame Street is on HBO and its future is probably safe for now.

Since moving and finding financial security on HBO it’s probably easier to introduce characters, themes and plot lines that shake things up a bit, too.

In addition to the virality of Alex’s story, the show recently introduced Julia, a muppet who has autism.

credit: Sesame Street / Washington Post

Based on a character previously introduced in a Sesame Street book, Julia will introduce a topic never explored on the show before.

Also, a “best of” video released this week featuring digs at “Donald Grump.” Sesame Street has dished out some pretty sweet jabs at Trump over the years.

credit:  Sesame Street / Washington Post

Pretty astute commentary for a kid’s show.

All in all, it was a pretty big week for the muppets of Sesame Street. Can’t wait to see what HBO has in store for Rosita and the gang.

Careful guys!

READ: Sesame Street’s New Resident Speaks About Being Latina, Bilingual, And Proud

What do you think about Sesame Street addressing these issues? Share with someone who grew up on the show with the links below!

How The Daughter Of ‘The Muppets’ Creator Produced ‘Yo Soy Taíno’ A Film About Boricua Strength

Entertainment

How The Daughter Of ‘The Muppets’ Creator Produced ‘Yo Soy Taíno’ A Film About Boricua Strength

yo-soy-taino-puerto-rican-film

The devastation that Hurricane Maria left in her wake in Puerto Rico continues to affect the lives of the residents, many still recovering from the lack of access to basic necessities. The death toll was estimated to be more than 4,000 and the island remains vulnerable since the 2017 ravaging but the lack of assistance from the U.S. led director and animator Alba García to work on a project to elevate Puerto Ricans and Taíno culture.

She’d been approached about the project by Heather Henson, owner of IBEX Puppetry which showcases the art of puppetry, and daughter of famed puppeteer and creator of The Muppets, Jim Henson. 

After Hurricane Maria and seeing the devastation while visiting her family, she knew she needed to take the project on and Yo Soy Taino (I Am Taíno or Dak’toká Taíno) was born.

“I was devastated for my Puerto Rico, the land where I grew up,  and the land I love Suddenly, it dawned on me that Puerto Rico wasn’t getting enough attention, that food and other necessities weren’t arriving to remote areas. I knew then that something was very wrong. I saw that most of the help we weren’t getting was due greatly because of our colonial status and old laws that keep Puerto Rico subdued,” García wrote on the Indiegogo page for the project. 

Though her previous experience is primarily in stop-motion animation, Garcia’s collaboration with Henson meant she’d be able to represent her culture in a new format through puppets.  

The 13-minute informative short film premiered on HBO Latino July 1 and features dialogue in both Spanish and Taíno. It centers around an exchange between Abuela Yaya, a Puerto Rican grandma voiced by Amneris Morales, and her 10-year-old granddaughter Marabelí, voiced by Vianez Morales after Hurricane Maria. 

Their discussion turns into a teaching moment where Abuela Yaya introduces Marabelí to the Taíno language and explains the multiracial heritage of Puerto Ricans which is a mix of Taíno, Spanish, and African. 

“Our desire is to inspire a revival of the Taíno culture and restoration of our Taíno Borikenaíki ancestral language as our ultimate goal,” García wrote. 

To prepare for the film and to ensure authenticity she worked with  Anthropologist Dr. Yarey Melendez, founder of the Naguake schools in Puerto Rico, who currently teaches a restored version of the Taíno language.

Also, Luis Ramos a Taíno Community leader, a Bohike (Taíno Healer) and Activist of Naguake community.

To ease the young girl’s fears after Hurricane Maria, the abuela recounts how their Taíno ancestors survived colonization and the problematic relationship with the U.S., with sentiments strongly in favor of independence. 

Though Puerto Rico is recognized as a U.S. territory, it was an independent nation in 1897 when Spain approved the Constitución Autonómica. But by mid-1898 the U.S. invaded Puerto Rico after declaring war on Spain and it marked the transference of dominion. 

The U.S. failed to properly assist the island after the hurricane, leaving many areas without power for months despite Puerto Rico’s governor’s request for federal assistance.

“Our story needs to be told especially now because our people are dying and some remote areas still don’t have water or power,” she writes. 

“We Boricuas won’t go away. We will rise,” Yaya says in the film. 

Check out the video below!

After 50 Years Of Nourishing Our Minds, Sesame Street Is Officially A Place You Can Visit In New York City

Culture

After 50 Years Of Nourishing Our Minds, Sesame Street Is Officially A Place You Can Visit In New York City

Anyone who knows one of the most well known lines of the beloved theme song for “Sesame Street” (Can you tell me how to get, how to get to Sesame Street?) will be pumped about this new news.

In honor of the show’s 50th anniversary, the city given Sesame Street an official home. You can get there by stopping at the intersection of West 63rd Street and Broadway.

NYC mayor, Bill de Blasio, changed the name of the intersection in Manhattan at a ceremony on Wednesday.

Sesame icons Big Bird, Elmo, Bert, Ernie and all the others made an appearance at the ceremony where May 1st was also titled “Sesame Street Day.”

In a speech celebrating the event, de Blasio thanks the show for providing “fifty years of extraordinary programming, 50 years of making people’s lives better, 50 years of helping children believe in themselves.”

The PBS children’s TV show’s headquarters has been based out of New York City since 1969. It has also been between West 63rd and West 64th Streets. This time, on a “sunny day” you can take a visit and see the place that has helped nourish and captivate the minds of children for so many years.

As so many Latinos might remember, Sonia Manzano’s Maria played a massive part in make the show a staple for kids of colors. Sesame Street taught us about healthy eating, coping with loss and most importantly how to be a great friend. We wish you only sunny days in your retirement, friend. Thank you for the life lessons.

Maria taught us girls are badass.

Maria Sesame Street
Credit: PBS

It’s never too late.  Maria’s ultimate dream was to go back to school and become an astronaut.

And that motherhood is not shameful.

Maria Sesame Street
Credit: PBS

Call her the #FreeTheNipple pioneer.  After marrying Luis, Maria embraced motherhood and made it socially acceptable to talk about breastfeeding.

Though they’re addictive, we need to chill on eating cookies.

Maria Sesame Street Health Revised
Credit: PBS

Ya, we all love ’em, but Maria helped us, and Cookie Monster, realize sometimes we can skip a cookie or five.

Maria was real, even if it was tough.

DealwithLoss-w-text
Credit: PBS

When Mr. Hooper passed away in 1983, Maria was bravely honest with Big Bird and all of us.

She taught us how to be the best BFF ever.

Maria Sesame Street
Credit: PBS

Whether it was fixing someone’s toaster or door knob or kissing a booboo better, Maria was someone people could always count.

And that speaking Spanish was cool.

Credit: jonnytbirdzback/Youtube

Gracias por todas enseñanzas, Maria and “Sesame Street”!

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