A South Miami community activist says the lack of access to a pool and swimming lessons in the city’s African-American neighborhood means black kids don’t have the skills to swim, in some cases costing lives.
Since the 1970s community leaders have been lobbying for a public pool to be built-in the historically black, inner city, socially deprived, community around Murray Park.
Yet despite several attempts, the project has been stalled by bureaucracy and local government infighting.
“A pool will help save the lives of little children who every summer swim in the canal and put themselves at risk of drowning,” says Simon Codrington Jr., a parliamentarian for the Neighborhood Revitalization Strategy Area (NRSA), a federal program to create opportunities in designated target areas. The Murray Park is one of these target areas.
Codrington adds that over the years he can recall deaths by drowning as children, with little or no water safety education, play in the canal to cool down in the sweltering Miami heat.
A recent study by the USA Swimming Foundation and the University of Memphis reported that nearly 70 percent of African-American children do not know how to swim compared to 60 percent of Hispanic children and to 40 percent of Caucasians, putting them at risk for drowning.
Rodney Williams, the owner of a barbershop near the park, says it is frustrating that we are still talking about a pool after all these years. “It’s a dampener not being able to take my son to a local pool.”
Williams agrees with Codrington that the lives of children are at risk because of lack of access to swimming lessons conveniently located in the area. “The kids have to pass two canals to walk to school.”
South Miami mayor Phil Stoddard says the nearest public pool is at A.D. Barnes Park, several miles away from the neighborhood.
“This pool is tightly programmed with limited recreational hours. I can tell you, except when they are bused to the pool during summer camp; kids from the neighborhood don’t go there.”
Those that support the proposed pool believe race has played a part in the entire process.