ATL swimming lessons defy generational curses and historic discrimination

by Ezekiel J. Walker
ATL swimming lessons defy generational curses and historic discrimination
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According to the Grio, Black children ages 11 and 12 are 10 times more likely to drown in swimming pools than white kids. In response to this deadly reality,  a popular beach club in Atlanta is promoting swimming lessons for Black and Hispanic children along with adults.

As reported by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the vast majority of Black children in the U.S. are lacking when it comes to swimming, as 64% have little to no skills in the water, compared to 45% for Hispanic kids and 40% for white youths, according to the USA Swimming Foundation. And while hundreds of youths train at the Leslie Beach Club, very few are Black swimmers.

Black swimmers cite reluctant mindsets built by fear.

Veteran swim instructor Iilonga Thandiwe says the reason, in part, is “intergenerational fear,” which has stunted the growth of Black swimming culture for nearly a century.

As noted in the report, swimming pools were widely accessible in the 1920s, but only to white people. In 1949, a St. Louis official determined the city could no longer segregate pools, concluding that, like other citizens, Black residents “have a right to use public property,” according to a New York Times report.

Like much of Black history, we had to fight just to swim in a pool.

In 1964, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference started a campaign in St. Augustine, Florida, to support local protests against discrimination and raise awareness of the civil rights movement.

It included sit-ins, marches and a “dive-in” at the Monson Motor Lodge, where several white and black protesters jumped into a pool, a moment memorialized in famous photographs.

One image, published on the NYT front page, showed a white police officer jumping into the pool to arrest protesters. Another showed the white motel manager, James Brock, dumping muriatic acid, a cleaning agent, into the water near visibly distressed swimmers.

Discrimination at the pool has lasted for over 100 years in America, and while some Black folks avoid the pool altogether, Leslie Beach Club is here to teach swimming lessons that could one day save a life.

Swimming lessons can be a life saver.

“We do not have a culture in our communities that encourages and supports swimming,” said swimming instructor Beverly Iseghohi, who is determined to change that mindset. “This skill can save your life.”

“When parents don’t know how to swim, their children don’t know how to swim. Typically, in a Black family, you hear, ‘Don’t go near that water. Stay away from that water,’” said Thandiwe, Iseghohi’s teaching partner. “So we are passing that fear into our children.”

Determined to break generational curses and right historical wrongs, Leslie Beach Club is offering swimming lessons and a chance to learn from the culture that’s always done more than stay afloat.

Find out more about their lessons and availability here.

2 comments

Giinger Heart June 3, 2022 - 3:43 pm

Juneteenth is fake garbage, you sold your selves into slavery and blacks owned slaves, your FAKE celebration is you people escaping the slavery you caused o in the first place, Your people, the ASHANIT sold you into slavery, GOOGLE it. enough of this it’s all whiteys fault crap,

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Mark Devon June 4, 2022 - 4:04 pm

How appalling the previous comment is! Shame on you.

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