December 7, 2023

“A Santa who looks like me” - St. Nick and representation

Santa Chris (left) and Santa Josiah (right)

Santa Chris (left) and Santa Josiah (right)

A quick note for parents and grandparents: The following story reveals some of Santa’s special secrets that you might not want your little ones to see ahead of the holiday season.

When Dominic Dorsey was little, he never saw a Santa Claus who looked like him.

“It's one of those…this is the visage, like when you see Santa it looks this way, this way only,” Dorsey said.

So when Dorsey and his community group Don’t Sleep created the Black Business Bazaar that happens every holiday season in Indianapolis, he made sure the Black Santa Experience was part of it.

Santa Chris has been portraying Santa for 8 years, for the same reason Dominic Dorsey created the Black Santa Experience.

“Growing up, I didn't see a lot of Santas who look like me," Santa Chris said. "It was rare. So, I decided when I could I would fill that role.”

Santa Chris isn’t the only black Santa in town. Actor and singer Josiah Ray McCruiston becomes Santa Josiah this time of year, putting his own spin on the jolly elf and also dispelling some myths.

“It was very interesting when I found out that Santa originated from Greece,” McCruiston said. “The whole entire concept of Santa not even really being white in the first place was very interesting. I think Coca-Cola created the white, you know, fun loving entity that the world has said this is it.”

One of McCruiston's jobs this year is being part of the Santa rotation at the Indiana State Museum. His take on Santa is for everyone, regardless of who you are. But he also said that even in 2023, some parents don't agree.

“To those who do reject the notion, or if they use like, whatever excuse they have, like oh, she's afraid, I get it," McCruiston said. Because like you grew up with this sort of idea engrained in your head. I just feel sorry for them, because they miss out on such a great opportunity, a great experience."

Even though he and McCruiston are veteran black Santas, Santa Chris says he cherishes the look on the faces of children seeing them as St. Nick for the very first time.

“They look shocked because they really don't see us on TV, especially like the cartoon shows. So, they're just surprised to see a black Santa, and they always ask me if I'm real. I still get it a lot," Santa Chris said.

The Black Santa Experience is usually the biggest attraction at the Black Business Bazaar. Dominic Dorsey said it's not just because of who Santa is, it’s also about the last word in the name of the attraction - the experience.

“It’s the wonder that is generated by this individual," Dorsey said. "And I think that their complexion can match you know, whomever is in the audience. But I think it's important to be able to have the diverse options to match who was in that audience again, so that they can see themselves and then they can feel as though they are included in the celebration.”

McCruiston relishes making kids of color happy. But he says the magic of Santa should touch everyone this year.

“It would be the caring connection that I say is what I try to bring to Santa Claus," McCruiston said. "That inclusivity, that touch to help people understand that even though this season is dark, even though this season is full of busy, busy, busy, go go go, it is always good to stop and be a light for someone.

Information on Santa Chris can be found at ‘Indy Black Santa’ on Facebook and other social media. Santa Josiah can be found as ‘Indiana Black Santa’ on Facebook.

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