For the first-time ever, an African American Santa took holiday photos with families at Greece Ridge Mall. Henry Phelps dresses up each year as Soul Santa- but for the first time, he was at a mall; hundreds of children took pictures with him. The mall is planning to have him back next year.
Meet Soul Santa! For the first-time ever, an African American Santa took holiday photos with families at Greece Ridge Mall.
"Kids need to see both Santas -- white, black," says Henry Phelps. "It doesn't matter as long as we can see them smile."
Making children happy -- it's what drives Henry Phelps to dress up each year as "Soul Santa." He's been doing this for more than 15 years.
"The first time I did it was at the Boys and Girls Club," says Phelps. "I was scared to death. They asked me to do it. My son said, 'You can do it, you can do it.' I did it. I saw all the joy on the kids' face' and I've been doing it ever since."
But this is the first-time Soul Santa is doing this inside the Mall of Greece Ridge. GoodKnews Photography, the company behind this project, partnered with the store Villa to host this event.
"I just wanted somebody that my community can look up to in terms of having a Santa that looks like the people that are in the urban community," says Chris Cardwell.
So far, this has been a success. Since they started on Monday, around 50 to 100 kids take pictures with Soul Santa every day. Parents and kids tell us they are just happy see an African American Santa.
"It's like a different, change of plans," says Kyrique Wright. "I think that's like a good change of plans."
"I think that was good," says Mishauna Wright. "I think that was good for them to see that there's different, not just the same typical Santa."
Soul Santa says as long as he sees the smile on children's faces, he will continue to grant their wishes for the next few years to come.
Thursday was the last day to take pictures with Soul Santa. But he says "Don't worry," because there is always next year. Next time, they're planning for a bigger event so that more families from our community will get to meet an African American Santa.