Please support this new campaign initiated by ColorofChange.org. This terrible story of overt racism in Philadelphia cannot be tolerated.
Sixty-five children from a largely Black summer camp in Philadelphia were turned away from a swimming club in the suburbs because of their race. The camp had a contract to use the Valley Club's pool for the summer. Once the club realized the kids were Black, it canceled their membership.
A "Whites only" pool in 2009 should not be tolerated. Please join us in publicly condemning the Valley Club's discrimination, and calling on the Justice Department to investigate whether the club violated federal civil rights laws.
This is the full text of the email message sent out by ColorOfChange.org:
Two weeks ago outside Philadelphia, 65 children from a summer camp tried to go swimming at a club that their camp had a contract to use. Apparently, the people at the club didn't know that the group of kids was predominantly Black.
When the campers entered the pool, White parents allegedly took their kids out of the water, and the swimming club's staff asked the campers to leave. The next day, the club told the summer camp that their membership would be canceled and that their payment would be refunded. When asked why, the club's manager said that a lot of kids "would change the complexion ... and the atmosphere of the club."1
A "Whites only" pool in 2009 should not be tolerated. The club's actions appear to be a violation of section 1981 of the Civil Rights Act.2 Whether or not any laws were violated, a "Whites only" pool should be something every American condemns.
Please join us in doing exactly that, and please email your friends and family and invite them to do the same. Your signature will also be used to call on the Department of Justice to evaluate suing the facility under federal law. It takes just a moment to do both, here:
Obama is President but that doesn't mean that suddenly all is fine when it comes to race in America. This is a vivid reminder of what we know still lies beneath the surface.
We all know stories like this one -- similar incidents play out quietly every day in different communities across the country. The difference in this case is that folks got caught and there was a contract in place that makes for a potentially illegal act.
Standing up now isn't just about making things right for these kids in Philadelphia or bringing consequences to this swim club (called the Valley Swim Club). It's about creating a climate of accountability everywhere. If we can publicly shame the Valley Swim Club and hold them accountable for this incident, it will make others think twice before engaging in what appears to be blatant discrimination.
Please join us in condemning the Valley Swim Club's behavior and calling on the Justice Department to investigate whether they violated civil rights laws. And please ask your friends and family to do the same.
Thanks and Peace,
-- James, Gabriel, William, Dani and the rest of the ColorOfChange.org team
July 10th, 2009
- "'Pool Boots Kids Who Might "Change the Complexion,'" NBC Philadelphia, 07-08-09
- "Section 1981 Summary," Employment Law Information Network
"60 Black Kids Booted from Philly Pool For Being Black -- Speak Out," Jill Tubman at Jack and Jill Politics, 07-08-09
VIDEO: "Please Don't Change the Complexion of our Pool," This Week in Blackness, 07-08-09
"Swim Club Accused of Discrimination," FOX 29 Philadelphia, 07-08-09
"Valley Swim Club: Day Two," Adam B at Daily Kos, 07-08-09
There is an excellent commentary about this pool incident that was recently feature at Huffington Post, called "Same Old Philly" writing about the undeniable overt racism that persists in Philadelphia.
Charles D. Ellison writes that:
The real problem with the recent Valley Club swimming pool incident is that, if you're from Philadelphia, it comes as no surprise. We might wear that Ill Town badge with gritty pride, but we know what the deal is and has always been.
Then, in his concluding paragraph, he cites the case of Mumia Abu-Jamal:
Despite the fact nearly half the town is Black, elected its 3rd Black mayor and African Americans have a significant cultural, economic and political presence in the town, the racial tension is real thick. Which is one of the reasons Philly White folks have kept Mumia Abu Jamal on death row for so long, but always come short of executing him. It's the fear of a bottled rage being unleashed. So, don't act so surprised, family. Don't get so emotional. It's Philly.
After personally living in Philadelphia and personally working with the movement supporting Mumia, I can say that the overt racism that surfaces among the crowd wanting Mumia dead, is well..... almost unbelievable.
Here are two key articles that I have written about this, including this photo-essay documenting the Neo-Nazis that came out:
This is a report from a demonstration where a biker-gang, apparently consisting of many retired or off-duty cops, because many of them were wearing patches that simulated Philadelphia PD badges:
This event came after several weeks of intimidation from police. This is an article written by Linn Washington:
The anti-Abu-Jamal barrage of emails and telephone calls unleashed on the Clef Club included declarations perilously close to terroristic threats.
Some of the emails, including from persons identifying themselves as Philadelphia police officers, threatened a withdrawal of police services from the Clef Club.
"Any self respecting police officer in Philadelphia should refuse to answer any calls for service at your establishment," one policeman reportedly stated in an email.
"Since you insist on supporting this piece of trash, I highly recommend that in the future if you find yourself a victim of crime that you DO NOT call 911 for help. Call mumia or MOVE....if you cannot support us why then should we support you?"
And, this is my article here, detailing the intimidation:
"I received nothing less than 10 or 15 death threats over the last four weeks from so-called Philadelphia police officers. I assured them that I would show up today, so they would have an opportunity to kill me. They’ve intimidated and scared folks. They’ve done what the Ku Klux Klan has always done in America: terrified Black people, poor people, immigrants and good white people" into stepping down and not confronting racism," declared Sgt. DeLacy Davis, of Black Cops Against Police Brutality.
and, in NYC:
Earlier that month, an April 15 hip hop concert and fundraiser for Mumia organized by youth in New York City was also forced to relocate when police intimidated the owner of the Remote Lounge. The Amsterdam News, the venerable Black Harlem-based paper, reported that "after receiving 16 citations, thousands of dollars in fines and allegedly malicious threats, the night club owner canceled the concert, two days before the scheduled event.".......
After the event was forced to relocate, an April 15 thread on the "RANT" site was titled "NY Mumia Hip Hop Benefit Rally Gets Bitch Slapped." One post under the name "Philadelphia Police Highway Patrol" said: "A sincere thank you to all of my NYPD brothers and sisters. You men and women are truly the best!"
Several other posts continued to boast of their actions with comments like "good job guys , f--k you mumia you dirty savage," "I’m shocked, amazed, and feel a warm glow! Great work. Outstanding!!!," "16 citations - and guess what the hits are gonna keep coming you f--k wad," "Does anyone sell Mumia targets, so I can keep his cause alive in spirit?"