by Donna McCollum
"Merry Christmas! Merry Christmas to you," said Dorothy Warren, as she greeted children wanting to see her huge Christmas collection. Warren explained, "It started with black Santas and black dolls because, when I was a child, I never saw black dolls or black Santas.
Warren promised herself to someday have a black Santa. Since her retirement from teaching high school government in 1996, she's collected too many to count. "Some are gifts from relatives and friends, and some I select myself."
The collection has grown to black angels, nutcrackers, and everything else with a Christmas theme. You'll find snowmen, gingerbread men, Christmas around the world traditions, and even her mother's sequined Christmas apron and table cloth. In December, Dorothy pulls the collection out of storage and displays it at the Zion Hill Baptist Church for one week. "Pulling them out of the boxes is fun. Putting them back is work," said Warren. Her husband is generous with his time, toting boxes from their home to the church.
Warren has other collectibles she displays at the church. There's a wedding collection, plus seasonal displays for Thanksgiving, Black History month, and Easter. They, too, feature black imagery.
The Christmas collection is everybody's favorite. Warren doesn't have a favorite, but she points to the ones that please the visitors. "Dancing Santas. They all dance. This is the favorite, a rapping Santa." But Santa's musical taste is wide ranging. You'll find a country Santa, a Mexican Santa, even an Elvis Santa. They're all black.
"Now all these are going to move," said Warren to the group of pre-schoolers. They watched and danced along. At first, Warren had a difficult time finding the ethnic designs. She's pleased they're easier to find than when she was a child. "Since I included the school kids coming in, I tried to kinda increase and put other cultures within the collection," said Warren.
Warren believes the best thing is choice. Also important is the true meaning of Christmas. Every tour begins with black-themed nativity scenes, "...because I think this is the real, true meaning of Christmas, the birth of Christ."
Warren's childhood Christmas wish now thrills others. And the best part is when visitors hear a life-sized mechanical Santa say, "Ho, ho, ho. Merry Christmas, everybody," they don't even notice his dark complexion.