A 27-member group representing all 11 men’s and women’s NCAA Division I hockey conferences chose Black History Month to roll out a new initiative titled College Hockey for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.
WCHA Women’s Commissioner Jennifer Flowers chairs the committee and helped organize meetings and discussions last summer. One of the most vocal student athletes in the group is the deputy captain of the Bemidji State woman Tina Kampa, a native of Colombia. Earlier this month, Tina spoke to Bemidji broadcaster Kelly Schultz about the mission of the new initiative.
SCHULTZ: How did you get involved?
Kampa: I was talking to Jen [WCHA commissioner Flowers] at one of our leading WCHA meetings and we talked about many of the events and events that happened this summer, and when it came to social justice, that’s just something I’ve been passionate about for a long time. So she asked me to be part of this group. We weren’t quite sure what it would be as a whole, but we had some goals, and I said why not?
Take us back to when you grew up in Minnesota and were born in Colombia.
I was adopted as a baby, so I don’t really remember much about that. I’ve always known Maple Grove and Minnesota and that’s where I’ve spent all my childhood. I grew up in a white community and a white family, so I had a lot of opportunities that way. My dad was the hockey man in the family, he was the one who introduced me to the game.
I started figure skating, didn’t like it that much, eventually got into hockey skating and never wanted to leave the ice. Ultimately, I loved hockey, put a lot of effort into it and had many great opportunities to be successful and work my way up.
What do you hope to achieve with this initiative?
I hope it achieves a lot. It’s not going to happen overnight and we recognize that, but I think a few things are clearly the diversity aspect of hockey, it’s a predominantly white sport. We just want to provide a lot of help to different communities and areas and states and countries and things that might not know what hockey is, or that don’t have much access to the game or just want to learn more. That is something that I am passionate about because I am a non-white hockey player.
But also equity. It doesn’t matter who you are, your background, where you’re from, who you love, what you identify, it should be a game for everyone. It shouldn’t matter, all of those things, we have to be inclusive to all people, and those are just a few areas that we’ve touched on, and we want to keep improving.
I think this group of leaders is 100% in the right direction on the initiative, and I am very excited.
What can the rest of us do on the hockey side?
As a hockey community, mostly white, especially at Bemidji, I am the only person of color in the locker room, in the arena. I think the most important thing that allies and people who are not people of color can do is to understand that they have a chance. If they want to see positive change, if they want hockey to be a better sport, it’s up to them.
It will educate itself, it will have those awkward conversations, it will admit that they may not know much, or may be afraid to say the wrong thing. But that’s okay, you have to start somewhere. What I’ve learned this year by speaking up, and perhaps going against the grain with advocacy, has been difficult because I often feel alone. That does not mean that I am not supported. I think people who have privileges and have this platform, as a women’s hockey player at the Division I level, can do a lot.
It starts with teaching, it starts with listening, it starts with advocating and using our privilege and speaking out. Don’t let racism and discrimination just happen. Not only does it happen in the game of hockey, but it happens everywhere. The more we can educate ourselves and listen and speak about the things that apply to us, that will not only make the hockey world a better place, but it will also make the world a better place.
People may say that they want to support, and that they listen and they care, but if you say one thing and you don’t do the other, are you really creating positive change? It will take a lot of work, a lot of persistence. It’s just compassion and love and empathy, people try to understand. At the end of the day, if that was you or someone you loved, would you want those things to happen to those people? And if not, what are you going to do about it? To be privileged, frankly, is the best opportunity you can get.
I have learned that I have privilege in myself. I’m trying to do what I can with my platform here. It’s not an easy path, but positive change won’t happen if those with privileges don’t care enough to do something about it.
Tim Rappleye is the author of two books: Jack Parker’s Wiseguys and Hobey Baker, on closer examinationYou can find him on Twitter
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