Saturday’s 2nd annual Black Hockey History night features Kraken warmup jerseys designed by South Seattle artist who envisions bright future for people of color in the sport — by Bob Condor
Like so many sports fans, Alicia Crank watched last Sunday’s Super Bowl at a favorite “watering hole” with friends. The group of 13 was gathered and in place for pre-game festivities, which included a live performance of the Black national anthem, “Lift Every Voice and Sing” by actress Sheryl Lee Ralph.
Tuesday, Crank brought up the watch party and Ralph’s moving performance when asked about how she regards the purpose and need for Black History Month, which is every February as first declared by President Gerald Ford in 1975, nearly 50 years ago.
“It’s interesting we’re having this conversation today,” said Crank, executive director of the Seattle City Club, a nonprofit organization devoted to promoting civic health and discourse. “I think if you had asked me last Friday, my answer would be slightly different.”
“Today I say [Black History Month] is definitely necessary. I was the only Black person in the place Sunday. We’re all watching, some of us are long-time friends. At least seven people out of the 13 of us had no idea what the Black national anthem was, that it existed.”
“I think, coming out of that, clearly, we still need to be doing more around, not just Black history, but all the different histories,” said Crank.
Crank is on the case with Seattle City Club. She was named executive director last July and is the first person of color to lead the nonprofit established in 1980. Her goal with every City Club program and event is to create a safe space to exchange points of view and learn from others through respectful dialogue, covering topics beyond our comfort zones.
“I like uncomfortable conversations or at least starting them because I think once you get through that first step, it becomes less uncomfortable,” said Crank, who has recently started writing a monthly “Alicia’s View” column for the Everett Herald. “One of our more popular programs is called ‘Civic Cocktail.’ We do it eight months a year, finding different topics that affect people regionally and have different voices at the table.”
For Richard Mullen, who operates Richard’s Too Good catering and barbeque sauces/rubs retail business here in Seattle, getting voices to the table is vital to his company’s mission.
“I have a passion for food, a passion for barbeque, a passion for people,” said Mullen this past Monday when he and his wife, Lauren, catered a delicious lunch of smoked spare ribs with plenty of Too Good BBQ sauce, arugula salad with radishes, fennel, and pepitas dressed in a mustard vinaigrette and gluten-free biscuits (can’t tell the difference) for the Kraken team and Iceplex staff in honor of Black History Month. “All of us belong at the table. It is more meaningful when you have a meal with people. Food fosters a legitimate connection. Plus, you get more ‘good stuff’ from people when eating!”
There will be good stuff at Saturday’s Kraken home game against Detroit with a full slate of Black History Night programming, including the Black national anthem performed by the Northwest African American Museum’s ACE choir. As part of the team’s season-long campaign that is part of the NHL’s Hockey is for Everyone initiative, the Kraken will be wearing specially-designed warmup jerseys that will be auctioned off during the game to benefit One Roof Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the Kraken and Climate Pledge Arena.
The Kraken are turning to Ari G for this season’s Black History jersey. Ari G is a “multi-artist” (painter, designer, and musician), who grew up in Skyway and South Seattle. He is based out of Paradice Avenue Souf, a clothing store, and creative agency where he and fellow collaborators offer unique products, build community and host events.
South Seattle intertwines in Ari G’s art and is an indelible place for him, especially as one of the most diverse city neighborhoods in all of the U.S. The diversity carries through his concept for warmup jerseys to be donned Saturday. The colors he selected for lettering and numbering derive from art traditions in Egypt, India, East Asia and Europe.
Fans and players will see and appreciate “the gold of the Sun and the blue of the waters of the Pacific Northwest.” An important note is Ari G sees the design positioned as sunrise over Mt. Rainier to signify “a new day for Seattle sports, a new day for hockey, a new day for Black and Brown hockey players.”
“I took a tour of the [Kraken Community Iceplex] facility,” said Ari G, “I got to see the diversity of people on the ice and kids now coming up, especially Black and Brown kids, with access to an ice rink. That’s something we didn’t have before in Seattle.”
When Ari G was first approached by the Kraken about designing the 2023 Black History Night warmup jersey, he was in Cambodia with fellow artists conducting research for an art collaboration now on exhibit at the city’s Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience that “explores the intersection of Black and Brown communities in Seattle and across the globe, in the present day and through time immemorial.”
Anchors on the shoulders of the jerseys designed by Ari
Ari G and his Paradice Avenue Souf colleagues created a mural along with other new work now on display at Wing Luke, plus a documentary short depicting their travels and connections throughout Africa and Southeast Asia.
“It was a rush of emotions,” recalled Ari G about hearing from the Kraken. “I’m from Seattle and I’m a big Seahawks and Mariners fan. To be able to contribute to a major professional sports team in my city, it’s major. I’m so grateful and already a lot of family and friends are telling me how proud they are.”
Alicia Crank herself will be in Climate Pledge Arena to see Ari honored and featured. She shares a season ticket plan with friends, attending six games plus buying tickets to more when the mood strikes. She said her pals “know to give me the Red Wings tickets” because she grew up in Detroit going to hockey and baseball games because those professional sports were played in downtown venues near where she grew up, rather than the suburban locations for the NBA Pistons and NFL Lions.
Fittingly, Richard Mullen’s Too Good barbeque sauce will be served Saturday night. It’s the house barbeque sauce for sports and entertainment events.
Ari G’s Saturday night looks to be “somewhat surreal or crazy to see those guys skating around in the new jersey,” complete with the opportunity to see his designed jerseys auctioned off for charity, an introduction to the sold-out crowd and even an electric Zamboni ride as part of his game experience.
“I’m just trying to picture it all in my head,” said Ari G, laughing at the thought “I’m gonna try to play it cool so it’s not too overwhelming of an experience.”