Black Santa Claus spreads holiday cheer at local mall

By Shirley Hawkins

Contributing Writer

BALDWIN HILLS — Just in time for Christmas, Santa Claus has returned to the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw mall to spread Christmas cheer with local families.

Dressed in his traditional red Santa suit and eagerly waving at passersby from his silver throne, Santa Claus (real name Rodney Brown) will be taking photos with local children and their parents from noon to 7 p.m. through Dec. 24.

“This is my second year being Santa here at the mall,” Brown said. “Playing Santa is just something I feel good about in my heart. Meeting the kids has been wonderful and even the parents have a sparkle in their eye. I love being a part of the community and spreading joy during the holiday.”

When asked which popular toys the children have been yearning to find under the Christmas tree this year, Brown smiled.

“The girls are asking for the Barbie Dream House and the boys want to receive the Bumblebee Transformer or the Spiderman toy,” he said.

Pausing, he added, “I had one child who presented me with a three-page typed list that named all of the toys that he wanted to find under his tree on Christmas day,” Brown said with a laugh.

Brown said even parents have been sharing their deepest wishes with him.

“They’ve been asking me for houses, jobs, cars, or a new husband or wife,” he said.

Children as young as three weeks old have been posing with Santa, but toddlers and older children are transfixed by Santa, staring at him with awe.

“Some of the children appear to be hesitant or afraid to greet me,” Brown said. “Others walk up to me very slowly because they are shy. I try to make them feel comfortable by waving and giving them my best Santa smile.”

Some curious children boldly pull his salt and pepper beard to see if it is real.

“Yes, it is!” Brown said, adding that he takes pride in growing his luxurious beard all year long.

Ronnieceisha Garrett bought two of her children, ages 4 and 6, and her six-month-old godson to meet Santa.

She said she searched for a Black Santa at different shopping malls and was finally happy to find one at the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw mall.

“I feel it’s really important that my children see a Black Santa Claus,” Garrett said. “I feel representation is important.”

Kelli and Kenny Mitchell, a white couple, brought their daughter and their two African-American foster children to meet Santa.

“We felt it was important for us to find a Santa that looks like them,” they said.

With African American Santas a rarity during the Christmas season, Brown said he is proud to be one of the few Black Santas helping to spread Christmas cheer.

“I think representation means a lot,” he said. “I think that seeing a Black Santa makes it more real and believable to the children.”

Shirley Hawkins is a freelance reporter for Wave Newspapers. She can be reached at