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Olympic Champ Sanya Richards-Ross Is Redefining Motherhood In A Holistic Way

"Being a boss is always about bringing other people along with me; creating space for other people to shine and be great."

BOSS UP

"[A boss is] someone who is creative, innovative, unrelenting in his or her efforts to bring their ideas to life. Being a boss is always about bringing other people along with me; creating space for other people to shine and be great."

A collection plate could, in fact, be passed after that tweetable gem from the Olympic track and field champion, Sanya Richards-Ross. Richards-Ross is bossed up and ready to add to her resume, which already boasts an impressive track and field career (four Olympic gold medals and numerous World Championship medals from 2002 through 2016); a luxury hair extension line; select endorsements; and even producer credit on a docuseries about her life titled "Sanya's Glam & Gold."

Some might wonder what could she possibly want next. The short answer?

The rest of her things.

Transitioning From The Track

Courtesy of Sanya Richards-Ross

Three years after hanging up her track spikes, Sanya's multi-hyphenate boss ambition is clearer than ever. Having recently founded the digital community MommiNation.com and being tapped to co-host a one-of-a-kind Will Packer-produced entertainment news show, Richards-Ross is erecting a brand new empire. And its foundation was firmly laid on the track.

She credits her Jamaican parents' sage wisdom and strong values for much of her drive to be valuable beyond sports. "I remember my parents always telling me to not be one-dimensional. I remember hearing that all through high school when track was my life. My dad would say, 'If you're gonna be acing it on the track you've got to be acing it in the classroom.' And that pushed and challenged me [to know] I can do [multiple] things at once at a high level."

And Sanya rolled that drive into Olympic success, quickly building a reputation as a phenom in the 400m and 4x400. She experienced the glory of a long athletic career but also witnessed the weight that could come with the transition out.

"I saw a lot of my friends go through a stage of depression because you go from being in the limelight, doing something you're very passionate about, to not knowing what's next. It does impact how you feel about yourself. I wanted to make sure when track and field [was] over I [didn't] go through that slump that a lot of athletes go through and I [could] find the next thing and feel valuable beyond sports."

Richards-Ross announced her retirement shortly after sustaining a hamstring injury at the July 2016 Olympic trials. In what others might have found defeat, Richards-Ross found opportunity to reflect, graciously releasing one chapter and writing the next with clarity and precision. A simple yet powerful prayer kept her perspective intact:

"Thank you Lord, for giving me this gift of running and thank You for all it has allowed me to experience. And I am now giving it back to You."

"I get emotional now saying that prayer because it was really tough for me because I did feel like I had one more Olympic cycle in me if I didn't have the foot surgeries and struggle with injuries toward the end of my career. I saw myself being a two-time gold medalist in the 400m. I [felt that I] could go back and win it one more time. It was difficult but I kept saying that prayer until I was really at peace with it. A lot of God's blessings aren't meant to be forever; they're seasonal," she reminisces.

"[After that], I started to prepare myself physically and mentally for what it would mean to walk around in this world not hearing, 'And in lane five is Olympic gold medalist Sanya Richards-Ross!'" she continues with a laugh. "And to be able to feel like I'm still standing on a pedestal humbly because I have so many more skills that I can offer to the world. I started mentally talking myself through how great I can be. I always say, 'Greatness is not fleeting. It lives in me.'"

Making Mommy Moves

Courtesy of Sanya Richards-Ross

Greatness steeped in intentionality. That's the prism through which the 34-year-old mother of one shines brilliantly. Married in 2012 to her college sweetheart, Aaron Ross - a two-time NY Giants cornerback Super Bowl champ (talk about equally yoked!) - Richards-Ross took her time stepping into motherhood. Sanya and Aaron waited seven years after marriage before welcoming little 'Deucey,' their son, into the world.

"Mentally, spiritually, and physically [we] were ready for him," Sanya says firmly. "Bringing another life into the world - I believe it should be intentional. It should be something you really want because it is a hell of a commitment. Being an athlete, it's the opposite, you have to be selfish. It's one of the ingredients of success. Having a child, you have to really be selfless."

"Being an athlete, it's the opposite, you have to be selfish. It's one of the ingredients of success. Having a child, you have to really be selfless."

She found the time beneficial for building a solid marriage foundation and focusing on the practices necessary to raise her family well.

Easing into mommyhood, Sanya looked into the digital space and noticed a void and a two-fold opportunity: to build a platform that celebrates the entirety of motherhood and womanhood and to create a support system as she transitioned from sports into motherhood. So she founded, the digital platform, MommiNation.com.

"I saw that there were some incredible mommy bloggers and blogs but what I saw was missing was a platform that speaks to moms holistically. Don't just talk to me about my little one but talk to me as an entrepreneur, as an author, as a wife, as a partner, as a friend. MommiNation was birthed out of my idea of wanting to create that same community I had in sports in a new arena. My arena has changed but my desire to be on a team and be in community hasn't."

From The Track To The TV

Courtesy of Sanya Richards-Ross

The thread of teamwork runs intricately through her life story from one venture to the next, including her upcoming five-week run as co-host of Central Ave., an urban-centric entertainment news show produced by Will Packer Productions for FOX. Sanya will be hosting alongside Julissa Bermudez, effectively helming the first entertainment news show hosted by two women of color.

"It's kinda blown my mind that it's actually happening. We have a five-week test on December 4th on FOX - similar to Entertainment Tonight/Access Hollywood but with urban sensibility," Richards-Ross says.

The show will dive deeper into nuanced content that matters to urban communities than most entertainment news shows are equipped to go. Created within the social media age, it promises to be a one-of-a-kind experience.

"Our team is really smart and keen on how we want to create a show with this social media energy. [For example] where do we get that real solid report on who Nipsey Hussle was and in-depth stories? John Singleton? They mean a lot to our communities."

Richards-Ross is very clear: She will not be pigeon-holed and delay is not denial.

Her advice for the mothers, athletes, entrepreneurs who are facing life's transitions? Be OK with not seeing the fruits of your labor right away while working hard anyway.

"My whole life I've learned how to work hard, train, believe and be OK with delayed gratification. That's what separates great entrepreneurs from the ones who don't make it. You stick with it when you get injured, when you get a bunch of no's, when no one is cheering for you. That's what makes a great entrepreneur. If you're transitioning from one career to another you have to be OK with delayed gratification. I don't get to get a gold medal with MommiNation.com because I was a gold medalist in track and field. I have to figure out how to start all over again. Be authentic transparent. Be committed to whatever that transition is. Start from ground zero and work your butt off. Greatness is in you."

"That's what separates great entrepreneurs from the ones who don't make it. You stick with it when you get injured, when you get a bunch of no's, when no one is cheering for you. That's what makes a great entrepreneur."

The one word that sums up her life to date:

"'Inspired.' That's the word that is getting me out of bed. I've put in all this work and planted all these seeds and I'm starting to see them blossom. It makes me want to keep going and stand on my own platform."

And we'll be in the stands rooting for her.

To keep up with Sanya, visit www.MommiNation.com and follow her on Instagram.

Featured image courtesy of Sanya Richards-Ross

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
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Featured image by Shutterstock

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