Friday, July 10, 2009

I AM the Black Dot in the WATER that is Pissing in a Philly Pool

(PHOTO CAPTION: In 2004, Maritza Correia is the only African-American woman to qualify for the US Olympic Swim Team)
It was the early 80s and I just finished winning a 50 meter freestyle race somewhere in the Valley, right outside of Los Angeles. I was the only black in the event and one of the few blacks there. My older brother and sister made it to these finals for LA County's aquatic summer swimming program. As I was rounding the corner, a group of white girls who I just beat came up to me. The leader of the hyena pack said, "My daddy told me to tell you that you are a nigger." Appalled, hurt, and upset, I ran to my parents and told my father what happened. He told me to run back and tell them, "You ain't nuthin' but a peckerwood, cracker."

Oh no, my father does not believe in the non-reactive Civil Rights approach found in the black swimmers' movie "Pride". That was the typical MLK "turn-the-other-cheek" song and dance that we did not boogie to. So when I saw that girl, I let her have it, and of course, a couple of choice words I had picked up from my father as well. Then, I won another event and went on to become a lifeguard for 10 years.

Racism in the swimming pool and at swimming areas still goes on as we can see in the latest contempo-segregation at a Philadelphia pool where 60 black and Latino kids were turned away. Unfortunately, this is a norm that white America likes to avoid. That for the most part, there is an inner anxiety in intimate settings with darker hued folk.

Black people do not swim as much in this new world, not because they don't want to. For the most part, many of us did not have access to pools. Also, I argue that blacks, in particular, in the US, have not dealt with the spiritual pain of the Atlantic waters, or the sea. Plus, black women are so imprisoned by their hair care regime that the pool was never an option for many black women.

In spite of the aquatic segregation that was fought in the 1960s with "wade-ins", we are lovers of the water, best believe. My mama told me that one of her older brothers used to dive in the bayous in Louisiana to pull out the bodies that drowned in the waters. Talk about having Jacques Cousteau beat!

On a serious note, aquatic recreation has dried up in many communities of color, and like the long list of things we have not fought for, nor have funded---efficient and clean public pools are one of them.

Here is a little list of stories of inkwells (black swim areas) that were either removed, or set up to segregate black communities. Click on them to read a link about their histories.
(PHOTO: Black Inkwell in Santa Monica)

Martha Vineyard's Black Inkwell

Santa Monica, CA's Inkwell Beach

Racial Division in Chicago Public Beaches

Carr's Beach in Annapolis

Sparrow's Beach in Annapolis

Atlantic Beach in South Carolina

Segregation in Cape May, NJ

Gulf Coast Segregation

This reminds me about a documentary about Black Surfers called "Whitewash" that is being showed in Harlem next Thursday at an amphithetre by Marcus Garvey Park. The music score is by The Roots and Erykah Badu. A surfer girl who is land-locked. I will be there doing my AquaBoogie, yep, yep. Here is a trailer of the documentary.

However, I would like to the know the address of this recreational facility so I can piss in the waters and perhaps donate a Baby Ruth candy bar.

2 ish talking intellectuals holla at a sista:

ayankha said...

O the swim stories. I was watching the news this morning and the owners were on TV crying and carrying on about them not being racist and having to turn around other camps. I'm not buying it!

In honor of that camp, I think I will go swimming this weekend.

BTW- Good analysis on Black's not swimming as much. I think it's a good life skill and increased access & healing need to begin now.

Alice said...

I used to swim competitively and it always breaks my heart when I hear how many black children don't know how to swim. It makes me furious when a reason that they CHOOSE NOT to learn how to swim is because of their hair. It's a skill that could potentially save you or a loved one and a BEAUTY ritual is keeping you away from it!?