Serena Williams made her first official on-court appearance since winning the Australian Open in January.
Williams joined her sister Venus to host their “A Family Affair” event at the Southeast Tennis and Learning Center (SETLC) in Washington, D.C to "Speak Out To End Community Violence."
“We have a long history here. I spent a lot of time at this center. Just even out here on the courts with the kids. I’m in town, drop in and we’d just have a blast and to be apart of something like this is bigger than what we could ever do on the court,” Venus shared.
“We’re just really honored to always come back and be supportive in the community, for the community as much as we can,” Serena added.
During the opening address, Washington D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser commended the sisters for their contributions in improving the Black community.
Tennis, fashion, empowerment and community discussions dominated the event, which partners with the Williams Sister Fund – springboard for the California-based Yetunde Price Resource Center which honors the pair's late sister. Price, the oldest sister of the Williamses, who was a victim of a drive-by shooting on Sept. 14, 2003, in Compton, California.
“Creative therapy is extremely important because it’s a way to express yourself, and to get whether its anger or frustration or emotion out. Even though I play tennis I still have this creative outlet on the course or in design to kind of put myself out there or just get all these emotions out on the court,” Serena added.
“And there’s a lot of times where people are in the communities and they don’t have a place or an area or somewhere they can go to put that energy – to get some of that negative energy out and be creative.”
“It’s been a wonderful experience to be a part of the Yetunde Price Resource Center... to be a part of the Southeast Tennis and Learning Center and multiple other things that I’ve been involved in. For me, to be able to give my time is a great honor and then I think the best part is when people see you doing something they want to be a part of it," Venus expressed.
“So just by doing something positive with your life... you motivate others and then those others actually motivate you to do better. So it becomes this circle of positivity, and that’s what I love about it.”
The center was created to offer support for victims of community-based violence, as well as their family members, through case management, education and art therapy.
“Well, violence has affected our lives personally — we lost our sister, she was the oldest — to violence. But I think what people don’t realize is how violence really affects not only your family but your friends, your... neighbors, everyone,” an emotional Serena trailed off.
“Maybe I can help her continue... also violence not only affects the victims’ family but, also the family of the perpetrator. It ruins their lives as well. If you’re a mother or father, it’s not your plan to have your child commit this. It ruins lives. I think one of the hardest days of all of our lives was having to tell our sister’s children what happened to their mom. You can’t prepare for that,” Venus interjected.
ESPN SportsCenter's Jemele Hill served as the master of ceremony for the event's panel discussion.
The Williams sisters aim to bring awareness to the violence which has impacted their family over the years.
“I remember one afternoon there was a drive-by and we hit the ground. A guy got off the sunroof and started shooting, and we went back to practice. And our dad didn’t want us to keep secrets in our family, so he didn’t tell us not to tell our mom, and so, of course, we went home and we were so young and we didn’t understand the gravity of it all, thank God. My mom was just so upset. So upset. But, you know, unfortunately sometimes as a young person, you can get used to that. And no one should have to get used to that,” Venus said in reflection.
“And hopefully we’re able to step by step do things to change that in the community. And the times that we cannot change it, what we want to do is to remember the person [who] has passed. And that’s what’s so beautiful about the Yetunde Price Resource Center. We couldn’t have prepared for this, but now there is something beautiful coming out of it.”
Former First Lady Michelle Obama sent a congratulatory video to the Williams sisters.
Venus' EleVen by Venus line staged a fashion show featuring young models.
The duo inevitably took to the courts to hit with some of the youth from the center.