For the first time in its 24-year history, Mall of America in Bloomington, Minn., had a black Santa on hand to help spread holiday cheer Thursday.
“This is a long time coming,” Landon Luther, co-owner of the Santa Experience, which has run the intimate photo studio at the mall for years, told the Star Tribune. “We want Santa to be for everyone, period.”
Customers at the Mall of America have two Santa options to choose from: They can wait in line with everyone else at the mall for the free Santa, or they can book an appointment with the Santa Experience. The Star Tribune reports that Luther conducted a national search last spring for a Santa to whom children of color would be able to relate. Santa Sid, who has worked at the Mall of America for 20 years, met Larry Jefferson of Irving, Texas, at a Santa convention in Branson, Mo. Of the 1,000 Santa impersonators in attendance, Jefferson was the only black one.
“It was like finding a needle in a haystack,” Luther said.
Jefferson, dressed as Santa Larry, will greet children, pass out candy and pose for photographs by appointment only from Thursday to Sunday.
NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Crowds in the know have been drawn to Macy’s to see the “special Santa,” an African-American Santa Claus tucked away in Santaland at the Macy’s flagship store in Herald Square. As CBS 2’s Tracee Carrasco reported, the special Santa only appears by request. But he was the sole reason Elizabeth Kittles and her family made the trip from the Bronx Monday night. “I could have gone anywhere,” Kittles said, “but I came right here to Macy’s because I knew they had an African-American Santa.”
When they reach the front of the line, parents must ask to see the special Santa. But Kittles said he is like a secret Santa to many. “There was plenty of African-American families that didn’t know, and when I did tell them, one guy said, ‘They have a black Santa?’ (I said), ‘Yeah they do,’” Kittles said. Kittles, who has been bringing her sons to see the special Santa at Macy’s for 10 years now, wishes the store would make sure more families know.
“An elf just told me as I was going through Santaland,” Kittles said. “It’s great that they have that option, but it would be great if they put it out there either on the visitors’ website or when they advertise when Santaland is open.” Other parents who spoke to CBS 2 did not know about the special Santa either, but agreed with Kittles. “I think it would mean a lot to some people; would make a difference for some people,” said Danielle Moriello of Linden, N.J. “It doesn’t matter what color he is.”
“It wouldn’t confuse the kids at all,” added Rafael Mendoza of Washington Heights. “It’s just the way you raise them up.” CBS 2 reached out to Macy’s for a comment about their special Santa. They responded, “Santa is all things to all who believe.”
Dressed in a red Santa suit, white beard and rimless glasses balanced on his nose, Langston Patterson sits on a velvet couch and waits for his adoring fans. Some call first to make sure he will be there. They come from Palmdale, Thousand Oaks and San Bernardino, driving past many shopping malls with Santas, but none that look like him. For nearly a decade, Patterson has been the main attraction at Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza during Christmastime: a rare black Santa Claus in a sea of white ones.
The mall, located in the heart of black Los Angeles, is one of the few in the country with a black Santa Claus. Some say Patterson is the only black shopping-mall Santa Claus in the Los Angeles area. As visitors approached him on a recent afternoon, it was hard to tell who was more excited: the youngsters or the adults. The parents are the most loyal. They return with grandchildren, passing on a family tradition with a deep personal meaning.
“We need our kids to understand that good things happen in chocolate skin,” said Til Prince, 50, of Palmdale, watching her granddaughter, niece and her niece’s son pose with Patterson. “We are often bombarded with the opposite. We’re not trying to exclude anybody, but [instead] celebrate our chocolate skin.”