In case you missed it, July 31st marked Black Women’s Equal Pay Day. The date marks the number of days into 2017 a black woman must work to earn same pay a white man made in 2016.
“Growing up, I was told I couldn’t accomplish my dreams because I was a woman and, more so, because of the color of my skin. In every stage of my life, I’ve had to learn to stand up for myself and speak out. I have been treated unfairly, I’ve been disrespected by my male colleagues and—in the most painful times—I’ve been the subject of racist remarks on and off the tennis court. Luckily, I am blessed with an inner drive and a support system of family and friends that encourage me to move forward. But these injustices still hurt.”
“I am in the rare position to be financially successful beyond my imagination. I had talent, I worked like crazy and I was lucky enough to break through. But today isn’t about me. It’s about the other 24 million black women in America. If I never picked up a tennis racket, I would be one of them; that is never lost on me.”
In her letter, Serena also highlights that the first step towards enacting change is recognizing that this issue exists. In a poll she conducted using SurveyMonkey, she found that many who were surveyed did not recognize that black women faced additional hurdles in the work place, more so than white women. Diminishing the obstacles black women face makes overcoming them more challenging.
But Serena isn’t losing hope and has a powerful message for black women everywhere.
“Black women: Be fearless. Speak out for equal pay. Every time you do, you’re making it a little easier for a woman behind you. Most of all, know that you’re worth it. It can take a long time to realize that. It took me a long time to realize it. But we are all worth it. I’ve long said, ‘You have to believe in yourself when no one else does.'”
(You can read the full letter here.)
Celebs like Tracee Ellis Ross, Yara Shahidi, and Laverne Cox also spoke up and took to social media to bring awareness for this issue that is often swept under the rug. Check out a few of their messages below.
— Tracee Ellis Ross (@TraceeEllisRoss) July 31, 2017
— Yara shahidi (@YaraShahidi) July 31, 2017
— Laverne Cox (@Lavernecox) July 31, 2017