Swimming swimming pools are an indicator of summer season holidays, a chunk of Americana. Whether or not it’s the neighborhood swimming pool or one at a elaborate resort, there’s simply one thing luxurious about taking a few laps. A minimum of, that’s the case for many individuals.
However 64 p.c of African American kids have low or no swimming capability, in accordance with a 2017 report from the USA Swimming Foundation. (The identical holds true for 45 p.c of Latino kids and 40 p.c of Caucasian kids, in accordance with the report.) It’s a statistic that Paulana Lamonier, CEO and founding father of Black People Will Swim, is striving to vary.
A multimedia journalist and authorized lifeguard and swim teacher, Lamonier is working towards rising illustration at swimming pools and seashores throughout the nation. “It began with a easy tweet on July 6, 2019. I used to be taking up some shoppers and stated I wish to train 30 [Black] individuals the best way to swim. And that tweet went viral,” she says. “From there, individuals from LA, Atlanta, and Florida had been saying: ‘I want classes.’ It made me notice the necessity of so many individuals who wish to be taught by somebody who seems like them and understands what it’s prefer to be in that scenario of being Black, not figuring out the best way to swim, and that concern.”
We spoke to the entrepreneur about combating the stereotype that Black individuals don’t swim, the significance of illustration, and extra.
Properly+Good: In a earlier interview, you stated swimming is an act of resistance. Why do you imagine that’s true?
Paulana Lamonier: Throughout the board in sports activities, for Black individuals, we’ve been informed what we are able to and can’t do. For ballet, we’ve been informed about our bone construction, our hips, and that Black individuals aren’t swish. And for swimming, it’s been stated that our bones are dense, or we are able to’t appear to swim and float.
I believe understanding the truth that not solely can we swim, however that we are able to swim very well, is greater than a survival tactic: I’m swimming since you informed me I couldn’t, and never solely can I, however I can do it sooner than you. That’s why I stated swimming is an act of resistance.
How did this fable that Black individuals can’t swim grow to be so pervasive?
I want I knew the reply to that, however from my years of expertise and analysis, it’s actually nearly maintaining a sure group from doing a sure exercise. If you say one thing lengthy sufficient, it turns into anyone’s fact. And that’s why we wish to smash that stereotype and shut that false narrative down altogether. This can be a life talent that you just’ve been telling individuals they will’t do.
Black Folks Will Swim is encouraging individuals to share tales about how they discovered to swim. What’s your swim story?
I discovered the best way to swim by a Saturday swim program in my neighborhood in Uniondale, in Lengthy Island. It’s a pleasant melting pot. However I needed to relearn the best way to swim in school [joining the swim team] due to my coach Jennifer Trotman and her father, Robert Trotman.
They took me beneath their wings and actually opened my eyes to the potential for not simply Black individuals swimming, however Black management and Black possession.
When did you fall in love with swimming?
After I first relearned the best way to swim, I used to be doing it to reduce weight. Then after I joined the swim workforce, my coach had me do quick dash occasions and it might take me perpetually. In the future we needed to do a [longer distance] relay occasion, and I used to be cruising. And after I bought out of the pool, I felt like that is my occasion. It felt so good as a plus-size athlete to seek out an occasion that I can excel in. As a result of in swimming, you’re competing in two races: You’re competing towards the opposite workforce and also you’re competing towards your self to determine how one can set private information. That’s after I discovered long-distance swimming was my area of interest. That’s after I knew this was my life. I wasn’t competing towards different individuals, I used to be actually doing what felt proper for me.
This 12 months you deliberate to show 2,020 Black individuals the best way to swim, after which the pandemic occurred. What does that plan seem like now?
We’re nonetheless within the means of pivoting. We’re recipients of an Adidas I Fund Women grant for Defining the Way forward for Sport, and we had been semi-finalists for Essence’s Build Your Legacy contest.
We’re additionally pivoting into storytelling with a marketing campaign known as #MySwimStory. We’re doing a deep dive into the tales of Black individuals and their relationships with water. We now have tales from aggressive swimmers to individuals conquering their fears. Lastly, we’re engaged on some scholarships paying it ahead to student-athletes who wish to compete on a collegiate degree, however don’t essentially have the funds.
Inform us extra about F.A.C.E. and the way it helps swimmers face their fears
With F.A.C.E., we’re encouraging individuals to face their fears. F is for enjoyable. We now have an excellent time in my swim courses. A is for consciousness. Statistics present that 64 to 70 p.c of Black youngsters don’t know the best way to swim in comparison with 40 p.c of white kids. It’s a giant disparity. We wish to emphasize this isn’t a luxurious. It’s an actual drawback. C is for neighborhood. We now have courses individuals can take with their greatest associates and father or mother and little one courses as a result of we wish to normalize what swimming is locally. And lastly is training, which is my favourite half, as a result of we wish to train individuals the best way to handle their hair. We now have a category known as a Breath of Recent Hair and that’s our hair care 101 class the place we’re partnering with hair care corporations to not solely learn to do their hair, however obtain complimentary hair care merchandise as properly.
Just like normal exercising, our hair is commonly used as an excuse to not swim. How do you personally care on your hair whereas swimming?
For me, I plan my hair days out. Both I’ve braids if I do know I’m going to swim this week. And earlier than I’m going swimming, I moist my hair as a result of our hair is a sponge. It’s vital to moist your hair earlier than you go into the chlorine so the chlorine received’t stick. Lookup protecting hairstyles, equivalent to field braids, Senegalese twists, and cornrows. It’s vital to seek out kinds that can defend your hair.