A group called the “100 Black Men of Jackson“(100blackmenjackson.org) launched a nation-wide effort to save lives and to stop child drownings. Based in Jackson, Mississippi, the group will teach swimming lessons for infants, toddlers and children of all ages, just like the life saving lessons we teach every day at Baby Otter Swim School.
Their noble campaign comes after a USA Swimming and University of Memphis study that featured particularly disheartening statistics like seven of 10 African American children cannot adequately swim. The latest report from the Centers for Disease Control revealed more troubling facts about African Americans and drowning risks:
- Between 2000 and 2007, the fatal unintentional drowning rate for African Americans across all ages was 1.3 times that of whites. For American Indians and Alaskan Natives, this rate was 1.7 times that of whites.
- Rates of fatal drowning are notably higher among these populations in certain age groups. The fatal drowning rate of African American children ages 5 to 14 is 3.1 times that of white children in the same age range. For American Indian and Alaskan Native children, the fatal drowning rate is 2.3 times higher than for white children.
- Factors such as the physical environment (e.g., access to swimming pools) and a combination of social and cultural issues (e.g., wanting to learn how to swim, and choosing recreational water-related activities) may contribute to the racial differences in drowning rates. Current rates are based on population, and not on participation. If rates could be determined by actual participation in water-related activities, disparity in minorities drowning rates compared to whites would be much greater.
To reverse the devastating trend, the group is focusing on making a national difference: one child at a time.
Below, you can read an excerpt from an article titled “Think Globally, Act Locally“, by USA Swimming.
“The group has set out on a mission to lower drowning rates, raise awareness, and get kids to learn water safety through swimming lessons. They want to teach 125 kids how to swim.”
“Every year at least 20 children have near drowning accidents. Then there are the five to seven youths (each year) that have fatal incidents in the pool,” says the director of the 100 Black Men of Jackson, Iday Oredein.
“Groups like these – local, diverse, pro-swimming groups – are tackling the complicated issues head-on. They do so by offering swimming lessons to those who want them, in areas where parents might be afraid to send their own children into the pool.
In north Jackson, in this excellent article written by Elizabeth Crisp, a parent was interviewed about her 13-year-old son’s swimming lesson. And what she says illustrates and magnifies a problem also identified in the University of Memphis study: some parents are afraid of the water.
“I was afraid that he would drown [in swimming lessons],” a parent said. “It was more my phobia than his.”
It’s a cyclical problem. Parents did not learn to swim. Thus, their own kids don’t learn to swim. And their kids don’t learn to swim. And if the problem is never tackled, there is a fear that it will persist long into the future.”
For more information about drowning prevention, see our section on swim safety tips and visit our main site: babyotterswimschool.com, to enroll your child in a class. Our national spokesman, Andre Dawson, is an African American male who didn’t learn how to swim until he was 50 years old and several years removed from his pro baseball career. Today, he is helping Baby Otter Swim School touch the lives of swimmers across the nation, of every age and every race.