Black Kids Swim (BKS), the world's leading resource for Black competitive swimmers and a Maryland-based non-profit, recently launched an original web series, The Gorée Project, to unite Black Americans and Senegalese through cultural and athletic exchange.
This year will mark the 33rd Dakar-Gorée Swim, a race in which hundreds of competitors swim from Dakar, Senegal to Gorée Island, the former port in which enslavers sold and shipped Africans some 400 years ago. The Gorée Project will chronicle the first time in history an African-American team competes in this symbolic event that takes place in 3.5 miles of open water.
“There is strength in unity,” said Ebony Rosemond, founder and executive director of BKS. “The African Diaspora needs to come together, especially now, to better protect and support one another. But first, we need to better understand each other. We've put an all-star team together to prepare Howard University alumni Skylar Smith and Noah Nicholas for this experience — physically, mentally, and culturally.”
She added, “And as viewers [of The Gorée Project], both Senegalese and American, will follow this story. We will begin to break down the stereotypes that have kept the Diaspora fractured for so long.”
Competitive swimming is not diverse. USA Swimming, the organizing body for the sport for the United States, has 337,000 members, of whom only 1.3 percent are Black. Juan Caraveo, a sports diversity and inclusion consultant for USA Swimming, called the 2016 U.S. Olympic swim team, “The most diverse yet.” However, out of 47 swimmers, only three identified as African-American: Simone Manuel, Lia Neal, and Anthony Ervin. Similarly, there were 22,501 swimmers across all NCAA divisions and conferences during the 2017-2018 school year, yet only 1.6 percent identified as African-American, while 76 percent identified as white, according to the NCAA demographic database. BKS, which is working to change the sport by creating a web series that showcases Black swimmers excelling in the sport.
African Americans are barely present in collegiate swimming as swimmers or coaches. In addition, Howard University is the only HBCU with a swim team. Along with healing the fractures across the African Diaspora, BKS’s aims to destroy the stereotype that Black people can't or don't swim with The Gorée Project. In addition, the web-series will educate African Americans and Senegalese about their respective history and culture to build community.
The Gorée Project is funded through generous donations from the Black swim community and a crowdsource campaign which will launch July 14, 2020 on Black Kids Swim’s website. The Gorée Project was created in a COVID-19 environment and in the midst of Black Lives Matter protests. BKS and it's production team combined innovative videography and live-action screen-casting to capture this historic journey.
About Black Kids Swim (BKS):
BKS is a 501c3 organization based in Prince George's County, Maryland founded in 2015 to provide access to an increased range of opportunities for Black children by encouraging the development of proficient swim techniques. BKS raises awareness, provides guidance, and serves as the go-to source for information on competitive and non-competitive Black swim team options.
The online community was inspired by the Rosemonds' daughter, who is a championship butterfly and freestyle swimmer. One day, their daughter entered the term "Black Kids Swim" into a search engine and the results were both alarming and saddening. BKS works to change what the world thinks when they hear the words "Black Kids Swim." BKS debunks the myth that Black children do not swim well and encourages those who cannot swim to learn!
There are multiple resources to help Black children learn basic water safety skills. Black Kids Swim wants to see our children do more than simply 'survive" in the water. We want them to develop a valuable technique that can benefit them physically and professionally throughout their entire lives.