By Ana Martinez-Ortiz
Expect the unexpected is the phrase, but when the holiday season comes to town nothing is more expected than an annual sighting of dear old Santa Claus. This is the time of year where Santa is there with a smile on his face sporting his iconic suit of red with white trim.
Due to schedule demands, no singular person plays Santa, instead, each year volunteers don the hat and appear around the city of Milwaukee, much to the delight of the children and amusement of the parents.
Robert Boyd Jr. has been dressing up as Santa for the past five years and according to him, he’s one of the few African-American Santa’s around the city.
Boyd’s first appearance as Santa was as a favor for his mother who asked him to wear the suit for an event at a retirement home. His appearances thereafter as the man in red spiraled from there.
After that singular event, Boyd found himself being approached by people and places all over the city asking him to come to their events.
“It’s all word of mouth,” he said.
Soon, places like the Salvation Army and District Seven’s Milwaukee Police Department scheduled visits for Santa, Mrs. Clause and their three elves portrayed by Boyd’s wife Sarhena and three children, Gina, RaQuell and Robert III.
His popularity inspired him to not only continue wearing the red suit but to create Clause for Cause.
In 2014, under Boyd’s company, Boyd Production, Clause for Cause was established as a ministry based mission designed to bring joy and happiness to children all over Milwaukee, but especially underprivileged ones. It’s a way to give back to the community.
As a youth mentor, Boyd often mentors children in the inner city, and he uses his role as Santa to reach the kids and hopefully impart a positive influence on them.
“You got to go to them,” he said. “Ask them questions and see if you can help them with anything.”
It’s especially important to Boyd that each child experiences a few minutes of love and compassion. Personally, Boyd feels that out of all the children who visit him, maybe 90% feel loved. That other 10% are the ones whose spirits are broken and maybe need a little more love and attention.
Boyd recalled meeting several young boys who not only expressed disbelief but were quick to shut him down. Undeterred, Boyd continued to show them that someone cared. Over the weekend, he saw them several more times at various events, and each reunion the boys were not only excited to see him but greeted him with a hug.
Sometimes when talking with children, Boyd is met with astonishment that Santa is black.
“I tell them, Santa is magical, he can be any color you want him to be,” Boyd said.
Instead of just asking each child what they want for Christmas, Boyd takes a few minutes to check in on them. He’ll ask them their name, where they go to school and how their grades are looking. He’s learned not to ask them their desired career since most kids aspire to be an athlete.
He does occasionally make an exception. While at MPD District Seven’s Christmas Community Celebration which honors homicide victims and their families, Boyd encountered a young man.
“Something in my heart told me to ask this young man,” Boyd recalled.
His response left an impact.
“I will never forget that day,” Boyd said.
The little boy had told him he wanted to be a bishop. Boyd was touched by his answer, so he offered the little boy words of encouragement and told him to stay firm on that desire.
Now, that Boyd has made a name for himself he hopes to be considered as Santa for other places around Milwaukee including Grand Avenue Mall, Froedtert’s Children Hospital and MPS. His goal is to show “there’s still love and compassion in the city of Milwaukee.”
More information on Boyd a.k.a. Santa can be discovered at www.boydproduction.org or his social media pages @boydproduction06.