What Color Is Your Santa?

24 Dec

I know, it’s been a while.

Please forgive me.  I was in the throes of Chanukah gift giving with my two daughters and then dashed off to Costa Rica for my beautiful (inside and out) cousin’s wedding last week.  Now I’m back in chilly New England, just in time for Christmas.  And, lo and behold, what was posted on my Facebook timeline when I got home?  This gem from my friend, Betsy.


I could tell it was an album cover, but I didn’t recall the recording, so I Googled it, and as has often been my experience over the past ten months since I started this blog,  I learned something new.  I learned who Teddy Vann was.

I learned that he was from Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, was a song writer and producer, a youth advocate, and…I learned that he spoke several languages, one of them being Yiddish!  I learned that in the late 60’s Vann began calling himself a “born-again African” and celebrated his heritage by getting in touch with African culture.  He celebrated Kwanzaa and invited his Brooklyn neighbors–families of all races and cultures to celebrate with him.  Talk about crossing color lines!

Teddy Vann wrote songs for and produced records for numerous musicians, and won a Grammy for writing Luther Vandross’s hit, “Power of Love.”  He also recorded earlier on, a spoken-word album featuring the voice of James Earl Jones, called, The Adventures of Colored Man.

But what struck me most in the article I read on www.panonthenet.com, in honor of Vann’s passing from cancer in 2009, was what a contributor to his community he was.  He mentored many young people from all races, fostering their love of math (he was a math genius and master chess player) and music, and helped them to succeed as adults out in the world.  He also stressed to them the importance of having autonomy and ownership of one’s work–something that held him back from working with certain music stars.

Santa Claus is a Black Man was recorded in 1973, and was sung by Vann’s daughter, Akim.  Enjoy…and please tell me, when you were growing up, what color, ethnicity, gender, was your Santa Claus?

Happy Holidays!

SOURCES:  www.panonthenet.com, When Steel Talks, Teddy Vann, In Celebration of the Incredible Life of the Unbelievable Teddy Vann.

www.youtube.com , spowers75


5 Responses to “What Color Is Your Santa?”

  1. Betsy Taylor December 24, 2012 at 8:19 am #

    Wendy, I’m so glad that my post spurred this research. Teddy was indeed an amazing man. I’ve been fascinated with black Santa ever since a trip to Africa many moons ago. It was a family Christmas trip and the resort we were staying in was full of Muslim employees singing Christmas carols and putting on Christian themed entertainment for the European travelers. It was surreal. The highlight of the trip was the black Santa. He tried to get it right but the outfit was unintentionally hilarious. He was skinny, he wore flip flops, and his beard looked like a blond wig jury rigged to his face. It was a sight. I still have a snow globe of black santa, my sister, and me that we made to remember that Christmas.

    • Wendy Jane December 24, 2012 at 5:59 pm #

      Betsy, wow what a trip to have taken, and the celebration you witnessed does sound surreal. That is so cool that you and your sister made a snow globe of a black Santa. If you have access to it, I’d love to see a photo of it. Thanks again for sharing the Teddy Vann Santa Is A Black Man album cover, and your fantastic story of your experience with a black Santa.

  2. Susan December 26, 2012 at 9:11 am #

    My Santa was the geographically accepted fat white guy with crinkly eyes and red cheeks. He also was kind enough not to mind that my sister and I were Jewish. Your question jogs a memory of student work displayed at the post office in northwestern RI one spring. The project was the usual what do you want to be when you grow up, and the kids were armed with xeroxes of generic human bodies they could color in. There were the expected teachers, medical personnel, etc. Memorable though was the boy who hoped to be a basketball player. His figure had a headful of blond hair and a white face, but its arms, legs, and neck were crayoned black. We patch together versions of ourselves and our world based on all sorts of assumptions…

    • Wendy Jane December 26, 2012 at 4:57 pm #

      Hi Susan. Thanks for your comments. Your Santa is most likely the one most of us here in the States grew up with–it’s the one I always imagined. You were lucky that he didn’t mind that you and your sister were Jewish. We used to beg our parents for a Chanukah bush, but never got one.:) Your retelling of the boy’s drawing of the would-be basketball player with the white head and black body is pretty amazing. And, I think you are right about how we come to these visions based on assumptions, which are based on the images we are shown in magazines, books, television, and told about by our families, schools, and peers. Thanks again for reading and commenting.

Trackbacks and Pingbacks

  1. WJSS Weekend Sounds: Megyn Kelly Of Fox News Says Santa Is White, Teddy Vann Sings Santa Claus Is A Black Man | Wendy Jane's Soul Shake - December 15, 2013

    […] character’s race, so after this week’s re-wind to a WJSS post from last holiday season, What Color Is Your Santa, featuring  Teddy Vann and his daughter Akim, please don’t miss Stewart’s […]

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: