By Rayjaun Stelly, The Seattle Medium
You may not know her name or her face, but if you’ve watched, listened to, or attended any Seattle Kraken games you will recognize the voice of Emmy award winning, storytelling voiceover artist Sharon Nyree Williams.
The founder of ‘The Mahogany Project’, a theatre arts collaborative that focuses on allowing Black artists an opportunity to share their voice, Williams’s heart-stirring voice can be heard during game day tributes honoring the Kraken Unity Fund Heroes of the Deep, which honors unsung heroes in the community and presents them with a $32,000 check made out to a non-profit organization of their choosing. To date, Williams has produced 14 videos highlighting people like Julia Colson, Paul Lambros, Sue Bird, and Dom Davis, and will produce a total of 41 videos by the end of the season.
Originally from Fayetteville, North Carolina, Williams, the Executive Director of the Central District Forum for Arts and Ideas, has been writing and developing stories since her arrival in Seattle 16 years ago. Growing up particularly shy but always laughing, listening, and observant to her surroundings, Williams developed her art for storytelling, including stories about her own life, which were both unique and captivating at a young age. Sharing her truth about family, religion, depression, and being Black in America with the hope that it’ll reach at least one person who can relate to these experiences.
“I’ve always had a knack for speaking and that’s thanks to my family having me up in front our church speaking,” said William about her passion for storytelling.
Williams, who has a Bachelor of Arts in Television Production and Masters of Business Administration degrees from Delaware State University along with a Masters of Fine Arts in Arts Leadership degree from Seattle University, has carved out a marvelous career, as she has performed throughout the United States and Rwanda. In addition to having three poetry storytelling albums to her credit — Humanity, The Consciousness of Love, and SHOOK — she also has her own podcast.
Establishing herself as a prominent storytelling in Seattle, Williams caught the attention of Mari Horita, the Senior VP of Social Impact and Government relations for the Seattle Kraken. At the time, leading up to the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft, the Kraken were looking for someone to do a video to mark and intro the occasion, and it was Horita who recommended that Williams audition for the role and she did.
The Kraken social media team took a liking to Williams’ work and selected her video to open the telecast of the expansion draft on the NHL Network and other television outlets carrying the feed. In addition to reaching over one million people on television, the video had over 100,000 views on social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. For her efforts, Williams won an Emmy Award.
However, despite what she was able to accomplish with the video the Kraken did not hire Williams for the ongoing role for their inaugural season in 2021. Instead, they chose to go with someone who had more experience. But Williams didn’t let this discourage her, she continued to do her own independent work, and built a good relationship with the Kraken staff, who brought her on board for the current 2022-23 hockey season.
It’s known that African Americans are not well-represent in the sport of hockey, and using her voice Williams has impacted the sport in more ways than one, especially when it comes to the youth.
“I knew I was impacting the youth positively when I was interviewed by Erica Ayala, a young Black lady who loves hockey,” said Williams. “She heard my voice during a Kraken pre-season game and told me it gave her chills throughout her body.”
“[She] let me know she couldn’t focus on the game because someone like her was on the microphone calling a hockey game,” added Williams. “It’s so valuable in a sport like hockey where we’re not represented much, and the Kraken do a good job of putting us [people of color] in position to do that.”
While she may not have dreamed of being a voice for a professional hocky team growing up, Williams is using her platform and her voice too show others coming behind her that you never know where your talents may lead you.
“Sharon is an illuminator,” says Steve Galatro, Executive Director of the Pratt Fine Arts Center. “She is willing to expose her whole heart, all of its beauty and all of its imperfections if there’s a chance that it might transform us. Through her deeply personal writings, she dares us all to claim the sky and inspires us to try.”