Black Santa Workshop in West Orange aims for children to have positive representation and inclusivity

With less than two weeks until Christmas, an event in West Orange helped get kids in the spirit and feel included.
The Black Santa Workshop at Rock Spring Golf Course aimed to advance inclusivity when it comes to Santa Claus and positive representation.
The event featured Black fathers dressed as Santa Claus as well as all the holiday staples, like cookie decorating, holiday-inspired arts and crafts and kids writing letters to Santa. Kids also had their picture taken with Black Santa, who, in this event, is more representative of the communities they come from.
"Options weren't many, and I didn't see it growing up, and I just want to teach my kids that they matter, and they can be seen in different things that normally aren't around," said Yvonne Green, Brooklyn, New York. "I'm very happy that they get to see themselves."
Her sentiments were echoed by many of the parents in attendance at the event as many families came from not just in New Jersey, but from across the Hudson in search of a Santa more representative of their communities.
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"We're a multi-racial family and we felt it was important for us to see both sides since a lot of the places we went to are a little bit more catering to the more typical presentation of Santa," said Jennifer Reid, of New City, New York.
Talia Young, a mother of two, started the Black Santa Workshop three years ago because she felt there wasn't enough representation in Christmas imagery and she wanted to fill the void in the market.
"It’s not just a Black holiday experience, it’s for everyone, but it’s really important for us and our family and our community to have important representation," Young said.
Dr. Ijeom Opara, a professor of social and behavioral sciences at Yale, said between the ages of 4 and 8 - children have what’s known as “magical thinking” - when reality and fantasy are still blurred and positive imaging can shape their perception as they get older.
"We’re wired as human beings to want to see ourselves and be represented," Opara said. "So when it comes to seeing a Black Santa for a Black child, that child is able to view themselves and see someone who belongs to my race can be as powerful as Santa."