For the first time in Mall of America’s 24-year history, a Black Santa will greet kiddos and their families for annual Christmas photos.
“This is a long time coming,” Landon Luther, co-owner of the Santa Experience (which has run the photo studio at the mall for a decade), told the Minneapolis Star Tribune. “We want Santa to be for everyone, period.
Like many Kris Kringles making their way through shopping centers around the world, the largest mall in the United States is offering a free, wait-in-line-by-the-masses Santa, as well as appointment opportunities which require purchasing a photo package.
Luther began a nationwide search for the perfect Jolly Old Saint Nicholas last spring — one that all children could relate to, the local paper reports. Oddly enough, the “Santa for everyone” initiative found their winner, Larry Jefferson, a retired U.S. Army veteran from Irving, Texas at a “Kringle family reunion” in July, where nearly 1,000 impersonators gathered. Jefferson was the only Black Claus to attend, reports say.
“What they see most of the time is this red suit and candy,” Jefferson, a graduate from a premiere Santa school said of the role. “[Santa represents] a good spirit. I’m just a messenger to bring hope, love and peace to girls and boys.”
Last year, Jefferson was dubbed the first, and only, Black member of the Lone Star Santas, a nonprofit complete with 350 Santa Clauses, Mrs. Clauses, and elves who donate toys to children in disaster-stricken areas each year.
Not to our surprise, shortly after the story ran, it was overrun with racist comments, forcing the paper to pull the plug on its comment section. “Looks like we had to turn comments off on story about Mall of America’s first black Santa. Merry Christmas everyone!.” Scott Gillespie, Editorial page editor of the Star Tribune tweeted.
In spite of it all, it seems like the children are having a blast. What are your thoughts on Mall of America’s first-ever Black Santa Claus? Sound off in the comment section below.