However 64 p.c of African American kids have low or no swimming potential, in line with a 2017 report from the USA Swimming Basis. (The identical holds true for 45 p.c of Latino kids and 40 p.c of Caucasian kids, in line with the report.) It’s a statistic that Paulana Lamonier, CEO and founding father of Black Individuals Will Swim, is striving to alter.
A multimedia journalist and licensed lifeguard and swim teacher, Lamonier is working towards growing illustration at swimming pools and seashores throughout the nation. “It began with a easy tweet on July 6, 2019. I used to be taking over some shoppers and mentioned I wish to train 30 [Black] individuals methods to swim. And that tweet went viral,” she says. “From there, individuals from LA, Atlanta, and Florida have been saying: ‘I would like classes.’ It made me notice the necessity of so many individuals who wish to be taught by somebody who appears like them and understands what it’s wish to be in that state of affairs of being Black, not realizing methods to swim, and that worry.”
We spoke to the entrepreneur about combating the stereotype that Black individuals don’t swim, the significance of illustration, and extra.
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- Paulana Lamonier, Paulana Lamonier is the CEO and founding father of Black Individuals Will Swim, an organization that teaches Black individuals and other people of shade methods to swim.
Nicely+Good: In a earlier interview, you mentioned swimming is an act of resistance. Why do you consider that’s true?
Paulana Lamonier: Throughout the board in sports activities, for Black individuals, we’ve been instructed what we will and can’t do. For ballet, we’ve been instructed about our bone construction, our hips, and that Black individuals aren’t sleek. And for swimming, it’s been mentioned that our bones are dense, or we will’t appear to swim and float.
I feel understanding the truth that not solely can we swim, however that we will swim rather well, is greater than a survival tactic: I’m swimming since you instructed me I couldn’t, and never solely can I, however I can do it sooner than you. That’s why I mentioned swimming is an act of resistance.
How did this fantasy 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 preserving a sure group from doing a sure exercise. Once you say one thing lengthy sufficient, it turns into any person’s fact. And that’s why we wish to smash that stereotype and shut that false narrative down altogether. It is a life talent that you simply’ve been telling individuals they’ll’t do.
Black Individuals Will Swim is encouraging individuals to share tales about how they realized to swim. What’s your swim story?
I realized methods to swim by way of a Saturday swim program in my neighborhood in Uniondale, in Lengthy Island. It’s a pleasant melting pot. However I needed to relearn methods 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?
Once I first relearned methods to swim, I used to be doing it to shed weight. Then after I joined the swim crew, my coach had me do brief dash occasions and it will take me eternally. 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 search 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 crew and also you’re competing towards your self to determine how one can set private data. That’s after I realized 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 yr you deliberate to show 2,020 Black individuals methods to swim, after which the pandemic occurred. What does that plan seem like now?
We’re nonetheless within the strategy of pivoting. We’re recipients of an Adidas I Fund Ladies grant for Defining the Way forward for Sport, and we have been semi-finalists for Essence’s Construct 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 children don’t know methods 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 group. We now have courses individuals can take with their finest associates and father or mother and baby courses as a result of we wish to normalize what swimming is in the neighborhood. And lastly is schooling, which is my favourite half, as a result of we wish to train individuals methods to deal with 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 discover ways to do their hair, however obtain complimentary hair care merchandise as nicely.
Much like normal exercising, our hair is commonly used as an excuse to not swim. How do you personally care to 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 essential to moist your hair earlier than you go into the chlorine so the chlorine received’t stick. Search for protecting hairstyles, reminiscent of field braids, Senegalese twists, and cornrows. It’s essential to search out types that may shield your hair.