Coco Gauff: “Use your vote, use your voice”

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At 16, Coco Gauff, has already shown enough on the court that she is likely to be a superstar of the tennis world in the coming years. On the evidence of the past few days, the young American's influence could go well beyond tennis.

First, in the wake of the killing of American George Floyd in Minnesota, Coco Gauff led the tennis world in the fight against racism with a series of posts, encouraging others, including Roger Federer, to take a stand.

Then, on Wednesday, the 16-year-old made a speech in Florida in which she said it was imperative that Americans use their votes to create change and that they use their voices to make themselves heard.

“I was talking to my grandmother and I think it’s sad that I’m here protesting the same thing that she did 50-plus years ago,” Gauff said. “So I’m here to tell you guys that we must first love each other no matter what. We must have the tough conversations with our 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.”

Gauff: “We must change now”

At 16, Gauff cannot vote yet in the US but said everyone should exercise their democratic rights in the November elections.

“Yes, we’re all out here protesting, and I’m not of age to vote, and it’s in your hands to vote for my future, my brother’s future and for your future,” Gauff said. “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. (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 listed examples of other injustices suffered by black people, including Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old American who was shot and killed by a white man in 2012; Eric Garner, a man who was choked to death by police in 2014 while being arrested, and Breonna Taylor who was shot and killed by police in her own home.

“This is about stuff that’s been happening. I was eight 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.”

Gauff’s speech drew praise from all quarters, including former world No 1 Kim Clijsters, who said she is an inspiration to her daughter.

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