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Charity Launches to Drive Participation, Engagement and Inclusion of BMEs in Aquatics

The Black Swimming Association (BSA) set up to highlight the importance of swimming as an essential life skill, showcase the benefits and opportunities in aquatics and prevent drowning in black and minority ethnic communities, officially launches in partnership with Swim England, the Swimming Teachers’ Association and in collaborative engagements with the Royal Life Saving Society UK, Nike Swim and London Marathon Events.

Image: From left to right _ Alice Dearing, Danielle Obe, Seren Jones, Ed Accura.

Recent figures released by Sport England shows that 95% of black adults and 80% of black children in England do not swim. Additional research from the World Health Organisation also suggests that the risk of drowning is higher among ethnic minority communities.

The under-representation of the BME community in swimming, coupled with the high number of water-related accidents, is believed to be partially attributed to affordability, accessibility, aquaphobia, representation and social stereotypes related to the sport.

In an attempt to highlight and tackle these issues, the BSA - a first of its kind not-for-profit charity - is working with the aquatic community, national governing bodies and swimming charities to design projects and programmes suited to the unique aquatic needs of BME communities. These will be hosted in regions with the highest Afro-Caribbean populations in the UK and will involve London, Birmingham, Manchester and West Yorkshire.

Seren Jones, one of the co-founders of the charity and Head of Social Media and Public Relations said, “I was a competitive swimmer for 13 years in Cardiff and later in the US Collegiate system. From a young age, I not only noticed the absence of the black community in the sport, but also the fact that many black people in this country have little to no swimming ability at all. I strongly believe that the Afro-Caribbean and BME communities can become empowered by their own abilities and gain the confidence to take on swimming as an essential life skill.”

Co-founder and Head of Corporate Strategy and Development, Danielle Obe said, “We all agree regardless of gender, age or ethnicity that swimming is an important and essential life skill that everyone should have. One of the key objectives of the BSA is to tackle aquaphobia and get adults especially to take that first step into the water as part of our swim clinics.” Danielle is also the inventor of a revolutionary new aquatic headgear, The Nemes, a recreational aquatic aid exclusively designed to protect hair from chlorine and water damage – breaking a significant barrier to swimming that exists within the Afro-Caribbean community.

Fellow co-founder and Head of Corporate Partnerships, Ed Accura, is an example of someone who overcame aquaphobia and learned how to swim. Ed’s motivation stemmed from the fact that he has a young daughter - the thought of him not being able to help her if she happened to be in a life or death situation involving water was something he couldn’t deal with. Ed starred in and produced A Film Called Blacks Can’t Swim showing the story of his own personal journey but also looking at the societal reasons why black people are less likely to learn how to swim.

Damian Stevenson is the Insight & Partnerships Director at Swim England. He said: “We hope this partnership can help Swim England to increase visibility, representation and participation of BME groups within all of our sports. The Black Swimming Association can offer unique insight to help us promote inclusion and diversity in aquatics.”

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