Everyone is falling in love with the Mall of America's first black Santa.

Larry Jefferson-Gamble's transformation into Santa Claus began when he was just 12 years old. He remembers that Christmas fondly.

It was the year his father hurt his back around the holidays and told him, "I need you to be Santa for me," the Washington Post reported. So little Larry, excited about his new role, went to work gathering all the presents for his 11 siblings and put them under the tree. It was a big moment.

Many years later — 17 of which were spent playing the jolly old man in a big, red suit at the professional level — Larry has taken on the gig of a lifetime.


"Santa Larry" will be the first black Santa at Minnesota's Mall of America, the largest shopping center in the U.S., this holiday season.

For the first time in the mall's 24-year history, one of the jolly men giving out hugs, smiling for photos, and listening to plenty of wish lists from kids won't be white.

The Mall of America isn't the exception, either. At the national scale, Santas of color are "far and few between," according to Larry. And that's a big reason why he does it.

“This is a long time coming,” Landon Luther, co-owner of the mall's Santa Experience, told the Star Tribune. “We want Santa to be for everyone, period.”

Photo via of the Mall of America, used with permission.

Sarah Schmidt, senior public relations manager at the mall, says slots to sit on Larry's lap at the Santa Experience — where families can schedule an appointment in advance to see St. Nick — are completely booked up throughout the next few days.

For many people, he's more than your average Kris Kringle.

Santa Larry, a U.S. veteran, means something special to a lot of boys and girls out there — and their parents.

Jefferson says he's talked to families who've driven hours just to see him, the Washington Post reports, with one woman telling him that she'd been waiting 25 years to meet a black Santa.

Unfortunately, Santa's skin color still seems to ruffle some people's feathers. An editor at the Star Tribune, for instance, says the paper had to turn off its comments section due to nasty feedback on its article about Santa Larry. And the debate over Santa's race has been known to fire up a few talking heads in the 24-hour cable news world.

Photo via the Mall of America, used with permission.

To kids, however, Santa Larry's skin color is no big deal.

“What they see most of the time is this red suit and candy,” Larry says. Santa represents "a good spirit. I’m just a messenger to bring hope, love and peace to girls and boys.”

And when they do notice that he doesn't look like most other Santas, it's a good thing, he says.

“There needs to be more Santas of color, because this is America, and kids need to see a Santa that looks like them,” he says. “That helps kids to identify with the love and spirit of the holiday, you know?”

True

$200 billion of COVID-19 recovery funding is being used to bail out fossil fuel companies. These mayors are combatting this and instead investing in green jobs and a just recovery.

Learn more on how cities are taking action: c40.org/divest-invest


via Pexels.com

The Delta Baby Cafe in Sunflower County, Mississippi is providing breastfeeding assistance where it's needed most.

Mississippi has the third lowest rate of breastfeeding in America. Only 70% of infants are ever-breastfed in the state, compared to 84% nationally.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends infants be exclusively breastfed for their first six months of life. However, in Mississippi, less than 40% are still breastfeeding at six months.

Keep Reading Show less
True

$200 billion of COVID-19 recovery funding is being used to bail out fossil fuel companies. These mayors are combatting this and instead investing in green jobs and a just recovery.

Learn more on how cities are taking action: c40.org/divest-invest


via msleja / TikTok

In 2019, the Washoe County School District in Reno, Nevada instituted a policy that forbids teachers from participating in "partisan political activities" during school hours. The policy states that "any signage that is displayed on District property that is, or becomes, political in nature must be removed or covered."

The new policy is based on the U.S. Supreme Court's 2018 Janus decision that limits public employees' First Amendment protections for speech while performing their official duties.

This new policy caused a bit of confusion with Jennifer Leja, a 7th and 8th-grade teacher in the district. She wondered if, as a bisexual woman, the new policy forbids her from discussing her sexuality.

Keep Reading Show less
Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash

We've heard from U.S. intelligence officials for at least four years that other countries are engaging in disinformation campaigns designed to destabilize the U.S. and interfere with our elections. According to a recent New York Times article, there is ample evidence of Russia attempting to push American voters away from Joe Biden and toward Donald Trump via the Kremlin-backed Internet Research Agency, which has created a network of fake user accounts and a website that billed itself as a "global news organization."

The problem isn't just that such disinformation campaigns exist. It's that they get picked up and shared by real people who don't know they're spreading propaganda from Russian state actors. And it's not just pro-Trump content that comes from these accounts. Some fake accounts push far-left propaganda and disinformation in order to skew perceptions of Biden. Sometimes they even share uplifting content to draw people in, while peppering their feeds with fake news or political propaganda.

Most of us read comments and responses on social media, and many of us engage in discussions as well. But how do we know if what we're reading or who we're engaging with is legitimate? It's become vogue to call people who seem to be pushing a certain agenda a "bot," and sometimes that's accurate. What about the accounts that have a real person behind them—a real person who is being paid to publish and push misinformation, conspiracy theories, or far-left or far-right content?

Keep Reading Show less