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Representation matters: The Black Santa Movement, explained

“Every race, every culture, should have a Santa that looks like them," said Sharon Nichols-Sargeant, who lives in West Sacramento.

SACRAMENTO, Calif — For the first time, Disney theme parks are including a Black Santa Claus in Christmas celebrations in it's 66-year history.

But, that's not all. Major retailers across the U.S. are also diversifying their pool of Santas to be more inclusive and spread holiday cheer. That includes Old Navy, Macy's, and shopping malls.

Even though the Black Santa movement might be new to some people, it's been a holiday tradition for years in Black communities. For many, Black Santa signifies more than representation.

"The holiday decorations represent my culture,” said Sharon Nichols-Sargeant, who lives in West Sacramento. “I have been collecting Black Santas and Black angels since 1996. When you would go to the stores, you wouldn't see Santas that looked like us. So, any and every time that I went to the store, and I saw a Santa or angel that looked like us, I would just buy it.”

Credit: Sharon Nichols-Sargeant

During the holiday season, Nichols-Sargeant decks the halls with 20 Black Santas over three-feet tall and dozens of other cheerful decorations. She says she does it, each year, for her 10-year-old daughter.

"When you have a child of color, and, they don't see that character looking like them, it's harder for them to believe that character is for them,” Nichols-Sargeant said.

Over the holiday season, Black Santa can be spotted in businesses, too, typically in predominantly Black communities, like Oak Park.

As part of the Black Santa movement, St. Hope is hosting it's annual Christmas in Oak Park. St. Hope is a family of nonprofits committed to revitalizing Oak Park through high quality public education and economic development.

Credit: St. Hope

“We will be bringing out Black Santa,” said Adrianne Hall, chief operations officer at St. Hope. “He will bring his annual tradition of visiting Oak Park. We want to make sure that our kids, in this particular culture and in Oak Park, sees someone who represents them.”

Christmas in Oak Park is a free holiday event for children of all ages. Each year, Black Santa welcomes each child by accepting their wish lists and taking a classic holiday photo.

“This is the third time that we've done Christmas in Oak Park,” Hall said. "We'll have some children's activities, story time and arts and crafts. Next door, at the Guild Theatre, we will be showing Jingle Jangle, a Christmas movie.”

During this time of year, for some, snapping a photo with Santa Claus is a holiday tradition. But, sometimes, it can be hard to find a Black Santa due to the lack of diversity. For many families and communities of color, Black Santa signifies not only the need for more representation, but visibility and acceptance in society.

Credit: St. Hope

“It's a movement, and the movement is to accept Black people,” Nichols-Sargeant said. “Every race, every culture, should have a Santa that looks like them.”

You can meet Black Santa and snap a photo during the third annual Christmas in Oak Park event. 

The free event will be held on Saturday, Dec. 11, 2021 from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. at Underground Books located at 2814 35th Street in Sacramento. For more information, visit the St. Hope website.

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