You know that this is close to my heart.
When many of us think about athletic paths for our children to follow, competitive swimming isn’t typically high up on the list. Black Kids Swim (BKS) is an organization trying to change both the way we look at swimming in general and competitive swimming as an outlet and scholarship source for black children. We talked with the founder of BKS, Ebony Rosemond, about her journey and where BKS is hoping to take swimming in the black community.
Very Smart Brothas: What is Black Kids Swim and what compelled you to start the organization (and site) and begin this journey? Tell me about yourself and your background.
Ebony Rosemond: Officially, Black Kids Swim is a nonprofit organization, based in Largo, Md., dedicated to increasing the number of black competitive swimmers. The sport is not diverse. We’re changing that. There’s a ton of educational and professional opportunities out there for proficient swimmers—and our kids in large part can’t access those opportunities. We’re changing that as well.
I started the organization because my daughter is a competitive swimmer. Around age 11, she got really, really good. And we noticed she was the only black girl, or one of very few, at the more competitive invitational meets. On the way home from one of these meets, she googled “black kids swim” and the returns were saddening. Stories about drownings, depressing statistics (black kids are five times more likely to drown according to the CDC; 70 percent of African Americans lack basic swim skills and on and on). So we decided to do something about it.
Before BKS there was nowhere for black swim parents to go for advice. Our FB Page and group is amazing—even I learn something every day. I’m a mom, so seeing the next generation succeed is my responsibility. Our kids are drowning (literally and figuratively)—they aren’t graduating from high school, they have higher rates of obesity and diabetes than ever before, they are going to jail at young ages for longer sentences than anyone else. BKS is my contribution. If some kid gets a BKS scholarship to join a summer swim team then that’s one kid who won’t drown, who may get a scholarship to a private high school to be on the swim team, who may get a college athletic scholarship, who may work summers as a lifeguard, who may become the director of aquatics of a municipality one day. At the very least, that kids’ children won’t grow up to be afraid of the water.
We have to change the relationship the black community has with the water. Before the trans-Atlantic slave trade, we were the best swimmers (Kevin Dawson has done extensive research on this). BKS is working to end this tradition of black people fearing the water.
Read the rest of the interview at the link above.