We know that this past year has been tough on everyone, from dealing with a global pandemic to fighting for individual rights and social justice issues.
With the horrific murder of George Floyd happening a year ago today, it sparked a lot. Pain, anger, and sadness were at the top of the list, but it also was a catalyst for new conversations we never had personally or as an organization.
For us at the San Jose Sharks, it also started the creation of our Teal For Change Council in hopes that we could help drive change not only within our organization but also in our own community
As a group, we recently reflected on the horrific events that occurred last May, then asked ourselves, "how has this past year affected you personally and professionally and what do you hope comes out of this action of change?"
"The passing of George Floyd greatly impacted me. Professionally, it gave me the courage to speak out against injustices within my organization and demand more from my leadership team. Personally, I had to look within and decide to be an active participant for justice and equality for all. No more standing on the sidelines; more learning and taking action whether that is marching in peaceful protests, signing petitions, or donating to organizations on the front line of social justice. No more doing nothing." - Mohamed Fofana, Account Executive, Group Sales
"The year 2020 was challenging for all of us, undoubtedly - but it was particularly difficult for myself, and others, as an African American. Seeing what happened to George Floyd was unsettling, horrific and scary - especially knowing that it could happen, unfortunately, to any of us at any given time. Personally, I struggled. Professionally, I struggled even worse. But I'm fortunate to have an exceptional support system around me in my relatives and friends, and Sharks family.
Though as life often goes, sometimes change comes on the heels of something negative - but with that comes opportunities to do something extraordinary, and that's precisely what the Sharks Teal For Change Council is. While our journey has just begun, I'm extremely grateful to be a part of a group of individuals who are daring to take on something much bigger than ourselves, the Sharks or the game of hockey. My hope is that we continue on this journey far beyond 2020 - dedicating ourselves to the long-term commitment to create a diverse, and welcoming culture for everyone." - Jonathan White, Director, Premium Hospitality
"Personally, this year showed me that we still have a lot of social progress to make as a country. While there have been steps forward, we cannot get complacent and think that means the fight for social progress is over. Too many people still feel unsafe and uncomfortable in our nation and we must rally for them so that they can feel truly safe and free. Professionally, this year showed me that our organization is dedicated to making an impact. Knowing that there are like-minded people in the organization who want to make changes in our sport, workplace, and community is inspiring. I hope that others in our sport understand that they too can make a change, not just in ice hockey but their community, and take the correct steps to help foster those necessary changes." - Nik Breitenstine, Youth Hockey Coordinator
"2020 and now 2021 has been so difficult and shocking. Especially with the murder of George Floyd, showed me that we need to take action to create change. It is sad to say that it took a highly publicized murder to get more people involved, stand up for what they believe in and to finally start talking about race in this country. Professionally this has given not only me but all my colleagues an opportunity to speak up and not stay silent anymore and to know that this organization supports us in this conversation has been eye-opening. Personally, it allowed me to take the power back. Being a part of both the Black and Asian community, these past 14 months have been scary and frustrating, but I know that if I continue to speak up and support to the best of my ability, I am creating change. It might not be a lot, but I know it is the best I can do." - Kristina Goodchild, Account Executive - Client Development
"Two words: being human. This past year taught me that there are ways to re-learn being human. Being human in how we interact with others, how we support others, and how we stand up for one another. I've always considered myself as an ally to others that don't look or think like me. Truthfully, I had not invested the time nor the energy into understanding others' stories and backgrounds. Personally, I've learned that I need to do more, I can do more and will do more. For me, opening the door to engaging in conversations even as difficult as they might be is a start, but it can go beyond that. I'm committed to being human and showing my kids what being human really means." - Vanessa Zuniga, HR Business Partner
"Last year taught me that being aware of my privilege is not enough. I am just as responsible for the systemic racism and the unjust murders as those with blood on their hands if I am not actively tearing down those systems and speaking truth to power. If we are benefiting from racism, we must not only recognize that fact, we must act." - Whitney Hallock, Manager, Brand & Creative Services
"Even before the murder of George Floyd, I was aware that both systemic and overt racism were issues in this country. As a teenager growing up in the Bay Area I remember the outcry in the region after Oscar Grant lost his life. While in college I vividly remember the tragic loss of Michael Brown. Despite my awareness I naively thought that racism and injustice would simply fade away with the progression of time. After George Floyd's murder, I then realized that racism is not something that will recede on its own, it is something that must be actively and intentionally combated in both our personal and professional spaces. I hope the past year has shown people that active allyship is critical in achieving a more perfect union where freedom, justice, and equality are the standard for all." - Nicolas Picerno, Account Executive - Group Sales
"Compassion for one's fellow human being is my hope for change.
We are all trying to do the best that we can and we all have our biases, emotions, bad and good days. We have to seek to understand things that we do not know, especially how other cultures operate. Traditions and biases are passed down based on the history of a culture or group. I have always led with love, but this past year has opened my eyes to see that this is not the norm for most of the population. Fear, anger and overzealousness to be right versus doing the right thing have led the actions of so many to spew the vile words that lead to violent actions to hurt or cause the senseless death of others for the smallest of things.
I am more cautious of what I say, where I go, how I respond to everything. To love others is not a weakness, to love them despite who they are and what they think takes very strong character. Love and compassion is what I hope comes out of this action of change." - Roberta Brown Campbell, Office Manager - Guest Experience
"As it has been for many others, this year has been eye opening and emotional for me. The George Floyd incident is one of many, many situations in which a Black person has been treated unfairly in our country by a white person. Seeing this play out through an 8 minute video made it hard for anyone to deny the existence of racism and need for action and change against situations like this. The experience George Floyd (and his family & friends) had to go through has allowed and encouraged citizens to have open and difficult conversations about race, bias and racism in a truly united desire to address these issues to make this country a safer place for all. Personally, it has inspired me to educate myself on how I can be a better person, ally and friend." - Heather Hooper, Director of Community Relations & The Sharks Foundation
"I have spent the last thirty years of my professional career focused on how to ensure that EVERYONE has access to our great sport of ice hockey and other ice sports, regardless of race, gender identity, or socio-economic status. The intersection of COVID and world events has offered an amazing opportunity to connect more deeply with family, friends and co-workers in a dialogue about diversity, equity and social justice, generally and in our industry. I have been delighted to discover the passion and energy of my peers to bring about change through education, communication and action. At the same time, this year has given me great pause for thought about how steep the road is ahead of us to reach true equality and inclusion. I continue to work to find the balance between my natural impatience to move things forward, and the patience necessary to ensure effective and long-lasting progress is achieved." - Melissa Fitzgerald, GM, Oakland Ice Center Operated by Sharks Ice
"We were all left hurting and angry in many different ways. I wasn't sure what to do, how to help or what to say immediately following George Floyd's murder. I questioned a lot about myself. I grew up in a very diverse community and was always proud of that, but that also made me very aware from an early age that racism has been a problem for a very, very long time. I knew that so many people, including my friends and colleagues, were deeply impacted and I couldn't help but think of all of them in that moment.
It takes more than doing the right thing and being optimistic that we're heading in the right direction. It takes much, much more. I have found myself to be a much more active participant in difficult conversations and situations. To be more thoughtful and understanding in realizing everyone's circumstances are different at any given time. I am no longer accepting the status quo and demand more out of myself and everyone I am surrounded by. We all have to be a part of the change, there is no either-or." - Missy Zielinski, Digital Engagement Program Manager
"Fundamentally. The last year had a fundamental impact on me. The lines have totally blurred between what used to be personal versus professional. On top of that, the pandemic, a polarized culture, and the acknowledgement of deep social justice issues brought major questions about my own life priorities. Am I using my time based on what is important? Am I acting according to what I believe, or what I thought I believed? Am I devoting energy to truly helping people? Am I leading by example for my staff, my friends, and my kids? With those questions, I've tried to be better about listening, reflecting, and doing my best to turn that into action. I hope this past year has compelled more people to do the same and not get caught up in the daily routine or the noise around them. Truly try to understand other perspectives, ask themselves hard questions, take steps on a daily basis to help others, and do what they can to create a culture of inclusion and equality - at home, in their community, and at work." - Doug Bentz, VP - Marketing