Kzoo cultural center introduces black Santa Claus

Kalamazoo and Battle Creek

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — The Black Arts and Cultural Center in Kalamazoo is bending tradition this holiday season with the introduction of a black Santa Claus.

Sunday marked the third time this year that families could take photos with St. Nick at the Epic Center downtown. 

“It’s been a good time,” Dominick Williams said dressed as Santa Claus. “The young ladies, they want American Girl dolls and the boys have been asking for the Nintendo Switch.”

The change to Santa Claus is a part of a growing trend to be more inclusive. 

“I thought it was different. It was nice,” said Tonya Macharia who has several biracial children.

Macharia says prior to this experience, she’d only ever seen a Santa of color on a trip to Africa.

“I think representation is extremely important. I think (it’s important to give) children who live and grow up in this community an opportunity to see something that may have never been an experience for them,” Williams said. “I know when I was growing up it wasn’t an experience for me.”

The Black Arts and Cultural Center’s black Santa. (Dec. 15, 2019)

Organizers say they believe families should have the opportunity to see Santas of color more often. They say their goal is to show young people they can be whoever or whatever they want regardless of the color of their skin.

“To some people, this is just Santa, but to some they’ve never seen it,” organizer Sydney Davis said. “With holidays, you already kind of struggle with getting kids to believe if Santa is real or not — the tooth fairy, Easter bunny. This just makes it more realistic for them. Just how any other thing, any other character, seems not achievable because you’ve never seen someone like you accomplish it.”

Organizers say they’ve been overwhelmed with positive reaction so far.

The last opportunity for families to get photos this season with Santa Claus at the Epic Center is Dec. 22 between 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. It is free of charge. Families need to come with a camera phone or camera to take the pictures on their own. 

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