Summer 2018 - Let's Swim!
record heatwaves in Sweden
Our country is built for snow storms and subzero temperatures
there are no AC units in our homes or proper air ventilation
but what we do have is water
there are splash pools in every neighborhood,
lakes, ponds, beaches, in every direction
so, for me the answer was simple
we are home for the summer for 4 weeks
so we head to the water to cool off with endless swimming.
Here is the thing though..
I am 34 and I still cannot swim.
I know that there is the stereotype that black people can’t swim, and I hate the fact that my existence reinforces it.
I’ve never been afraid of the water,
my bigger cousins tell me the story of when I was little and they had to jump in to rescue me from the pool because I told everyone I could swim and jumped fearlessly in.
I lived for 10years of my life a 15 min walk from the beaches in Banjul,
and still nothing.
In fact, for many years I believed that I could not swim because my bones were just too dense, making it impossible for me to float.
It may sound ridiculous to some of you, but my community of black people have been fed these kind of lies for many many years now.
To be honest most of my black friends and family don’t swim or can’t swim either.
maybe we don’t like getting our hair wet
maybe we believe in the spirits and ancestors in the water and therefore respect the oceans
maybe we fear the water
maybe we believe we simply don’t belong.
I just don’t know. but I do know that the stereotype isn’t born of thin air.
In America in the 1960's and before African Americans were systematically denied access to swimming in beaches and pools.
As such black youth swam in more dangerous areas like canals and rivers which in turn cause more drowning in the community.
After desegregation, it was very much the same attitude if not worse.
Black people were not allowed to swim with whites at the risk of being beaten up or worse.
There are historical incidents like acid being poured in a swimming pool because blacks and white Civil Rights protestors where swimming together.
The more notable incidents include Sammy Davis Jr. who swam in a pool and the manager drained and disinfected it afterward because 'God forbid white people should have to swim in the same water a black person had swam in'.
And Dorothy Dandridge also experience much the same, she put her toe in the water at her hotel pool and they drained the entire thing.
There is this historical background, coupled with certainly much more, the fact is many people of the African diaspora cannot swim, meaning they are less likely to have children who are taught to swim, and in turn should drowning accidents occur, they would tend to be from our communities.
Our children must grow up like everyone else, feeling they belong and have the right to the water.
My daughter has been afraid of water since birth. Taking a shower was an ordeal and even now aged 4 washing her face still leaves her with a true sense of panic,
but were working on it
sometimes we just watch people swimming, clips on youtube and talk about how beautiful and strong they are.
we read ,
and we go to the water.
Today she can swim unaided, but with the arm bands.
Every day this summer we’ve gone either to the beach or to the pool.
I dress my kids like they are going to cross the euro channel, with as many swims supports as I am legally allowed, and we hop in.
There is nothing quite like the anxiety of knowing you cannot swim but leading your own children to the water.
I watched her spin in the water today and swim a length to me and her baby brother and I was so PROUD.
Once she turns 6 we will sign up for actual swim classes if she is still interested, but I think she will be because now she wants to be a mermaid!
I am also working on myself,
I last took swim class when I was 8 months pregnant,
all this stress and anxiety hit me at once and I gave it a shot.
I was very off balance, and still could not float,
but I learnt a bit,
Maybe my daughter will teach me.
There are so many conversations to be had through the books we share with our children.
With this record heatwave I hope you and yours hop right into the world of swimming.
Simone Manuel - Olympic Medalist badass
Cullen Jones - Another amazing Olympian fighting the stereotype
Farida Osman - Egytian wonderwoman I tell you!
If you are a litte paranoid like me, here is a great list of swim saftey bits and bobs : Swim Gear here!