Cullen Jones teaches kids to swim (AP Photo)

Cullen Jones teaches kids to swim (AP Photo)

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.

In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, black children between the ages of 5 and 14 are almost three times more likely to drown than their white counterparts.

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.

(Continue Reading @ The Grio…)

  • Kima

    I agree. I grew up in a city that had beaches and we were taught to swim in elementary school. It was a part of the physical education program. I would have learned to swim anyway since both my parents loved the ocean and we were constantly at the beach.

  • Treece

    Swimming is a life skill. You never know when you’ll be in a situation where you have to just be able to tread water. It should be taught as part of a mandatory middle/high school curriculum. I have been swimming since I was a baby (well my mother introduced me to water/the pool when I was a baby). My mother swam, which was rare for a Black woman who grew up in the 50′s and 60′s in a poor part of DC, so she made sure I learned. I grew up in a suburb of DC where there was a pool right in the neighborhood that we would walk to almost everyday in the summer. Some of the best times of my life.

  • Anon

    What? I’ve said this before on this blog, I didn’t know that black people weren’t supposed to know how to swim until I left the south. It was seen as a DANGER for your parents to not teach you a basic life skill, as in not DROWN. I’d never heard of parents doing things like taking their kids to the BEACH and not so much as being able to tread water or do a simple freestyle. You gonna really let your child go play in an ocean and yet be scared to go in water past your knees? Folks at home would have asked if you were invested in your kid LIVING for a day on the sand.

    Anyhoo, when I was younger, you couldn’t KEEP black kids out of the pool/river/slipn’slide whatever. I’m sure that there is a pool that people in this neighborhood can access, or you know… all of Miami Beach. If they’ve been asking for funds since the 1970′s, something tells me they won’t be getting a pool anytime soon, and perhaps energy should be spent on taking their kids to swim in a place that is actually already open, instead of waiting 30+ more years.