serena williams

PREACH: SERENA WILLIAMS EDITION

“I’m looking forward to stepping out on center court and letting the whole world know it doesn’t matter what you face–something that wasn’t right, something that hurt you or hurt your family. You can just come out and be strong and say ‘I’m still going to be here, I’m still going to survive, I’m still going to be the best person I can be.’

In order to forgive, you have to be able to really let go of everything. I kind of let go a long time ago and I kind of forgave, but I still wasn’t at a point where I was ready to come back to Indian Wells. I think I was a little nervous as well … so trying to get over those nerves of coming back and how I would feel. …  I think when you do forgive and do let go, you have to let a lot of those emotions go.

 For every accomplishment, you’re always going to have fans and, well, for lack of a better word, not as big of a fan. But I think it’s really important to accept you for who you are for yourself, because not everyone is going to accept you and if you go through your life wanting everyone to accept you, that can cause a whole other set of issues.” —Serena Williams discussing her return to Indian Wells Tennis Tournament after a 14-year boycott. 

A little background: When Serena was just 19 years old, she and her sister Venus played the tournamenttheir first professional tournament in their careers.

Crowds booed sister Venus Williams and their father, Richard Williams, as they made their way to their seats to watch the game. What’s more, they booed Serena for hours as she played the finale match. (Watch the match get a sense of how awfully the crowd behaved.) Even as the target of such vitriol, Serena won the match and title.

After, Mr. Williams told USA Today that he felt the treatment was racially charged, and Charlie Pasarell, the tournament director at the time, agreed. “One guy said, ‘I wish it was ’75, we’d skin you alive,'” Mr. Williams said. “I had trouble holding back tears. I think Indian Wells disgraced America.”

“The under-current of racism was painful, confusing and unfair,” Serena said. “In a game I loved with all my heart, at one of my most cherished tournaments, I suddenly felt unwelcome, alone and afraid.”

On her decision to return to the tourney this year, in February, Serena told Time.com:

“It has been difficult for me to forget spending hours crying in the Indian Wells locker room after winning in 2001, driving back to Los Angeles feeling as if I had lost the biggest game ever — not a mere tennis game but a bigger fight for equality,” Serena Williams told Time.com in February. “Emotionally it seemed easier to stay away.

“There are some who say I should never go back. There are others who say I should’ve returned years ago. I understand both perspectives very well and wrestled with them for a long time.

“I’m just following my heart on this one.”

Serena won her first match in the tourney yesterday, saying, “I feel like I’ve already won this tournament. I don’t feel like I have to actually hold the trophy up to win this … I’ve never felt that way before. I feel like just being here is a huge win not only for me but for so many people.”

Even more impressively, Serena has used the event as a platform to not only make a statement about equality, but to raise funds for others who are unfairly treated.

“I’d like my return to Indian Wells to positively impact the lives of countless others,” she said in a video released last month. See below for her message and the announcement of a contest, the funds of which will benefit the Equal Justice Initiative:

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