We’ve all heard the saying “Black people don’t swim” before, but it’s worth noting that statement is far from the truth. For years, the well-known stereotype has perpetuated the racial and historical context associated with Black people, but there’s an organization on the rise working to change that.
Black People Will Swim — founded by a lifelong athlete and multimedia journalist Paulana Lamonier — was created as a means to smash the stereotype in Black communities that Black people don’t or simply can’t swim.
Tracking back to the days of slavery and segregation brought on by the Jim Crow Era, Black people and swimming have always been pitted against each other to further deny us access to recreational privileges.
According to VICE, a long history of racial discrimination at pools during the 1920s and 1930s may be the reason swimming never became popular for Black people — largely because we were not granted access to pools back then.
Founder Lamonier believes that stereotypes against Black people and swimming are simply racial biases spread across the board in all recreational sports.
Racial issues against Black people were previously maintained by people in higher positions because they believed in these stereotypes, according to her.
“It’s verbiage used that keeps Black people from participating in certain activities and sports,” she said.
In response, Black People Will Swim has made it its mission to dismantle the idea that Black people don’t swim by offering swimming lessons and educating Black communities on the real history between Black Americans and swimming through the acronym F.A.C.E, which stands for Fun, Awareness, Community, and Education.
“Our main goal is eliminating the issues that have prevented Black people from swimming and really providing solutions,” Lamonier said.
In regards to starting this organization, Lamonier — a current swim coach — stated that this time last year she started giving private lessons to individuals which then turned into a challenge to teach 30 people how to swim.
My goal is to teach 30 black people how to swim this summer and I'm trying to come up with a hashtag for this campaign. feedback is welcome https://t.co/bjpQTVX5sK
— Paulana (@itsPaulana) July 6, 2019
Her campaign ended up gaining traction on social media, and from there she and her team developed the idea into a full-blown organization that launched this past March.
Black People Will Swim makes an effort to not only smash stereotypes but be a resource in Black communities where swimming isn’t often accessible. While many inner-city people haven’t been exposed to swimming, Black People Will Swim hopes to change that through their various initiatives.
This year, the organization has a goal to teach 2,020 people how to swim by December 2020, but it continues to push past these expectations as well.
Black People Will Swim’s overarching goals include providing scholarships for student-athletes who require the funds and support to pursue sports at a collegiate level, certifying Black and brown swim instructors to later hire, and building a pool facility for the organization to eventually call home.
While campaigning, Black People Will Swim has been recognized as a recipient of the Reimagine Sport Grant — in partnership with iFundWomen and adidas — in this short time. The company was awarded $10,000 as they strive to meet their goal of $40,000. They were also announced as a semi-finalist for the ESSENCE x Pine-Sol Build Your Legacy contest.
Overall, Lamonier and Black People Will Swim are setting out to spark change in Black communities and paint a new future for tomorrow’s future swimmers by smashing stereotypes one day at a time.
“The possibilities are endless, especially when it comes to your dreams and goals,” said Lamonier. “There’s a void in swimming and a lot of misinformation, and our goal is to be that bridge in the gap between Black people, brown people, and how learning these life skills will ultimately bring opportunities.”
Additionally, the organization is launching its #MySwimStory social campaign, which will highlight people and their stories and experiences with swimming.
For more information on Black People Will Swim, click here.