Although Santa is very busy this season getting ready for his big trip around the world on Christmas Eve, he has made many stops around Central Illinois – and isn’t done yet.
For the first time in what some say is decades, the Santa that will stop in Champaign on Dec. 14-15 is black.
“Santa is powered by imagination and we want children to see the Santa fantasy manifesting in someone who looks like them,” said Mariah Madison, Vice President of the Champaign County Black Chamber and Editor in Chief of Buy Black Chambana, one of the event organizers.
“Representation matters. Not just because black kids need to see it to believe, but other cultures need to see us as the heroes as well.”
Santa will visit with families on Saturday, Dec. 14 at Neil Street Blues in downtown Champaign in the afternoon, and then in the evening from 7 to 8 pm on Saturday and Sunday at the Douglass Annex, Champaign.
Between the three events at two different locations, organizers are hoping to serve 600 children. Families can come and take free pictures using their phones, meet Santa, and get a small gift. Professional photos also will be available.
Black Santa has quite a history in Champaign. According to a story from UPI, there was a black Santa at Market Place Mall in 1984.
But the reason this made the wires was because of a lawsuit filed by mall employee Carol Czajkowski of Champaign. She claimed she lost her job as assistant manager and marketing director of the mall after she refused to fire a black Santa she had hired.
In her suit, Czajkowski claimed she was fired because she refused to break Illinois laws forbidding racial discrimination in hiring and firing. (You can read the UPI story here).
Madison said she and others in the community weren’t aware of any other public events in Champaign-Urbana area that included a black Santa since then. Nationally, there has been a lot of demand for Santas who look like the children who visit him – or speak the same language. Santa Larry is perhaps the most famous black Santa since he made his first appearance at Mall of America in 2017.
There is no registration for any of the Champaign events, so families should be prepared. But this Santa will be sure to bring plenty of holiday cheer, the same as any Santa would, Madison said.
IF YOU GO:
Dec 14, 1-3pm
Neil St. Blues, 301 N Neil St Suite 106, Champaign
Come see Santa at the Hometown Holiday Shop & Stroll in downtown Champaign. Neil St. Blues will also be serving brunch!
Dec 14-15, 7-8pm
Douglass Annex, 804 N 5th St, Champaign
Come meet Santa, take pictures, and get a gift from Santa.