*Update: Soul Santa begins Tuesday and runs through Friday 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. On Saturday, Santa is available 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
(Editor’s note: this article has been updated to reflect changes in Santa’s schedule)
Soul Santa is back.
Next Tuesday through Saturday, shoppers at Greece Ridge Mall will be able to take a portrait with Black Santa. He’ll be located at R U Villa and Christopher Cardwell of Goodknews Photography will provide photo services. It’s the second time Black Santa has been at the mall.
“Unfortunately, usually you don’t see a black santa,” said Cardwell, discussing why this event is important to him last year. “I feel like our community and our parents work so hard to give the kids gifts and a Christmas that seeing someone that represents them? It’s important to have.”
Last year, Soul Santa’s appearance came in the midst of national news that black Santas were unpopular. In the Mall of America last year, parents refused to have their portraits taken with the mall Santa because he was black. Some of the families claimed, he couldn’t be the real Santa because of his skin color.
However, this is Cardwell’s fifth time bringing Soul Santa (though just second to the mall as mentioned) to Rochester and he said there has always been support.
Hank “Big Hank” Phelps is the man under the beard. He said he loves playing this role because it brings cheer to local children and he’s been doing it for over a decade.
“It makes the kids happy,” said Phelps.”To me, we all know Santa’s not real but it goes to show that this is important.”
“There’s nothing like seeing the kids in my community smile during the holiday season,” he continued. “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.”
“There’s something about the symbolism behind having an African-American Santa Claus represent the man making the contributions to their homes and communities of color throughout the nation. Soul Santa provides children and families of color a chance to see a symbol of hope that actually looks like them and is realistic as possible.”
Instant portraits will be available with Soul Santa every evening he’s there. Portraits are 15 dollars each and every customer will also be entered into a $100 Christmas shopping spree rally from Villa. For more details, visit their website.