How her 200 jolly figurines capture the season of joy in all skin tones.
Posted in , Oct 3, 2021
Growing up, I knew two things to be true: The president of the United States was a white man, as sure as Santa Claus was. I’d never seen evidence that either could be any different, and with my dad in the Air Force, I’d lived all over the country and seen many things.
I was in junior high when my dad was stationed in Montgomery, Alabama. We listened to the Black radio station, WXBI. At Christmastime, they played a song I’d never heard before, “Santa Claus Is a Black Man.” What a thought! I recognized the storyline from “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus,” but this soul version hit home. I giggled thinking of myself in the little girl’s shoes. It was easy to imagine my daddy as a jolly Santa, both of them kind and loving too.
Still, it was a while before I actually saw a Black Santa. My husband and I had been married a couple of years and had purchased our first home. I could hardly wait to decorate for my favorite holiday. I went to a big box store, and right next to the white Santas and angels were Black ones. I bought a figurine of each, excited to have found such treasures. That started it.
As the years passed, Black Santas and angels became easier to find and showed more personality. I got picky. Now that I had options, I was no longer content with the half-hearted attempts at manufacturing that only changed the plastic “skin” color. And I had to focus my collection. Because I still associated Santa with my daddy, I stuck with Santas. Friends were on the lookout for me too—especially if they took a trip to destinations with predominantly Black populations. I scoured antique stores and specialty shops, and my collection grew. After the first hundred, my husband asked, “Do you think you’re about done?” No way.
Our two sons used pictures of the collection for assignments in school. When my younger son told his baseball teammates, “Santa looks like me,” some of his white friends didn’t believe him. I remembered how that old song had opened my eyes, and we invited the whole team over to see for themselves. My collection helped them understand that Santa is a lot of things to a lot of people, but he’s always a source of goodness.
My little nephew likes to say he’s “going to Christmas” when he comes to my house. Two hundred Santas tell him that the joy of the season is a joy of many colors. That’s one thing I know is true.