Coco Gauff: “We need to not be silent”
On Wednesday evening, 16-year-old Coco Gauff spoke out at a Black Lives Matter protest in her home city of Delray Beach, beginning by telling the crowds that, “I think it’s sad that I’m here protesting the same thing that [my grandmother] did 50-plus years ago.”
Gauff, who achieved mainstream attention and acclaim last summer by beating Venus Williams in the opening round at Wimbledon and going on to reach the fourth round, then aged just 15, has developed a reputation as someone with great poise both on and off the court. The young American, who is still two years away from being able to vote, told those listening, “it’s in your hands to vote for my future, for my brothers’ future, and for your future.”
Hundreds of people attended the peaceful protest, which began outside the City Hall where Gauff made her speech. Her words were lauded by many, including a number of other big names from the tennis. Amongst them, Billie Jean King, who is perhaps just as well known for her outspokenness the necessity of achieving equality as she is for her numerous on-court successes.
Thank you, @CocoGauff, for using your platform to speak to both the young and the not so young about injustice.
— Billie Jean King (@BillieJeanKing) June 4, 2020
Gauff followed up her fourth round Wimbledon exit last year with a run to the third round at the US Open, where she fell in a memorable encounter with Naomi Osaka. She then when her maiden singles title in Linz (d. Ostapenko) and had another fourth round run at this year’s Australian Open. She is currently ranked #52.
Her speech in full: “I think it’s sad that I’m here protesting the same thing that [my grandmother] did 50-plus years ago. So, I’m here to tell you guys this: that we must first love each other no matter what. We must have these tough conversations with [our] friends. I’ve spent all week having tough conversations trying to educate my non-black friends on how they can help the movement.
“Second, we need to take action, and yes, we’re all here protesting, and I’m not of age to vote but it’s in your hands to vote for my future, for my brothers’ future, and for your future. So, that’s one way to make change.
“Third, you need to use your voice. No matter how big or small your platform is you need to use your voice. I saw a Dr King quote that said, “The silence of the good people is worse than the brutality of the bad people.” So, we need to not be silent because if you are choosing silence you are choosing the side of the oppressor.
“I heard many things this past week and one of those things is, “well, it’s not my problem.” So, this is why I have to tell you this: if you listen to black music, if you like black culture, if you have black friends, then this is your fight too. It’s not your job, it’s not your duty to open your mouth, to say, “Lil Uzi Vert’s my favourite artist but I don’t care what happened to George Floyd.” Now how does that make sense?
“So, I demand change now, and I’m sad it takes another black man’s life to be lost for all of this to happen, but we have to understand this has been going on for years; this is not just about George Floyd. This is about Trayvon Martin, this is about Eric Garner, this is about Breonna Taylor, this is about stuff that has happened… I was 8 years old when Trayvon Martin was killed so why am I here at 16 still demanding change? And it breaks my heart because I’m fighting for the future of my brothers, I’m fighting for the future of my future kids, I’m fighting for the future of my future grandchildren.
“So, we must change now and I promise to always use my platform for the spread of vital information.”
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