The Mall of America's First Black Santa Is a Gift for Everyone


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'Tis the usual season for a lot of holiday cheer. But this year, kids and parents alike are getting an extra special treat from the Mall of America: Its first black Santa Claus -- ever! Professional Santa Larry Jefferson is making history as he dons the red suit this holiday season to greet and take pictures with boys and girls at the Minnesota mall's Santa Experience. And this is probably the best Christmas news we've yet to hear this year.

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"This is a long time coming," Landon Luther, co-owner of the mall's Santa Experience (which runs the seasonal photo booth), told The Minneapolis Star Tribune. "We want Santa to be for everyone, period." 

We couldn't agree more. This is the first time that the mall -- the largest one in America -- has had a diverse option for a Santa in its (count it!) 24 years.

Luther launched a national search to find the right Kris Kringle and eventually landed on Jefferson, a retired army veteran from Texas, who has had a long history of bringing joy as merry old Saint Nick.

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It's clear he's always had a soft spot for the classic Christmas figure. At the age of 12, Jefferson first helped spread the holiday spirit by acting as "Santa" and putting presents under the tree because his father had a hurt back. One season, he bought a Santa suit to entertain his sick nephews. And, when he was a member of the Army Reserves, he brought the Santa magic to the troops.

Now, Jefferson is delighted to have taken the job (a four-day stint starting December 1) at the Mall of America. "I'm really humbled by it," Jefferson told The Washington Post. "Everyone's making a big deal about this because I'm a black Santa. But gosh, I'm just Santa!"

But the significance of this moment in time is not lost on him.   

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"There need to be more Santas of color, because this is America, and kids need to see a Santa that looks like them," he said about the experience. "That helps kids to identify with the love and spirit of the holiday, you know?"

He does make complete sense. Kids come in all colors, shapes, and sizes. So, why not Santa Claus, too? 

And it's obvious that shoppers are in agreement. In fact, Jefferson is already completely booked for his time at the mall as Saint Nick.

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Luther is even hoping that he will consider taking up the mantle as Santa next year for a longer time frame.

So here's hoping that kids will get the opportunity to see more diverse Santa Clauses! 

This is exactly the type of diversity that this country needs. The mission of Santa is to bring holiday cheer to all boys and girls -- no race or ethnicity excluded. It shouldn't matter what color Santa is because, like Jefferson pointed out, he's Santa! And Santa doesn't discriminate, and neither should anyone else.

Let's all take a lesson from Santa's playbook (or list) and make an effort to increase this type of inclusion for years to come.

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