16-Year-Old Tennis Star Coco Gauff Delivers Powerful Speech at Protest: ‘We Must Change Now’

Tennis star Coco Gauff delivered a powerful speech Wednesday during a Black Lives Matter protest in her hometown of Delray Beach, Florida.

The 16-year-old athlete spoke in response to the killing of George Floyd, the unarmed black man who died in police custody after one Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for several minutes while three others stood idly by.

"I think it’s sad that I’m here protesting the same thing that [my grandmother] did 50-plus years ago," Gauff began in her speech. "So I'm here to tell you guys this, that we must first love each other no matter what. We must have the tough conversations with friends. I've been spending 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."

Though she is not yet of voting age, Gauff urged others to vote: “It's in your hands to vote for my future, for my brother's future and for your future. So that's one way to make change."

She continued, "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. [Martin Luther] King quote that said, 'The silence of the good people is worse than the brutality of the bad people.' So, you need to not be silent. If you are choosing silence, you're choosing the side of the oppressor."

Gauff, who in 2019 became the youngest player to advance to the round of 16 at Wimbledon since 1991, also shared a message to people who have told her “it’s not my problem” in response to police brutality and racial injustice.

“I’ve heard many things this past week and one of the things I heard is ‘Well it’s not my problem,’” Gauff said. “So this is what I have to tell you: If you listen to black music, if you like black culture, if you have black friends, then this is your fight too.”

She concluded her speech with a call for change and a promise to always use her platform.

"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's been happening,” Gauff said. “I was eight years old when Trayvon Martin was killed. So why am I here at 16 still demanding change?”

“We must change now and I promise to always use my platform to spread vital information, spread awareness and fight racism. Black lives have always mattered — they mattered then, they matter now and they will matter in the future.”

To help combat systemic racism, consider learning from or donating to these organizations:

  • Campaign Zero (joincampaignzero.org) which works to end police brutality in America through research-proven strategies.
  • ColorofChange.org works to make government more responsive to racial disparities.

•National Cares Mentoring Movement (caresmentoring.org) provides social and academic support to help black youth succeed in college and beyond.

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