To kick off the effort, introductory one-hour Black swimming camps will be held on Sunday, June 20 at 9:30 a.m. and 11 a.m. at the Clark County YMCA in Vancouver, 11324 N.E. 51st Circle. Participants will learn basic water safety skills and the principles of water stewardship. The workshops are for kids of all ages and their parents and caregivers. To register, visit ymcacw.org/bsi.
According to Sam Cox, awareness director for YMCA of the Columbia-Willamette, plans for future Black Swimming Initiative events are in the works.
“Our hope is that this is just the kickoff event of something bigger,” he told the Portland Observer.
In response to the national conversation generated by the Black Lives Matter movement and his motivation to address inequalities in water safety education in the BIPOC community, local Black triathlete Morgan Spriggs has partnered with the Y to help teach the courses.
“Our Black Swimming initiative seeks to expand meaningful participation in water sports by providing a strong sense of belonging for black athletes of all backgrounds, abilities, and lifestyles by supporting safe and accessible water safety and swimming instruction,” Spriggs said. “Growing up in the Northwest, I was always near a body of water yet my family was fearful of entering it.”
“As a Black triathlete and swimmer, I was taught by several gifted athletes who believed in my potential. We are looking to build out a program so others can receive the gift of this skill,” he said.
According to officials, Oregon has the 10th highest rate of deaths due to drowning nationwide at 1.4 deaths for every 100,000 people.
The federal Centers for Disease Control reports that drowning in a swimming pool was almost six times more likely among black children and adolescents aged 5–18 years than among their white peers. However, if a group's exposure to pools is less than that of their peers, their true drowning risks, based on equivalent exposure, could be even higher.