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Krystal Lara is one of very few Latinas in her class at Stuyvesant High School, and in the pool. She’s backstroking her way toward the Olympics.

From The New York Times:

Her Parents Thought Swimming Lessons Were a Good Idea

Krystal Lara is one of very few Latinas in her class at Stuyvesant High School, and in the pool. She’s backstroking her way toward the Olympics.…

Former Yale swimmer Siphiwe Baleka

Good video about former Yale swimmer Siphiwe Baleka


Can African Americans Swim Well Enough to Save Themselves?

Culturally speaking, most African American men and women do not swim well enough to save themselves, and for those who can swim, most do not participate in organized water sport activities. Why is this? Can the culture of non-swimmers be reversed? How?

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Excellent discussion, Naji. You are most unique. Let me know whenever you plan on coming to the east coast. Ditto if I come west. I would like to chat with you one on one about your experiences. Not too many people venture into your realm of swimming. I want to comment more on your discussion, but I am on my way to my scuba park for a big activity this weekend. I am being inducted into the Loyal Order of the Moose tomorrow night, leaading a comunnity based Discover Scuba on Saturday, and our Polar Bear Plunge is on Sunday. Talk to you soon.
I have finally decided to take on this question. First, let me start by saying that I totally agree with Michele. However, I do not agree with alerting the President about this issue. I think there should be more pressure put on School Superintendents, City Councel members, and other local government officials to make swimming mandatory in our elementary schools.
Here's a pretty good scholarly journal article http://swimfoundation.org/Document.Doc?id=20
You bring up a very good point, Naji. Swimming is life or death. It's so easy to lose this perspective in the face of fear (of the water, the unknown and what-not), but not knowing how to swim can actually kill you! It's high time we raise our swimming literacy, so to speak. Keep up the good work!
You all have inspired me to write about this topic again: http://imswimming.net/2010/01/29/not-knowing-how-to-swim-can-kill-you/
Boy Earl I'm jealous! I'd love to do the plunge. Right now the water here is still 51F. I was in for a short swim of 30 minutes this morning (usually in for 45 to an hour in the winter). I might try a fresh water swim at 48F next month which would be about 43F in salt water, hmmm it'll feel good :) Yes I know I'm crazy but I love the water!!!!

Congratulations on being inducted to the Loyal Order of the Moose and I hope your SCUBA group went well! Feel free and contact me when you wish to talk further.

Thanks, Robeson, I heard about this survey but never had a chance to view it until now. Keep your comments coming, the focus on swimming and participation will ultimately reveal truth.
I agree, we do not need to get President Obama involved at this level. You simply know that any Brother who can launch a successful campaign to become elected as the President of the Untied States knows how to swim. We saw him swimming in the ocean in Hawaii and Martha's Vineyard, didn't we? But maybe, just maybe, there are some things that President Obama can do to help the crisis of Black folks not knowing how to swim, by using his influence in some manner. Let's see what develops, and maybe you, too, know the answer. Keep on being the role model that you are, and stike a blow for swimming empowerment..
Unfortunately, we had to postpone the PADI Discover Scuba and the Polar Bear Plunge last weekend. A snowstorm struck our area (you may have heard about it on the news), it crippled all of Virginia and parts of North Carolina, so we postponed both events to the end of February, as we did not want to put anyone in harm's way. The water temperature at Lake Rawlings is a balmy 46F, perhaps just right for you right now, Naji . . . just kidding! I like a man who is passionate about what he does. I am passionate about recreational scuba diving; so if you know anyone who enjoys the sport more than me, let me meet that man (or woman).
I have been away from DAP for a few days, so I am just checking in to see what is happening. And thanks for using my Dad's quote in your blog, I saw it. Try this, Angela. You question if the culture of the African-American as it relates to swimming can be reversed. Well, maybe, but it will take comittment beyond what I have seen so far. Michelle believes it is everyone's personal responsibility to learn to swim, to include parents who are interested in their children being well-rounded and skilled to deal with life & death issues. Naji believes that swimming is for life or death, and personal enjoyment as well. You and I believe that competition swim training is the way to go to develop the kind of skills a person needs to deal with the water. Robeson believes that local government must take a more active role in this process. We can all agree to all of these things, it is a no-brainer. And all of this goes back to my original question: "Can African-Americans Swim Well Enough to Save Themselves?"

I am going to put something else "out there" for consideration. No question, African-Americans will fare much better in the water when access becomes fully available. I am not talking about the physical access, because it's here, right now. All you have to do is find the nearest swimming pool to your house, and hopefully it is close enough for you to go swimming. No, the access that I am talking about is the mind-set that still exists in blocking access to swimming self-empowerment and fulfillment. Some people (who shall remain nameless) are arguing right now that public swimming pools have been open to everyone for 50 years. Well, maybe in Massachusetts, but not in the deep south. I grew up in the South (New Orleans), and I know that is not true. In 1960, virtually every public swimming pool east of the Mississippi River and south of the Ohio River was closed, shut down for no one to swim, because the Dixiecrats knew that the Civil Rights Act was going to pass, so the politicians closed down the swimming pools. Mayor Maynard Jackson campaigned vigorously for public access to swimming pools as a promise on the campaign trail for his election in Atlanta. It finally happened in 1975 or 1976, and Atlanta was the first southern city to open public pools for swimming, as far as I know. New Orleans opened its public pools for the first time in the late 70's or early 80's, after Dutch Morial became mayor. If anyone out there knows something different, put it on the table and let's examine it. Most of the deep south shied away from public swimming. Private organizations like the Boys & Girls clubs and the YMCA & YWCA in the south promoted swimming for everyone well into the 70's and into the 80's. This is significaant because a significant African-American population lived in the south. Can you imagine the effect this had on the mind-set of folks who were denied swimming for 15 or 20 years AFTER 1960? I am talking about a generation of non-swimmers growing up to teach their children fear of water. We can continue to blame the victim, or we can find meaningful change. The other access is good swim teachers. There are not enough African-American swim teachers and coaches in the USA, in my opinion. Plus the fact your best swim teachers are also swim coaches because they understand the fundamentals of swimming better than anyone else. Access is the big problem in my humble opinion. Now, how do you change
it? Well, I don't know, I cannot know everything. Now it is someone else's turn to contribute to this discussion.
Hi Robeson, Errol here. I wish! I wish! I wish! But I do not believe it will happen anytime soon. Hampton and Newport News, in VA ,as you well know, do not build swimming pools for their schools. The only public school pool that I know (in all of Hampton Roads) is located in Norfolk at Maury high School. I know this pool well, because we swam it when I coached Kecoughtan High School (we had the fastest boys in the area, too bad Regional and State competition were unavailable at the time). We showcased talents like Michael Hatt, my son and Kurt Jackimowski, who later became an All-American swimmer at Auburn. These cities prefer to use existing facilities for after-school activities. The same is true for most cities that I know of. There are exceptions. I also coached high school swimming in Boston. A few of the schools had swimming pools (I coached at Umana High, which no longer exists; it became a middle school). It will take mucho dinero to build swimming pools in schools, and I suppose that in this tight money market, it is not a priority, and the politicians and the tax payers will be opposed to this idea.
Dr. Duplesis:

I understand what your saying alright, what do you believe will be the most feasible and effective solution to the problem of "Can African Americans Swim Well Enough to Save Themselves?" Nationally, the President could use his office to bully pulpit and draw attention to the problem and encourage the implementation of programs to solve this problem. However, programs require money, facilities, personal, and organization (like you pointed out) which are not likely to come from the Federal government because of the structure of our constitution republic. Even if grants were offered or other funding made available they would have to be implemented on the local level after too many bureaucrats have taken a percentage or cut of the money. That is the reason even though the president or even a governor may champion this it will have to be implemented on the local level through city councils, school boards, and even possibly private organizations with facilities and personal looking for a "write off" or some sort of financial benefit. Therefore, my suggestion is to start a social movement through cultural icons (i.e. president, churches, famous swimmers, famous intellectuals, navy seals, etc) encouraging average people to acquire skills necessary for survival and success in a aquatic environment followed by a ground swell of public opinion that prompts local authorities to implement swimming education programs as part of core curriculums or standard operating programs and youth development changing the next generations. Such necessary would encourage mature citizens to gain the skills they see their children now enjoy and benefit others. Can you imagine if "LEARN TO SWIM" was larger than Nancy Reagans' "JUST SAY NO" campaign?

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