Saturday, December 25, 2010

Remix from last year: The Tale of Black Santa


My childhood Christmas memories are chock full of BougieDad cuttin' up. I mean for a professional man who was about business, he was in so many ways a pure D fool (and I loved it!).

Our house was smack in the middle of lily-white Suburbia. We were the first Black family to move into the area. Actually, BougieDad had to sue the City of Dallas to "allow" us to live there. Nothing says bougenificence like a court order J. So it was into this atmosphere that he launched his annual Christmas Decoration Fest. BougieDad was not going to be outdone by the neighbors. We had glittery lights, we had lights that looked like candles, we had statuettes, music, figurines and the piece de resistance: A life-sized poster of Santa on the front door.

Unfortunately, this was before the "culturally diverse" Santas were popular. Do you think BougieDad was going to let something like that get in his way? Oh no. BougieDad took the chocolate brown shoe polish and gave jolly white Santa a melanin infusion for the ages. Yeah he did. And then he taped the poster up over the front door for all the world to see. And no, it wasn't classy looking. He only shoe polished the face and neck, Santa's wrists were still white and his eyes still light blue. Truthfully, Black Santa looked like a possessed and costumed Al Jolson in blackface in need of a Jenny Craig Solution.

I vividly recall asking him, "Is Santa really black?" He said, "Yes he is and Jesus too." I went to school and repeated this, I was sent to the principal's office. They called both BougieMom and BougieDad in to talk about my "radical inclinations". Not sure (though I have a good idea) what went on in that meeting but I was allowed to address my class on the possibility of a racially diverse Santa Claus. It was received with mixed reviews. Anyway, my house was the only one for miles around rocking Black Santa.

To say the Black Santa poster was a showstopper is an understatement. We could hear people come up the driveway and pause at the bottom of the stairs like – Am I really seeing this? By the time they rang the doorbell they were astonished, annoyed or admiring. That poster got ripped in the middle of the night so many times; BougieDad switched to industrial strength packing tape and put up a sign warning of 24-hour surveillance. That kept the poster up until it literally fell apart on its own and we couldn't find a new one in stores anymore. Yes, we had to hold BougieDad back from painting all the angels in the outdoor statues black.

As much as I used to roll my eyes at his shenanigans trying to "blacken up" Christmas, do you know that now I go out of my way to find the cocoa-hued figurines, cards with people of color and decorations that reveal a bit more culture than Frosty and Rudolph (not that I don't love them too). I've added the Boondocks "A Huey Freeman Christmas" episode right along with Charlie Brown. I give my nieces and nephews toys representing all races and make sure they understand why. I guess I paid attention a little more than I thought.


Any diversity holiday recollections to share?

12 comments:

Mykeia said...

Merry Christmas OneChele!
Great post, I always appreciate the stories about your father. I will say this, growing up I always thought that Jesus was black, something that my grandfather told me--until I went to school--where I was the only black girl. In school I found out that everyone had their own view of Jesus' identity.
One of the most important gifts that my mother gave me was the saying "Black is beautiful" and she kept this going by not purchasing white dolls for me, a small thing but I believe me that seeing the black dolls/images gave me the self esteem that I have.
Sorry for the long story...
I have a cocktail or two tonight.

Jubilance1922 said...

I grew up in a super Pro-Black home, so everything in my house was Black, including Santa. My parents started a greeting card company to make their own designs & distribute the designs of others, that featured Black Santas & other holiday scenes from a Black perspective. Was very cool growing up exposed to all that.

Merry Christmas!

aishao1122 said...

Wow it must be a Caribbean thing because all my mother's Santa(s) are black, all the nativity scenes even the large one out front, the toy soldiers, the nutcracker, and if she couldn't find it black she found one close then painted it the hue of black she desired. Every Jesus picture i grew up with was black with dreads (why yes i got into trouble in school, Catholic school when they showed us the image of Jesus and I said that wasn't him, this was when nuns ran the school and carried switches...ahh the good memories)
I too have gone out of my way to purchase the black angels, the nativity scenes, the Santa all black, and i have several white Santa too because truthfully he is from Turkey, dolls and all toys were black (it's the Caribbean the dominate culture rules) or they were books, and things to help us learn. I loved Christmas as a child when it wasn't about the gifts but hanging with your family.

thanks for sharing this, it reminds me so much of my parents.
Have a Happy Holidays and Merry new Year

Brneyed1 said...

Never experienced Black Santa, but would have LOVED to see the looks on folks' faces walking up to your dad's door! *priceless*

I have ornaments on my tree of black children in skates, on sleds, etc. I "rescued" them from a store that put them in the clearance box with a bunch of broken junk that no one else would buy. To this day they are the first ornaments I put on my tree.

GrownAzzMan said...

Merry Christmas all. At Che' Jose' we have a black tree-top angel and a huge rug with a black Santa that my mother purchased some years ago. I am still hatin' on my neighbor across the street who has a huge inflatable black Santa in his yard and won't tell me where it came from. Did I mention that all this is happening in Santa Monica, CA?

The_A said...

When my daughter was small, we lived in Atlanta & would drive across town to visit the Black Santa at SouthWest Dekalb Mall every year. He had a real beard & reminded me of my Grandpa!

Love those pictures & I don't know of any other mall that ever featured a non-white Santa.

uglyblackjohn said...

My niece asked why I have a Black Santa statue at my house.
"Because Santa was Black at my house", I said.
Knowing that I was Santa for her she then understood why I have a Black Santa.

CaliGirlED said...

Oh how I would love to see a black inflatable Santa in Santa Monica! We shall overcome someday. LOL!!!

CaliGirlED said...

That story is still hilarious!!!

Bunni said...

For at least the past 20 years there's been a Black Santa at the PG Plaza Mall in Hyattsville, MD too.

YardieChicie said...

Yes, I loved Christmas as a child for the family togetherness too. Which is why I side eye the living daylights out of people who think they need to tell (lie) about Santa Claus to keep the season 'magical for the children'. That's just buying into the commercial hype!

YardieChicie said...

Mummy wasn't into decorating for Christmas, but even she'd grit her teeth when she'd see pink-faced, blue-eyed Santa beaming from pretty much EVERY store in Kingston some December. You still see a few of those from time to time these days, but wreaths and poinsettias have overtaken Santa and Rudolf for the most part.

Apart from that, I never experienced any diversity issues around Christmas - or any other time of the year. I guess being born and raised in the Caribbean has it's advantages. :D

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