Posted on May 16, 2024

Her Goal Is to Defy the Notion That Black People Don’t Swim

Marquise Francis, NBC, May 14, 2024

Five years ago, Paulana Lamonier made public her goal to change the lives of countless people in the New York City area.

That goal also ended up changing her life.

The former collegiate swimmer at York College, in the Queens borough, tweeted in 2019 that she wanted to teach 30 Black people to swim. Lamonier, the daughter of Haitian immigrants, knew that learning to swim as a child changed the trajectory of her life. {snip}

“Swimming has given me a sense of purpose, a sense of drive,” Lamonier, 32, said.

Once she quickly surpassed that first goal, she set an even loftier one: to make swimming more affordable for everyone, particularly for Black children and adults. Two years later, Lamonier created Black People Will Swim, both a business and mantra, to do just that.

Keenly aware of the lifelong racial disparities in swimming, Lamonier can rattle off various stats like simple math equations. For instance, how Black children ages 10 to 14 are more than seven times as likely to drown than white children and overall, how 64% of Black kids have little to no swimming ability as compared to just 40% of white children.

“Swimming has claimed so many lives of Black people,” she said. “We deserve to have a space to learn without feeling discriminated against, without feeling as if we have to break the bank to learn this life skill. And, most importantly, it’s really a community.”

The increasing demand for the program year after year is evidence of its impact, Lamonier said. After teaching about 300 students in each of the first three years of its operation, she said Black People Will Swim now serves 300 people every six weeks, with a growing waiting list for each of the 48 group classes currently in session. {snip}