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.

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