Oakland’s direct line to Santa

This weekend, AAMLO (the African American Museum and Library of Oakland) has a direct line to Santa. On December 16th, they’ll be giving out gifts through their annual toy drive, and local kids (mostly from West Oakland) can talk to the big guy up North about their Christmas wishes. All month, the Oaklandish store is taking donations to support a very East Bay version of holiday cheer. Just give whatever you can afford, and you’ll get a little wooden ornament to decorate — either take it home, or put it on the hometown Christmas tree.

This year’s give-away day is Sunday, December 16 from 2-6:00pm. AAMLO is open Tuesday-Saturday 12-5:30pm.

AAMLO is a unique combination of a library and historical society, with archives that include everything from taped oral histories to original Black Panther pamphlets. We talked to their director, Rick Moss, about their direct phone line to Santa.

This year’s give-away day is Sunday, December 16 from 2-6:00pm. AAMLO is open Tuesday-Saturday 12-5:30pm.

There are lots of toy drives going on this month — what makes the AAMLO drive different and special?

I guess what makes AAMLO’s toy drive different and special is that our drive, while not limited to folks who live in west Oakland, tends to draw from this area. They are mostly are our patrons, their friends, and families who have attended our programs and exhibitions throughout the year. We collect toys for boys and girls aged 2-16.

When kids pick up their toys, they can make a phone call to Santa. Why did you choose the phone-call option instead of, say, having someone dress up?

We chose the phone call to Santa rather than have him in person because we did not want to impose our belief in who or what Santa should represent in the mind of a child. When they talk to Santa, he is whomever they imagine him to be.

What kinds of questions do the kids usually want to ask Santa?

I haven’t monitored the calls, so I am not the best person to ask his question. However, I have observed the sheer delight on their faces when they actually talk with him!

You talk about AAMLO as being more than just a library. What sort of role do you think it plays in the community?

AAMLO is more than a library and museum. While it is not a community center in the strictest definition of what community centers are, it is an inviting space where everyone is welcome. So in that sense it is the center of the community.

What do you wish more people knew about your work and mission?

I just wish that more people knew that we have been right here doing good things, representing the best that Oakland has to offer since 2002.