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Soul Santa Appears at the Black History Museum of Virginia

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Samika Byars introduces her 8-month-old, Rachel Byers, to Soul Santa on Saturday at the Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia.

The idea is to offer up a holiday icon whose appearance doesn’t necessarily mirror popular culture’s traditional image of him — as the Mall of America did in hiring its first black Santa last week.

But the children seem to have their minds elsewhere.

“I want a baby doll,” says Matazia, 7, while waiting in line. Her 4-year-old brother, Prince Anthony, says he’s hoping for Pokemon.

As for skin color, says Barbara Henry, aka Mrs. Claus: “It never was an issue. The kids never said anything about the difference.”

She and her husband accepted the opportunity to volunteer when approached about the position nine years ago at Sixth Mouth Zion Baptist Church. It’s become an experience full of special moments with children of all races, ages and abilities, they say.

“I love to see them smile,” Santa says. “It lets me know they’re comfortable.”

Children also had the opportunity to choose a free book, courtesy of the Sistahs Book Club of Richmond. “We want to share the gift of reading to members of our community,” its president, Barbara Winston, says.

Soul Santa again will be available to see children, who receive a free photo with him, noon to 4 on Saturday, Dec. 10, at the museum at 122 W. Leigh St.

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