If we’ve learned anything from Venus Williams since she first stepped on the court at the young age of 14, it’s that she’s completely and utterly fearless. After 26 years of being a professional tennis player, you’d think her greatest career accomplishments would be that she’s won 49 WTA singles titles and 22 doubles, and seven grand slams. But actually, the tennis superstar says her greatest victory is when she got women equal prize money at Wimbledon.
In the mid-2000s she helped to convince the governing bodies of Wimbledon and the French Open to award men and women equal prize money. “That was something we had been working on since the 1960s,” Williams told People. “It was long overdue.” Fighting for human rights and against injustices is something the Olympic gold medal winner has been doing for years — and she’s still using her power to speak up. “Just as sexism is not only a ‘women’s issue,’” she wrote on Instagram, “racism is not only a ‘black issue.’”
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I am deeply saddened that it has taken multiple acts of police brutality to make people painfully aware of the racism that still pervades America. It shouldn’t. This just scratches the surface of the hideous face of racism in America. Take a moment to imagine this: If police brutality can exist and be tolerated so many years at this scale, imagine the other insidious acts of racism that permeate our country: In the workplace. In the justice system. In the healthcare system. In the education system. … Speaking up about racism in the past was unpopular. It was shunned. No one believed you. Until you have walked in these shoes, as an African American, it is impossible to understand the challenges you face in the country, in this world. What it is like to be unheard, thought of foolish, silly or reckless to believe that racism still exists at every level. This is no longer falling on deaf ears. I’m amazed at the solidarity that has erupted across the USA. It has brought me to tears. In the past, I had the honor of fighting for equal prize money for all women’s players at the grand slams in tennis. To make this even more simple to understand, just as sexism is not only a "women's issue," racism is not only a "black issue." When we fought for and won equal prize money, everyone pitched in, men and women, all colors all races. And we won. When the majority groups stay quiet, when they sit in the chair of disbelief, they unwittingly condone the oppression of marginalized groups. Those with power and privilege actually have an easier time getting heard. They must CONTINUALLY exercise that privilege! We MUST win! We cannot let systematic racism persist. We have to love one another. Help one another. Listen to one another, believe one another, even if we don’t understand or will never walk in our neighbor’s shoes. Keep speaking out. Speak out today, tomorrow, next month, next year, each and every day until all is equal for African Americans. I am so happy, so relieved, as an African American, to finally be heard. I pray for those who have lost their lives and for their families so America could finally wake up and act. #blacklivesmatter
She goes on to say that we need to hire and cast people of color and create opportunities for Black youth before they enter adulthood. “It’s important for me to help give minorities, disadvantaged youth and Black children the opportunity to play sports and have an education—just as I was given those opportunities. In turn, that gives them the opportunity to be excellent.”
Williams has her mom to thank for pushing her to receive an education and explore her talents. “Her support and encouragement is what led me to realize my love for fashion and design and to get degrees in those fields,” she says. Not everyone has a supporter in their life cheering them on from the sidelines like Williams’ mom, but they can look to Williams as a role model who has faith in women to reach their highest potential.
Like Venus Williams, Beyoncé, Meghan Markle, and more Stars are fighting to change HERstory and fight for equal pay.