When I was 11 years old we had a pool in our projects and every summer it was packed. I was getting tall enough that I could stand on the deep end (6 ft) and the water would only reach to my nose.
At 14, I went to my high school pool, which was in the basement to learn to swim. Almost drowned, had a divine experience that rescued me, but it kept me from the pool for a good seven or eight years.
At 24, I was stationed in Germany and finally took a Red Cross course for adults to learn how to swim. When I finally got over my fears of the deep end you couldn't keep me out of there. I kept diving and surfacing till I had to get out of the pool for the next class.
So when I saw this report I guess I am one of the lucky few in my community to actually be able to learn to swim.
Nearly 60 percent of African-American children can't swim, almost twice the figure for white children, according to a first-of-its-kind survey which USA Swimming hopes will strengthen its efforts to lower minority drowning rates and draw more blacks into the sport.
This may not seem important to some or a political bombshell, but I think this is significant in many ways. Too often inner city kids, like me, don't have a safe place to play in the pool and enjoy themselves. Back in the 1970s, in Cleveland (Ohio), I could point out all the pools in the area in the two project regions just around Cuyahoga Community College. Not as much here in Dayton, Ohio, but I'm sure there were some. Today, high crime rate and lack of funding have left a lot of these pools deserted.
My hope is more people will take the time to fight for this and to really see pools available for inner city kids. Many blacks, if lucky, may get a chance to live out in the suburbs to get to a pool. But I hope and pray families will make the effort to get our children into programs with Red Cross certification and training to learn how to swim properly with a trained lifeguard. This ability to swim is vital in life for you never know when you might need it and can improve your chances if a flood or some situation rises where you need to know how to ride.