According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 5 to 19-year-olds who were Black were five times more likely to drown in a swimming pool. That's compared to their white peers.
At the Thelma Lovette YMCA in the Hill District, new memories are being made at the facility.
Memories, AJ Thomsen, who is the aquatics director and swim coach, said often are not given to under-served communities of color. He said, "There's an enduring perception that learning how to swim, learning how to be comfortable and safe around the water is not something that is for Black and brown people and that couldn't be further from the truth."
Thomsen said the main objective is to create a welcoming space. The YMCA has partnered with Latrice Rose-Moore of Melanin Mommies PGH to make discounted lessons possible for black and brown families to cut down on drowning deaths.
Rose-Moore said, "Just to know the impact we are having on families, they are more comfortable going on vacations, summer vacations because they know that their child has acquired some skills, survival skills."
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 5 to 19-year-olds who were Black were five times more likely to drown in a swimming pool compared to their white peers. Black children ages 11 and 12 were 10 times more likely to drown.
Rose-Moore said those statistics have deep, historical roots.
"Historically, that was one thing that prompted me to name it Black Babies Do Swim because of the statistics that Black families can't swim but also why those families can't swim being historically denied access to pools and it being a privilege to be in the water," Rose-Moore said.
One lifeguard, Sarene Goetz, teaches a class that has sparked discussion on Black hair care while swimming and now the facility provides a special all-women class to fulfill religious obligations.
Goetz said, “Create a water safety slash hair care seminar to let people know that the pool is a space for all people regardless of religion and race."
Thomsen said, "It's an open conversation, it's an ongoing dialogue where we are learning about the things that might prevent someone from getting into the water, skin and hair care is one of those things."