Athletes are sometimes criticized for not using their power to change public policy, but there are few that have more prominent a platform than the outstanding Olympian Allyson Felix.
For most of her athletic career, Felix has been considered the best female sprinter of her generation. She has also demonstrated an admirable work ethic and an incredible desire to see positive change.
Last summer, Felix spoke out publicly about the Black Lives Matter movement and its proponents, and became involved in the Resurgence Project. This is a new movement that exists on the other side of the Black Lives Matter movement, and focuses on the disproportionate impact on black people of certain police tactics.
“I’m a millennial and I’m helping lead this movement,” Felix told Sports Illustrated for its story about the Resurgence Project.
Black Lives Matter has become an inspiration for Felix. She told SI for its recent issue on the movement that she’s seen positive change emerge by a combination of words and actions, and had for some time been making a point to support and speak up for black athletes in a variety of ways.
And the violence of unarmed Black and Latino men’s lives under the Black Lives Matter movement is one reason why Felix has been politically active during her career.
“I have a lot of friends who have been affected by police brutality. We saw what happened with Freddie Gray, who died in Baltimore after having been chased down and put in the back of a police van,” Felix told SI. “I have two close family friends who have been victims of police brutality. They have struggled to make sense of what happened to them, and so do I. That was just the beginning of what I think these issues can be. What’s happening now is so much more understated and it’s so much more visible. I think that’s the start of this larger issue of racial inequality. We need to end this subconscious bias. And I can’t just stay silent.”
Her advocacy not only leads to positive things, it shows that a promising young athlete’s impact can come not just through greatness but through giving back.
After a whirlwind tour around the country, Felix, who will compete this summer in her seventh Olympics, is now back home and focusing on her training. She has been training in Houston. She will compete in the 200-meter this summer in Rio and will run in the 4×100 relay. It will be her third Olympics in that event, and she’s hoping to be able to qualify for the 4×400 relay team as well.
She spoke with FOXNews.com’s Doug McKelway about her life and about the emergence of the Resurgence Project.
DOUG MCKELWAY: What led you to get involved with the Resurgence Project?
ALLEN MERKEL: I’ve been able to play a role in speaking up and fighting for injustices. It’s always been there and been moving forward, but it’s been very subtle. But seeing what is happening with the violence with the black lives, things that have happened in Dallas, Freddie Gray’s case – and just breaking open those walls of silence that people say are keeping people on the sidelines – that’s really what drove me to do what I have done, to get involved.
MCKELWAY: Now this is what you have been doing, people like T.I. are not out here saying that they are going to start Black Lives Matter chapters, but they are out there doing what they can.
MERKEL: It’s so true. I really feel it is a movement that needs to be unified, that all these movements need to be unified. These movements are diverse, there is a movement for different reasons. But I think we are trying to start a movement where the same thing could happen on a global scale. When people get together and they understand, they can come together and help one another – it makes sense, because it’s helping our own cause. And that’s the goal.