Black Kids (do) Swim

Who says Black kids can’t swim?

  • 70% of Black and Hispanic children cannot swim, according to the USA Swimming Foundation and
  • Black children are 3 times more likely to drown, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Okay. But, attend one swim practice held by Healthy Lifestyles Healthy Kids (HLHK) and that statistical picture is awash. Several times a week, a sea of brown bodies take to a lap-size pool for instruction. Many of them are learning to swim, but the majority are already in training.

It’s all part of the vision of Jabari King, founder of Healthy Lifestyles Healthy Kids (HLHK). HLHK is a non-profit organization aimed at increasing the opportunities for kids to be physically active in an effort to prevent childhood obesity.  In addition to soccer and basketball, all children can take swim lessons for beginners and progress to the competitive swim program for experienced swimmers- including high level competition.

And HLHK is breeding champions! This summer, the HLHK swim league competed against 22 other swim clubs in the DeKalb County Swim League Championship Meet and came in first place in the 100-yard freestyle relay (for boys 6 & under) and the 25-yard freestyle (for boys 8 & under)!  They also ranked in 10 additional races, from 3rd place to 10th place.

My boys are in the ‘learn to swim’ program and it’s been a journey – hard at times but rewarding. In the beginning, my head strong, oldest child refused to put his head under the water – ever! For about 6 months, he screamed the loudest and protested the longest. Now, at age 4, he can swim the length of the pool. My youngest is also taking lessons – he’s catching on a little faster thank God!

So, why don’t more Black kids swim? I’ve read that economics/ access is one of the reasons. I admire HLHK because King started this program in a predominantly Black, nonaffluent area of east Atlanta where the nearest public pool had a shoot-out one week and a mysterious car ‘crash’ into the pool another week. Yet, Coach King sought out and attained the resources of nearby Beulah Missionary Baptist Church church and their aquatic facilities. Thus, the program continues to blossom and grow.

And hopefully the gloomy numbers will eventually decrease. Drowning is the second greatest cause of accidental death in children under 14. Even Olympian Cullen Jones nearly drowned at a water park when he was 5 years old. Fortunately, he survived and found his passion to pursue swimming as a sport.

I applaud Coach King and HLHK for their efforts and achievements, which will benefit generations to come. Black Girls Run started with two young women who wanted to change the health and well-being of African-American women. I am proud that my boys are part of a movement that will hopefully take the country by storm, proving that Black Kids Swim.

For more information about HLHK, visit http://www.hlhk.org/. Sign up is now for the fall swim season.

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8 thoughts on “Black Kids (do) Swim

  1. Good post and good message. Last week, my daughter who will be a senior in high school had to fill out a form for the school’s guidance counselor. One of the questions was about her community service. She was upset at first, because she works part-time during the school year and full time in the summer, she didn’t think she had much community service because she thought that meant unpaid work. Meg works as a lifeguard and a swim teacher at the Y. She has taught hundreds of children ages 2-15 to swim. Many of those children have scholarships to attend and have never been in pools and are at first very fearful. I looked my child in the eye, and said, Meg, you do community service EACH and EVERY time you teach a child to swim for you quite possibly may have contributed to saving their lives. That my dear is community service!

    • Well said and great point!!! I read that in the Black community this non-swimming issue also has to do with parents not teaching their children to swim (and having a fear of swimming) – because parents don’t know how to swim. So she is in fact impacting generations! Teaching a child to swim is also teaching them to pass that on to their children. I think that is a very good point and she should emphasize this on her applications. Thanks for the comment!

  2. I love that this program exists! It’s so sad that the numbers are so high. I hope that more programs like the HLHK spring up, because all children should be able to enjoy swimming without fear.

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