This is a continuation of my celebration of people and organizations who have influenced and helped to change the narrative of what it means to be a black person participating in aquatics! Read about these amazing people and organizations below!
The Swim1922 program is a partnership and initiative between Sigma Gamma Rho, Sorority, Inc. and USA Swimming that is dedicated to diversity and inclusion in swimming and water safety. It is their goal to increase swim participation and decrease drowning rates in the community. The host Swim1922 Clinics all over the country, teaching swimming skills and encouraging safe in and around the water. As one of the nine black greek-lettered organizations, they are making history everyday!
Brannon Johnson is the Owner and Head Coach of BLJ Community Rowing. BLJ Communiry Rowing is one of the most diverse community rowing programs in Philadelphia, PA. At 15 years old she learned to row at Fairmount Park Community Rowing Program and trained at Boston University's elite summer program for two consecutive years. and as she became an accomplishes rower received a full athletic scholarship to the University of Texas, where she rowed at the Division I varsity level all four years. She began teaching rowing in 2003 and in 2013 founded BLJ Rowing Community, affectionately called "A boathouse without walls." She has taught and coached over 150 classes and over 1,000 Philadelphia area residents. She is making history everyday with the growing membership of the most diverse rowing program that has access to Philadelphia's Schuylkill River and as a a member of USRowning's Diversity Initiative.
Dr. Shaun Andersonis the co-founder, former Executive Director of Diversity In Aquatics and current Chairman of the Board for Diversity In Aquatics and International Water Safety Foundation. During his undergraduate studies at Penn State University, Anderson was a four-year member of the swim team and three-year member of the track team. He was also a member of Penn State's first Swimming & Diving Big Ten Championship Team. After attaining his B.S. in Kinesiology from Penn State University, Anderson continued his education at California State University, Long Beach where he received his MBA in finance, and completed a Doctorate in Education Policy and Leadership. His work as the co-founder of Diversity In Aquatics, Inc. has influenced many and shed light on the need to increase diversity within every aspect of aquatics.
Coach Adrienne Wesley is a Water Safety Instructor, Swim Coach, and the Creator of Swim Life Fitness, LLC. Swim Life Fitness is dedicated to exposing the benefits of aquatic fitness through education, skill, and recreation. Swim Life Fitness’s mission and methodology is supported by scientific evidence that promotes that swimming is a life skill essential for not only survival, but also an enriched skill for overall wellness. Coach Wesley develops quality aquatic programs and services, which include Water Safety Education, Parent/Child Adaptive Aquatic, Stroke Development, and much more. aquatic instructional services, which include, and outreach focusing on persons with disabilities and underrepresented communities. Coach Wesley has developed partnerships with Autism Speaks Georgia, Dekalb Aquatics (USA Swim Club), Atlanta Parks & Recreation, and Make a Splash- USA Swim Foundation. Coach Wesley is an advocate for water safety education and aquatic education, continuing her work teaching and influencing people in the world of swimming and aquatics. She is making an positive impact in our community and definitely making history!
Diversity In Aquatics, Inc. is an organization made up of aquatic educators, athletes, coaches, researchers, and enthusiast who committed to increasing the knowledge and awareness of water safety and drowning prevention, providing educational programming and collaborative relationships, and increasing sustainability in water safety and drowning prevention efforts. Diversity In Aquatics believes that there is so much history,,empowerment, and excellence in the community that needs to be shared and grown. They have partnerships with many organizations such as the American Red Cross and the Association of Aquatic Professionals. Diversity In Aquatics, Inc. and its members make history everyday!
Anise Foreman is the Head Coach and Owner of the Elite Rays Swim Club. Anise began her swim career at the age of 5, swimming on the Prince Mont Swim League and Northern Virginia Swim League during her childhood. During high school, she became swim team captain performing exceptionally well at events such as 500 freestyle, 200 freestyle, and 100 backstroke. She attended Bowling Green State University where she continued to swim, teach, and coach. She continues to pour into the lives of her athletes, encouraging each athlete to exhibit strong moral character and athletic drive. She is making history everyday!
Happy Black History Month!! Let's continue to keep pushing forward and celebrating ourselves everyday!!
We are here to celebrate all things Black and all things Aquatics!!! As a black woman, professor, and aquatic professional, I believe it is my calling to bring people together and to make sure that our accomplishments are celebrated everyday!! Everyday there are attempts to avoid the contribution that Black people have made to American History, but you can not separate us from the very thing that we built! Black History is American History! This month and every month, I want to highlight this community, this Village, and all its greatness!!
Maritza McClendon swam for the University of Georgia and became a 27 All-American anf 11-time NCAA champion. She earned gold medals in the World championships in 2003 and in 2004 She became the first African-American Woman to become a member of the USA Olympic Swim Team, winning the silver medal. She is also a member of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc and advocates for water safety and aquatic education through their Swim1922 program and their partnership with USA Swimming. She is also a member of Diversity in Aquatics, Inc. and serves as a board member.
Coach Nic Askew is and alumni and head coach of the Howard University Swim Team. He is currently coaching his 6th season of the only remaining historically black college or university with a Division I swim and dive team, He has been honored as "Coach of the Week," "Coach of the Year," "Professional of the Year," and has been highlighted in The Washington Post and the Howard University Magazine.
Simone Manuel is an Olympic Gold and Silver Medalist. She earned her medals in the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, winning gold in the 100-meter freestyle and 4x100-meter medley and silver in the 50-meter freestyle and 4x100 freestyle relay. Manuel holds three world records in the NCAA Division-I Women's Swimming and Diving Championships. She turned pro in 2018 and I am so excited to see her in the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games!!
Cullen Jones is an 2008 and 2012 Olympic Gold and Silver medalist, winning a gold medal in the 4x100 meter freestyle and medley relay, as well as, a silver medal in the 50 freestyle and 4x100 freestyle relay. Jones is the first African American to hold a world record in swimming the 4x100-meter freestyle relay.
Coach William "Buck" Godfrey is a former... well "The" former head coach of Southwest Dekalb High School's football team and swim team. He began his coaching career in 1974, going on to becoming the winningest football coach in Dekalb County History and the winningest African-American coach in the state of Georgia. After 30 years of coaching at Southwest Dekalb High School, he retired from coaching and teaching. Then in 2014, he was inducted into the Georgia Athletic Coaches Association (GACA) Hall of Fame. In 2015, Panthersville Stadium, as named, William "Buck" Godfrey Stadium. Even though he is know best for being a football coach, he will always be my swim coach. Godfrey began coaching swimming in the 1970's as well and it was an honor to be coached by him and to be among the number of athletes that he influenced.
Rashan Ali is a multi-media personality and native of Decatur,GA who has numerous accomplishments, which include hosting popular radio shows in Atlanta, Ga (HOT 107.9 A-Team Morning Show/ Ryan Cameron Afternoon Show). Rashan currently co-host the nationally syndicated talk show, Sister Circle. She hosts her own podcast, The Cool Soror Podcast, where she engages in great conversations with women and men who are members of black greek-lettered organizations. Rashan is also the founder of Sporty Girls, Inc., which is a non-profit organization that encourages participation in non-traditional sports like swimming, tennis, lacrosse, and soccer. She is an accomplished swimmer, breaking records in Dekalb County and attending Florida A&M University on an academic and swimming scholarship. Rashan is also an active member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.
Rashan is inspiring and one of my role models. Not only as a professional woman, but as person who appreciates The first time I met her was a my high school swim practice. She was there to help her father, Coach "Buck" Godfrey, coach our swim team because the football teams season hadn't ended yet. I would see her a several more times since then and through the years, I have spoken with her about swimming and how her and her her father were positive influences for me. I even had the privilege of being a guest on her Cool Soror Podcast in 2016. She continues to do amazing work in television, radio, and in the community. Im sure the impacts will be felts for ages.
Dr. Wilburn Campbell is the former Albany State University Athletic Director, Dean of College of Education, and Swim Coach/Instructor. During the 1970's, when HBCU swim teams were prominent, Dr. Campbells ASU Swim Team were SIAC champions from 1975-1981 and Black College National Champions in 1979 and 1980. He lead the efforts to begin the National Youth Sports Program (NYSP) at ASU and served as the programs project administrator for 35 years. In 2016, he was inducted in to the Albany Sports Hall of Fame
As a Health and Physical Education major at Albany State University, I entered into the program with Dr. Campbell as my department chair. I took several courses with him as my professor and as a swimmer, lifeguard, and instructor, he brought me on to work with him in the NYSP program, a long with several other aquatic programs. Dr. Campbell has taught countless people of all ages in the community and is definitely worthy of mentioning during black history month.
Ashleigh Johnson is and water polo player and 2016 Olympic gold medalist. She was also a part of the USA team during the 2015 World Aquatics Championships, playing the goalkeeper.
Jamal Hill is a part of the US Paralympic Swim Team. At the age of 10, he was diagnosed with Charcot-Marie-Tooth (CMT). CMT is an hereditary neurological condition that can result in the loss of muscle tissue and touch sensation. Since his diagnosis, Hill has overcome his diagnosis and has become the number on ranked Paralympic Swimmer in the 100-Meter Freestyle and ranks number 22 in the world. He started the Swim Up Hill Movement in 2018 and is working to help lower the global drowning rate through private trainings, sponsors, and his digital swim school platform. He hopes to head to the Tokyo Paralympic Games in 2020 and bring home the gold!
The importance of a support system!
Ever since I can remember, I have enjoyed being in and around the water. It's like I am drawn to it. Whether it is sitting on the beach listening to the ocean waves, diving in to the deep end of the pool in the summer time, or letting the water from the kitchen faucet run over my hand, my connection to the water has always been there. Through all of these experiences, one thing I had and continue to have is a village of supports that encourage and lift me up. When I wanted to learn how to swim at the age of four or five, I remember my parents encouraging me. When I joined my first swim team, my coaches and teammates challenged me. When I wanted to become a lifeguard, I had role models (family and friends) that I could look up to and told me that it was the best job I could have as a teenager! When I became an instructor, there were people who taught me the art of teaching and listening. And now that I continue on as an educator and researcher, I have a support system that I can work with to address the pressing concerns of disparities and disadvantages with in our society when it comes to water safety education and aquatic participation. More specifically, addressing those disparities and disadvantages that occur within the Black Community.
In 2013, I started a blog called, Black Girl Swim. I wanted to create a space where I could tell my story as a Black American Woman who loves everything about swimming and would jump at the chance to participate in almost any aquatic activity. With the Black Girl Swim blog, I continue to highlight my experiences in and around the water, as well as, other black women and girl experiences. However, I felt that there were stories and opportunities that were not being highlighted enough in the Black Community as a whole.. including both our black men, women, girls, and boys. So, that is what My Swim Village is here for!
It is my goal that My Swim Village, LLC be a place of intention and purpose, support, and education of all things aquatics and water safety! Just as the age old saying goes, "It takes a Village to raise a child", I believe that it takes a Village to be motivated to learn, value, and actively participate in aquatic activities like swimming, kayaking, and diving. I believe that learning to swim is a life that everyone needs to master and My Swim Village is here to:
I invite you to join the My Swim Village Community and become a part of a community that Motivates, Teaches, and Inspires others to know that we are more than our fears, our hesitations, and negative stereotypes. Let's be that Village that uplifts!
Also, join in on the conversation! Who is a part of your swim village? What type of support do you need when it comes to participation in aquatic activities? Are there opportunities for swim and participate in aquatics in your communities? Leave a comment below!
Dr. Asherah Allen
Dr. Asherah Allen
Owner of My Swim Village, LLC, Creator of Black Girl Swim Blog, Assistant Professor of Kinesiology, Water Safety and Aquatic Educator, Mother, Wife, and Creative