Christmas 2012: The burden and blessing of being a black Santa

Across the country in Brooklyn, New York, another black Santa is paving the way for his community as one of only multicultural Santas in the area.

As a prominent community leader, Anthony Newerls has been playing Santa Claus, along with his three African-American elves, at the Atlantic terminal mall for six-years. One of his colleagues suggested that Newerls play Santa Claus at their local mall due to his big personality, his dedication to the children and of course — he fits the suit.

“It makes me feel proud and I  think this gives every generation the opportunity to connect just with history,” Newerls said. “I’m very proud that they can come to the mall in their community or in their borough and identify with the same individual that they see in their home on a daily basis.”

Newerls says that although the Brooklyn community has positively embraced his role as an African-American Santa Claus, he has been met with some parents who do not want their children taking pictures with a black Santa.

“It’s a problem for certain individuals,” he says. “They do come believing they’re going to  find a white Santa and it surprises them when they see me and it deters them from taking this photo…It makes me realize we haven’t moved as far as we wouldn’t like to in society.”

Sinclair agrees that his appearance also surprises some parents when families see him at the local malls in Atlanta.

“Kids don’t see color – They see the fat man in the red suit.” Sinclair says. “I’ve had parents come out and they’re looking to see [his colleague] Santa Jack who is white and they see me sitting in the chair and they’re like snatching the kids and walking away… Kids don’t see color until their parents dictate color or say that this color is bad or they make an emphasis about race.”

Not only does Sinclair face discrimination from parents, but his race has also deterred him from working at certain venues. He says that some malls in the wealthier, suburban areas of Atlanta are not welcome to hosting a black Santa.

“It’s hard as an African-American Santa because a lot the venues are not as open to us,” Sinclair says. “Not that many folks are looking to see an African-American Santa so we end up getting jobs at  what’s considered in an African-American mall – you know the lower income malls, the smaller areas.”

But despite the adversities, both Sinclair and Newerls have made it their mission to spread the same holiday cheer and Santa magic to children of all backgrounds like every dedicated Santa Claus.

Follow Brittany Tom  on Twitter @brittanyrtom