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The Louisiana Drownings & Closing the Black Water Gap. What Every Black Mom Needs to Know! & Free Giveaway!

A little over a week ago, I wrote a blog for Momlogic about the high drowning rates and low swim ability rates among African American kids. Literally, a few days later, 6 teenagers tragically drowned in the Louisiana river when one of them waded over a drop-off point and the others (none of whom could swim) tried to save him. Meanwhile, the family stood helplessly unable to swim themselves and save the drowning youth. This is a wake up call to all African Americans.

Here's what I'm doing: I'm giving away swim caps and tee shirts from Make a Splash. org, autographed by black Olympic swimmer Cullen Jones, to the first people to comment on this post. Make A Splash works to get more minorities into affordable or free swimming lessons, a cause that Cullen, who nearly drowned as a child himself, is very committed to.

Here's what I wrote:

More Black Kids Drown. Are Parents At Fault?


I have a swimming pool at my house. A big ole 18 x 38 inground pool, that’s 8 ft deep on the far end and a diving board to boot, swimming pool. And I don’t know how to swim. Well, I won’t drown, (though I’ve never tested that theory) but I’m certainly no Olympic hopeful.


The pool was my ex-husband’s domain. He is a fish. I’m a black woman with hair issues. And now that he’s gone, I’m here alone with the big pool and his fish-like progeny. That means every summer brings on the anxiety of supervising my kids in the pool. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve taken every swim safety course I can find and keep all sorts of rescue tools nearby. But most importantly, when spring hits I put both of my children in swim lessons long before swimming season starts just to refresh their skills. When my budget allows, I’ve also had a certified swim instructor come to the house.  


Still, I’m haunted by the statistics.


Black children are 3 times more likely to drown. And 70% of African American Children and 58% of Hispanic Children have low or no swimming ability, compared to 40% of Caucasian children, putting them at a greater risk of drowning, according to a new report by USA Swimming which works to lower minority drowning rates and draw more blacks into the sport.


Let’s face it, our history with swimming pools is somewhat complex. For many years pools were segregated or not available in our communities. Just last year, 60 black and Latino campers were kicked out of a private Philadelphia swim club they contracted to use for the summer, because there was concern they would alter the "complexion" and "atmosphere" of the club.


In recent years, the media has always pointed to a lack of pool access or financial concerns as the major reasons for the “swimming gap” between black and Latino kids and Caucasians.  But a new study rips the lid off these ideas and shows that key cultural reasons – parental fear, lack of parental encouragement (attributed to the fact that many parents have no to low swim ability themselves) and concerns of our physical appearance (chlorine’s effect on our hair & brown skin) are at the root of the gap.


While financial factors do come in to play for some families, FEAR trumps FINANCE in every group tested, the study found.  Even if lessons were free, many parents would still not put their kids in the pool. Now that’s a problem.


As one mom in a Detroit focus group said, “You’re already uncomfortable and scared. You’re like, ‘I‘m paying them so I can have heart palpitations on the side-lines. It’s not worth it. It really isn’t. Why should I have to pay money to be afraid?”


Recently, I had the pleasure of talking with Olympic swimming gold medalist and world record holder, Cullen Jones. Cullen nearly drowned in a water park as a child, but his mom used that experience to get him in the pool more not less. Today, Cullen is a world-class swimmer and the second African American to win a gold Olympic medal in the sport. He also serves as a spokesperson for the Make a Splash initiative and teamed up the USA Swimming and ConocoPhillips to help close the swimming gap and get more blacks and Latinos in the pool.


But the onus lies clearly with black parents. I admit to my swimming fears, but I don’t project them on my children. We can stop losing our children to the water. 


Check out some of the my pool pics so far this summer. And leave a comment here to win a freebie. The first five people to comment will get an autographed swim cap (check out two of my favorite girls, Niyah and Shakira sporting theirs on the home page) and an autographed tee shirt.

 swim capshirts&swimcaps



The girls play water ponies "]The girls play water ponies


It took a long time to get this shot! the girls create their fountain of youth!! it took a long time to get this shot! the girls create their fountain of youth!!


Kayla takes a break from swimming for some cotton candy at her first pool party of the summer! ]

"My backyard taken over by a pool party. That's the lifeguard I hired on the left in the white T-shirt.]My backyard taken over by a pool party. That's the lifeguard I hired on the left in the white T-shirt. "Michael and I pose for the cameraMichael and I pose for the camera

After the pool, take a ride on the jumbo slide. I DID!!after the pool, take a ride on the jumbo slide. I DID!!


"Oh and what's a pool party without a little eye candy for me!! Thanks (single) Dads!]Oh and what's a pool party without a little eye candy for me!! Thanks (single) Dads!!

8 Responses to “The Louisiana Drownings & Closing the Black Water Gap. What Every Black Mom Needs to Know! & Free Giveaway!”
  1. Iesha Brown says:

    It is so important to get over the fear and have the little ones learn how to swim because the life they save may be their own.

  2. Great post! Im glad that you are talking about this. Make a Splash is a great organization. I started a learn to swim website to help people not only learn but to teach. When drownings like these happen, they help promote the culture of fear in the African American community. Im no gold medalist, but i can swim to save my life and others.


    P.S. – Im good on the caps.

  3. C. Hanson says:

    It is proven time and time again that water safety should be learned at an early age. This is an important issue in our community.

  4. Michelle I. says:

    I almost drowned once myself when I was a child. And I’ve always made sure that my kids had swim lessons and water safety courses. It is an important issue that’s rarely discussed. I’m glad it’s being discussed here at least the “Mocha Manual community” will be more aware and hopefully spread the word.

  5. Nickimmy says:

    Having our children learn to swim and be taught water safety is very important. My mother never allowed me to learn to swim, but i’ve made sure that my son at 20 months is already in swim classes. The cycle will not be repeated.

  6. Tiffany Robinson says:

    I put my daughter into swim lessons at 3 months. I want her to learn to swim and love the water. I don’t want her to be a slave to her hair like so many black girls and women. Too many black children and particularly black girls don’t know how to swim because they have hair issues. I never want my hair to stop me or my daughter from doing what we want to do.

  7. KJ's Mom says:

    This is definitely an eye opener! And for me and my kids it wasn’t until we moved to a warmer climate that they learned how to swim. My husband swims like a fish and I just know how to float…LOL! However our kids can swim their butts off. I am thankful for that, however I know this article along with the organization is a great cause to bring awareness to this situation in our communities.

  8. ZoraNelle's mommy says:

    Word! Amen! and Preach! It’s our black parent shame. We shouldn’t manifest our fears on your children nor should we allow mere hair to stop us (SN: if we kept it in it’s natural state, it would be so much easier to care for). If we can pay for basketball camp, and football camp, and dance school then we can and should prioritize swim lessons. In my opinion, swimming is one of those survival skills everyone should learn. My mother never learned to swim, had fears of the water and didn’t like contending with my hair. My father instilled in me the love of the water and swimming. As a young man from a small segregated town, he didn’t have the opportunity to learn to swim until he went to NC A&T SU and needed to learn as a graduation requirement. Yet they both encouraged me to swim and enrolled me into classes. I went on to swim with my high school swim team. Now I have children but my husband doesn’t know how to swim…yet. We enrolled our toddler (and my husband) into swim classes and plan on enrolling the rest of the crew. Black parents, we need to get it together!

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