Blacks campaign to teach youngsters how to swim

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Last year, G'Mahnee Robinson got the yearning to follow his cousins into the family pool.

There was one problem. He was only 1-year-old, and he didn't know how to swim.

If not for his father, who learned how to swim at age 10, he might not have made it out of the pool that day.

"I jumped right in to get him," said his father, Gregory Robinson. "I had to show him what water was all about."

Teaching G'Mahnee, now 2, how to swim became a priority for Mr. Robinson. He wanted to ensure his son would look at swimming differently than most black children.

"He could fall in the pool, and I'm not there," he said. "I know a lot of us don't swim, because they look at it like golf or tennis -- as a white sport."

Nearly 60 percent of black children cannot swim, almost twice the number of their white counterparts, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The disparity is reflected in the higher drowning rate among black youths.

Black children ages 5 to 14 drown three times more often than their white counterparts of the same age. Blacks of all ages drown 1.3 times more than whites.

One recent local drowning was that of Nick Moore, a black 29-year-old husband and father of two from Belvedere. He drowned in Lake Murray on May 3 while canoeing with a friend. His mother, Emma Moore, said he wasn't a good enough swimmer to be at the lake, which goes as deep as 360 feet.

John Cruzat, the diversity specialist for the USA Swimming Foundation which did a swimming study prompted by the CDC data, said the low percentage of young black swimmers stems in part from generations of blacks that did not have access to public pools.

The limited access led to high numbers of black people who were non-swimmers, and they passed on their reluctance -- and fears about water -- to their children.

"Part of the civil rights movement was based on the exclusion of blacks at public pools and public beaches," Mr. Cruzat said.

Mr. Cruzat speaks around the country about the importance of breaking through the cultural barriers.

"My vision is to see this sport become as diverse as our country," he said. "Beyond that, I also want parents to recognize the need to educate their children on water safety. It's not a matter of if their child will find themselves in a body of water, it's when."

About 50 children, mostly black, play at the Southside Tubman Family YMCA each day throughout the summer, said Shawn McNair, a YMCA swimming instructor and certified lifeguard. Only about 30 percent of those are swimmers, and that low number is attributable to parents not pushing their children to learn how to swim.

"I think it's really the adults," he said. "If they have a fear, they're going to instill that in their kids."

Though Mr. McNair's parents never emphasized swimming, he said he had a love of water and a desire to teach water safety at a young age.

"I'm always willing to help, because I'm looking at it as giving back that life-saving skill," he said.

Offering swimming training as a part of school curriculums could have an immense effect on the swimming disparity, Mr. Cruzat said.

The Josh Project, a program started by Wanda Butts, a black woman who lost her son to drowning, offers free swimming training to all young people in Toledo, Ohio.

Mr. Cruzat said he hopes other states will follow Ohio's lead.

"The statistics are just so apparent," he said. "You will teach your child to swim or they will drown."

Reach Stephanie Toone at (706) 823-3215 or stephanie.toone@augustachronicle.com.

RACIAL COMPARISON


- Between 2000 and 2005, the unintentional drowning rate for blacks across all ages was 1.3 times that of whites. For American Indians and Alaskan Natives, this rate was 1.8 times that of whites.


- The drowning rate of black children ages 5 to 14 is 3.2 times that of white children in the same age range. For American Indian and Alaskan Native children, the drowning rate is 2.4 times higher than for white children.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Comments (18) Add comment
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buddydawg
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buddydawg 08/02/08 - 05:56 am
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G'Mahnee - Is that pronounced

G'Mahnee - Is that pronounced "G-Money"

karmakills123
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karmakills123 08/02/08 - 08:35 am
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swimming is a white sport????

swimming is a white sport???? Black people sure miss out on a lot................................

christian134
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christian134 08/02/08 - 09:43 am
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Wow reaching some here are

Wow reaching some here are you not black people? Now we have a racist problem with the whites being taught to swim as opposed to the blacks being left behind...Now I am laughing at the absurdity of this one....Next it is going to be a white black racist issue of what "potty training"...Whites are keeping the black man down by depriving them of "potty training" by a certain age....Oh please...:-)

LaTwon
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LaTwon 08/02/08 - 10:26 am
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60% of black children cant

60% of black children cant swim........... what percent graduates from high school? i wonder if there is correlation between education and ability to float?

convertedsoutherner
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convertedsoutherner 08/02/08 - 01:01 pm
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What a waste of space in your

What a waste of space in your paper to write this article as it was written. To say this is a white sport? They have these public pools and sometimes have more opportunity because some are closer to their housing. Shame on you AC. This was race-baiting at it's best or should I say - worst.

Just My Opinion
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Just My Opinion 08/02/08 - 03:05 pm
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Oh, man...where is that

Oh, man...where is that Firefighter-what's his name when you want him?? His racist comments on this one would be classic! But, you know, I first read this article and was surprised at the implication that swimming is a "white sport" and I thought "Well, I guess whites have more of an oppurtunity to swim than blacks?". But then I realized, just as "converted" indicates, that there are plenty of public swimming pools that blacks, or anyone for that matter, could go to. And, "LaTwon"...gotta laugh at your education/ability to float comment! Ya'll are all right...this is one messed up article! Bottom line is that I'm glad that children are being taught how to swim.

patriciathomas
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patriciathomas 08/02/08 - 04:35 pm
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Within the black culture

Within the black culture there are a lot of fears and phobias that I find strange and difficult to understand. Swimming is just one of them. I was too young to remember learning to swim and both of my children could swim before they could talk. Blacks also don't list themselves as organ donors on their drivers license. And, way too often, they rather be uneducated. Even to the point of ridiculing their contemporaries and accusing them of acting white if they aspire to higher knowledge. There is much in this culture I don't understand. I'm glad to see some have taken to trying to overcome this fear of water though.

SargentMidTown
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SargentMidTown 08/02/08 - 04:51 pm
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There is probably a federal

There is probably a federal grant that someone can milk to teach the "under swim ed " blacks. Attention whites: Get that grant and teach those blacks to swim.

whereohwhere
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whereohwhere 08/02/08 - 04:54 pm
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Patricia Thomas, you don't

Patricia Thomas, you don't know a lot of black people do you? Your ignorant attitude is one of the reasons people have such negative feelings toward blacks....get out into the Black community for a change, to take part in a different culture. I really get tired of reading your racist comments everyday in the paper....

Rozzie2003
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Rozzie2003 08/02/08 - 06:30 pm
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Years ago, blacks had no

Years ago, blacks had no place to swim but mud holes and many i drowned in these places. Remember the old Gravel Pit Pond on Old Savannah Road, a couple of black kids would drowned there annually.
Public pools were segregated as well as everything else.
Many black kids drowned in farm ponds, There were no places for kids to learn how to swim or no one to teach them. Black kids were taught to stay away from these dangerous mud holes.

ldsmith1
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ldsmith1 08/02/08 - 07:17 pm
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Converted, why should the AC

Converted, why should the AC be ashamed? It was the father's comment that blacks think of swimming as a white sport. Since he is a black man, he should know.

owensjef2
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owensjef2 08/02/08 - 07:40 pm
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It is sad to read these

It is sad to read these comments, I normally strike out in anger, but today I will pray for you all.

AMAZING
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AMAZING 08/02/08 - 09:19 pm
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Let me get this straight...it

Let me get this straight...it is acceptable (with very little outcry) that the AC can refer to "African Americans" as BLACKS in this article; last week when Dr. Lauren Williams made a comment about "African American" students (and was misquoted by the paper as "BLACK" students) failing parts of the CRCT, she was labeled a racist. Am I the only one who sees the double standard here???? The race card is very old and very worn out-play a different game!!!!

North Richmond County
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North Richmond County 08/02/08 - 10:23 pm
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Why didn't Dr. Bedden feel

Why didn't Dr. Bedden feel need to point out. That the white students did worse than the black students on the CRTC in richmond county. Why did columbia county have to point that out. When they probably only have 100 black students in the whole county. Compared to the thousand of white students in richmond county. Columbia county only has a 14% black population. Richmond county has a 45% white population.

GnipGnop
12744
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GnipGnop 08/02/08 - 11:35 pm
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Ok blacks didn't have access

Ok blacks didn't have access to public pools. They could swim in creeks, ponds and lakes. Just like poor white kids did. This article is reaching heavily to call swimming a racist sport. This is so farfetched it borders on insanity. I know that racism was prevalent during the civil rights era. I also know that it still exists. I will tell you though with articles like this how do you really expect people to take it seriously when a REAL case of racism is brought to light? Ever heard of the story about crying wolf?

clearview
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clearview 08/03/08 - 07:40 am
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I learned to swim at an early

I learned to swim at an early age and had a red cross life saving card at 12 yrs old. This was 40 years ago and blacks were kept out of our private swim club. I doubt my parents would have taken me to a lake and taught me to swim at that level.

christian134
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christian134 08/03/08 - 08:21 am
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Never was allowed into

Never was allowed into private clubs as my folks were dirt poor. Learned the art of swimming at an early age whereby good ole' Dad picked me up and threw me out into the lake yelling all the while sink or swim...Needless to say I swam....

steve-o
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steve-o 08/03/08 - 09:46 pm
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Wow, just Wow. Great

Wow, just Wow. Great reporting there. I saw the same story on the New york post! NOT! You should be fired.

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