James Roy Green has been putting on the big red suit and black boots, according to him, for almost two decades.
The oldest child of several siblings, Green is from a small town in Louisiana. He drew inspiration from his mother taking care of the family after his father fell ill. He reflected on how the community also came together to help the family. Green believes in reaching back and giving back to the community and he does it as Black Santa.
From what he shared with the Sentinel; Green was very much in demand this holiday season. He said he was scheduled to appear at LAX, a few local events and private parties. Due to the pandemic however, many of Green’s appearances as St. Nick were cancelled.
“I’ve been cancelled for most of the jobs that I had,” said Green.
But you can’t keep this Santa down and in true Christmas spirit, Green found another way. This year, Green decided to release
Christmas greeting cards as a way to spread Christmas cheer despite the pandemic.
“I just mailed over a hundred of them,” said Green
In the late 90s, Green owned a record store for 9 years in Leimert Park, “right next to Philip’s BBQ.” Green explains during Christmas, he would get approached about playing Santa Claus.
“People would come and ask me to play Santa Claus and I was say ‘no, I got to run my shop,’” said Green. He later closed his business in 2000, but the public still wanted Green to play Santa. Eventually, in the late 2000s, he gave in and decided he would give it a try.
“So, I started doing it and I didn’t want to go fast because I’m a small-town person,” said Green. “I didn’t want to go fast because I didn’t really know what I was doing.”
Green continued, “The only thing I knew is that everybody was telling me—I look like Santa Claus.”
This year has been many things, but one of the most important things to happen was a great awakening in the importance of Black representation. Green shared a story of how that was made clear to him way before 2020 and the importance of Black Santa. He recalled an appearance he made at a park in Los Angeles.
“A guy had me going around saying hello to the children,” said Green. “One little boy, about five or six-years-old, he stepped up and said ‘You’re not no real Santa Claus because Santa Claus is White!’”
The child’s statement helped Green see he needed a void to fill for Black youth in the community. “I said you’re the reason that I’m going to stay out here for all of the little Black children to learn better.
“That was something that stuck out in my head.”
If his encounter with the child wasn’t enough to convince him, the next encounter definitely would.
“I was in this church one time and there was a lady, she stood up and she said ‘I’m 55-years-old, I’ve always known that there was a Black Santa Claus,’” said Green.
He continued, “She said ‘You’re the most beautiful Santa Claus I’ve ever seen in my life.’ She was standing up in that church crying.”
On the chance that Green still wasn’t convinced of the importance of Black Santa, he would find out at none other than—Sizzler.
“I went to Sizzler, I still had my suit on, there was a man there, who had brought his mother out for dinner and he came over to the table and started talking, he said ‘I’m almost 70-years-old, I brought my mother out here and I have never seen a Black Santa Claus.
“That made me realize, including myself, that I had never seen a Black Santa Claus.”
Green ventured to a Walmart in the Inland Empire to do a little research recently. He was in search of a Black Santa Claus doll, what he found was a White Santa Claus doll and “a Black doll with a red and white suit on.” He then reached out to family and friends in other states and asked them to go to their local Walmart to see if they could find a Black Santa doll.
“The response I’ve gotten so far is nobody has seen him and I know there are supposed to be some out there, but what I’m saying is, all across this country, it’s hard to find a Black Santa Claus,” said Green.
When asked the importance of having Black Santas against the backdrop of 2020 and the call to have more Black representation, Green replied, “I think it’s very important.
“Our children need to identify with a Santa of their own. I’ve gone places and the White Santa Claus was there, when I would show up, the White Santa Claus [has] come to me, on two occasions, and said ‘I’m going to go, I’m going to leave, you take this over’ because everybody started coming towards me.”
Green also shared that a local musical artist has the distinction of being Mrs. Claus.
“I have one picture with me and Barbara Morrison on it,” said Green. “Barbara is Mrs. Santa Claus. We took it years ago and she told me I could use it; do anything I want to with it.”
Of course, he’s referring to the multi-talented jazz singer and founder of both the California Jazz and Blues Museum and the Barbara Morrison Performing Arts Center in Leimert Park. For anyone who has had the pleasure of meeting Morrison, she does resemble a Black Mrs. Claus and would be the first to sing all the elves into action at the North Pole.
Green takes being Santa Claus seriously as he as seen first hand what wearing that red and white suit with the black boots means to so many people.
“It’s not me, but the kids recognize that red suit—they will come to that red suit,” said Green.
He said he changed something about his cards this year and it’s definitely something we can all take into the new year with us.
“My cards, I changed it from ‘Merry Christmas’ to ‘Let’s Make Every day Christmas.’”