Soul Santa Celebrates Second Year at VILLA

Soul Santa is back in town. The annual event brings a Black Santa to local children and families.

Christopher Cardwell of GoodKnews Photography collaborated with Henry “Big Hank” Phelps Jr. and VILLA to bring the event back for a second year. Children and families can visit and take portraits with Soul Santa through Saturday .

“I think it’s important for kids to see a symbol of someone who looks like them and who is doing something special for them,” explained Cardwell. He’s been doing the event for five years but brought it to VILLA last year.

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Big Hank is the man behind the red suit and white beard. He’s been playing Santa for 15 years, including at the Boys & Girls Club of Rochester. He said he delights in spreading holiday cheer and showing children a new look for Santa.

“There’s nothing like seeing the kids in my community smile during the holiday season,” said Big Hank. “I have been doing this for so long because I enjoy the opportunity to bring a smile to the many faces that are probably facing many obstacles.”


And the event doesn’t just appeal to kids of color. Cardwell said often families of all backgrounds light up when they see Soul Santa. He’s situated in VILLA’s storefront, garnering attention from all the shoppers who pass by. Last year, Cardwell said that on the first day they had more white kids than kids of color take portraits with him.

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“All kids light up when they see him,” he said.

“There’s something about the symbolism behind having an African American Santa Claus represent the man making contributions to their homes and communities of color throughout the nation,” he continued. “Soul Santa provides children and families of color a chance to see a symbol of hope that actually looks like them and is as realistic as possible.”

Soul Santa is in town through Saturday and shoppers can get portraits for $15 each and be entered to win a shopping spree from VILLA.

Soul Santa Holiday Photos

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