Growing up, my South African parents never learned to swim. You can chop it up to the beach not being within walking distance and the disposable income needed to get there. But really, in many African, POC, and Black communities, the option to learn how to swim does not exist. Whether it’s the lack of teachers, funds for lessons, or time commitment involved, many immigrants and people of color spend their whole lives not knowing how to swim, my mom being one of them. It’s this notion and mentality that inspired a team of Pennsylvania residents to create the first Black-owned swimming club in Yeadon, Pennsylvania.
The Nile Swim Club is the first Black-owned swimming club. It was created in 1959, after several Black families were denied access into a whites-only swim club in town. Outraged, the goal of the organization is to teach children to swim and help close the racial gap in the process — creating a welcoming space for all Black children, men, and women. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Black people drown at a rate 50% higher than white people.
“Most swim clubs you go into, you’re not going to see a pool full of Black kids,” Lisa Ivery, a board member at the Nile told The New York Times recently. To help with that, the club offers their signature program called “No Child Will Drown In Our Town,” that grants 10 days for free swimming lessons to anyone who signs up. The campaign has been wildly successful, with 1,000 Black kids learning how during the summer of 2021 alone.
With the help of the community and the board, the swim club aims to close this drastic gap as quickly as they can. They want swimming to be for everyone. It’s one of the oldest forms of segregation in America and should be as important as other political systemic racism systems and policies.
The Nile Swim Club believes that recreational swimming should be for everyone, regardless of color, income, neighborhood, and color. Everyone should have the opportunity to swim if they so choose, and they are tackling this problem head on by closing the gap. We are excited to see what else The Nile Swim Club gets up to and will be cheering for them on the side lines. Of course, if you are interested in helping, there is a way to donate to the company to help fund more programs and Black instructors.
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Photo via The Nile Swim Club