For 10 holiday seasons Langston Patterson has claimed his throne as Santa Claus at Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza during Christmas time. The mall located in the predominantly black part of the city, is one of the few in the country that features a black Santa.
Some say Patterson is the only black shopping-mall Santa Claus in the Los Angeles area. As visitors approached him on a recent afternoon, it was hard to tell who was more excited: the youngsters or the adults. The parents are the most loyal. They return with grandchildren, passing on a family tradition with a deep personal meaning.
“We need our kids to understand that good things happen in chocolate skin,” said Til Prince, 50, of Palmdale, watching her granddaughter, niece and her niece’s son pose with Patterson. “We are often bombarded with the opposite. We’re not trying to exclude anybody, but [instead] celebrate our chocolate skin.”
Crenshaw mall has both a black Santa and a Spanish-speaking Latino Santa, a reflection of the demographic shift.
Like many of the children who visit him, Patterson sees himself as simply Santa, not a black Santa or a “rare” Santa Claus. “I never even thought about it,” the 77-year-old told LA Times. “I’m just giving back and making the kids happy.”
Should more malls contain diverse Santa’s outside of the parameters of the communities in which they serve? What would be the benefit?
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