It's time to get the kids dressed and head down to the mall for that most time-honored of traditions—the Santa picture. Whether your baby is too little to know what's going on or your 10-year-old is phasing Santa out of their holiday joy, this time of year means putting on their uncomfortable but cute holiday outfits, waiting in line for ages, and paying out the nose for another holiday treasure.
But, for some families the mall Santa might not fit the bill. After all, he's usually represented not only as a jolly old fat man but as a decidedly white jolly old fat man. One mom decided it should be easier for black children to see black Santas for their Christmas picture.
After struggling to find a black Santa for her twins to visit, Jihan Woods, who is a board-certified psychiatrist, decided to take action. "I wanted to bring representation and inclusivity to my children’s Christmas experiences," explains Dr. Woods. "Black Santas are extremely hard to find doing basic internet searches so I presumed other families had the same dilemma. I started Find Black Santa so that families may have easy access to Santas in their communities."
Woods raised funding for the app, which is available for download in the Google Play Store and the Apple Appstore, through a successful crowdfunding campaign. "I crowdfunded through Kickstarter for 30 days and successfully funded the campaign raising $5,000. People loved the idea. I think once the app was published even more people understood the concept and my vision."
In the year since the app went live, Woods says users have grown exponentially. As of December 2019, the app had 12,000 downloads. "To give some perspective, I had less than 1,000 this time last year. The app has been viewed over 105,000 times. It’s currently ranked #146 on the App Store's Top 200 entertainment apps," says Woods.
Her success is not surprising, especially in a world where we're learning how important cultural representation is. On her Kickstarter campaign page, Woods cites research that showed positive correlations between positive cultural beliefs and racial representation and higher self-esteem, better academic performance, and less risky behavior in children of color. When children have positive cultural and racial role models that lead to positive attitudes surrounding their culture and race, it changes everything.
Plus, kids deserve a chance to see a Santa who looks like them! "I love Christmas and I love the joy it brings to both kids and adults," says Woods. "I started the project out of the need for representation among underrepresented Santas so that children and families have access to Santas that mirror who they are."
If you know of a black Santa that should be included in Find Black Santa's database, you can reach out directly to Woods. "People can contact me directly at email@example.com to provide details. You can also learn more about what to submit in the FAQ section of our website."