Changing Tides: Africatown’s Swim Program Breaks Barriers

2 MIN READ
Mobile Rundown Staff

Swimming is a BIG deal on the Gulf Coast. 

But in Mobile’s Africatown community, some stigmas and stereotypes still keep folks from learning this crucial skill. 

Thankfully, that’s all changing now with a fantastic summer swim program. 

The Africatown Heritage Preservation Foundation is behind this initiative, making sure kids in the community have a blast in the water while staying safe. 

swimming classes - black kids

Leavie D. King III, its Board Chairman, is on a mission to break old generational patterns in the black community. 

And that means no more skipping swimming lessons!

We’ve got to put those tired stereotypes to rest. 

The kids not only become Red Cross certified, but they also get certified by city instructors. 

They’re learning valuable skills while keeping for around three hours on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays. 

And it looks like the program is here to stay.

They’re planning to keep it going for at least the next five years. 

So, why is this such a big deal? 

Well, let’s dive into some pool history for a bit. 

Back in the late 1800s, swimming pools started as public bathhouses — a way to promote cleanliness and keep diseases in check for the growing immigrant population. 

Sadly, it was mostly a privilege of the white elite back then. 

And as pools became all the rage, things got messy in the mid-century US. 

Social divides put up barriers for people of color, making it tough for them to enjoy the same public facilities. 

This situation gave birth to America’s storied past with public pools. 

Remember Fred Rogers?

Or you may remember him as the beloved host of the classic kids’ show “Mr Rogers’ Neighborhood.” 

He was well aware that some pools still didn’t welcome Black folks, and he decided to send a powerful message on his TV program. 

On May 9, 1969, he invited Officer Clemmons, played by François Clemmons, who was a Black police officer, to cool his feet in a wading pool with him.

Clemmons hesitated at first, saying he didn’t have a towel, but you know what Mr. Rogers did? 

He offered to share his towel! 

Today, this summer swim program in Africatown is trying to minimize the impact of racial segregation that Mr. Rogers was also trying to combat. 

By promoting inclusivity, diversity, and education, this initiative is a testament to the power of community support in fostering a more united future.

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