I grew up in Charlotte. Summer days were spent at Double Oaks pool with my neighbors and friends, Girl Scout camp up in the mountains, or on someone’s boat cruising Lake Norman for fishing and for fun. During the school year, when the pool was closed, we’d hop at the chance to go to McCrorey YMCA for some splash time. And everyone knew someone who was a Golden Aqua Bull from Johnson C Smith University. All this was the norm, regardless of income. We spent time in and around the water. And we were all Black.
So, imagine my shock, when as an adult, I heard that we were afraid of the water, and we didn’t swim.
I studied the data and researched the myths, and the one thing that glared at me were the comparisons. Why are Black and Brown non-swimmers compared to white non-swimmers, as if being white was the standard? Where were the numbers for Asian non-swimmers, or other groups?
Finding the answers to these questions were my driving force when I formed Mahogany Mermaids and Evolutionary Aquatics. I wanted everyone to know that Black and African-Americans have a strong aquatic history. I wanted to expose the myths that were created, for what they were…not just lies to shame and belittle us also but to save the face of those that discriminated against us. That’s what “blaming the victim” does, right? You restrict access to swimming pools in certain areas, and then create the myths that make it our fault..bones are too dense, too muscular, can’t get the hair wet.
I wanted my community to know who they were and the African aquatic communities that created us. To remember the role water played in our times as victims of human trafficking, to find meaning when they heard the hymnals telling us to “wade in the water” and to “lay our troubles by the riverside”. I deliver my programs in such a manner that everyone knows a Black man named Tice Davis escaped human trafficking by jumping and swimming down the Ohio River, the original underground railroad.
I wanted people not to feel shame in having a past traumatic experience with water. I wanted to create a community where these experiences could be discussed, reviewed, learned from..all in a manner to move forward.
And the results are showing that representation matters, and our methods work.
Since we launched our website, www.EvolutionaryAquatics.org, on August 9, 2021, to today, it has gotten 14,679 total views Our IG accounts have 1,500 followers combined.
In 2020, we were featured in the official magazine for US Masters Swimming, NBC Nightly news with Lester Holt, numerous local media stories and social media podcasts. In 2021, while our media presence continued, we received seven (7) calls from Black women requesting start-up swim club advice and were invited to sit on two speaker panels geared toward adult swimming. In 2022, in addition to ongoing local news coverage, we have received four (4) calls from non-whites requesting advice on growing and nurturing their Black male and female clientele. EA has been credited for the successful launch of two new swim clubs: Black Butterfly of Winston Salem and Sable Swimmers of Philadelphia, PA. This is evidence EA has a successful model on which we can continue to build and grow.