Paulana Lamonier, Founder of Black People Will Swim, Hopes to ‘Smash the Stereotype That Black People Don’t Swim’

Courtesy of Paulana Lamonier

Black People Will Swim has a relatively simple mission: “smashing the stereotype that Black people don’t swim.” This statement is proudly proclaimed all across the Long Island–based business’s website. And for Paulana Lamonier, the company’s founder and C.E.O., her swimming journey began as a child when her mother enrolled her and her sisters in a local swim program to keep them occupied.

In 2009, during her enrollment at CUNY York College, Lamonier was searching for a way to exercise and she opted to get reacquainted with swimming. For her, this meant learning to swim all over again. With the assistance and encouragement of coaches, her passion for swimming was ignited. After remastering skills in the pool, she joined her college swim team and, inspired by her college coach, Lamonier became a swim coach herself. “My college coach also had a swim club,” Lamonier says. “Seeing the entrepreneurship of a Black coach firsthand with a 50-member team in a predominantly white sport gave me the opportunity to see what’s possible.”

As a Black swimmer and coach, Lamonier quickly noted that the racial disparities in swimming participation were extreme. According to a recent study by USA Swimming Foundation and the University of Memphis, 64% of Black children cannot swim; 65% of Black children would like to swim more than they do; and 78% of Black parents have no/low swimming ability, which increases the likelihood their children won’t have good swimming skills. Black children and their parents are also three times more fearful of drowning than white children and parents.

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Motivated by her experience and fed up with stereotypes and statistics, Lamonier set out to improve this statistic, and thus Black People Will Swim was born.

A core component of Black People Will Swim is a mission-driven acronym F.A.C.E.: Fun. Awareness. Community. Education. The education goes beyond learning and perfecting strokes, but includes everything from proper hair care, rescue training, and the next steps in a swimmer’s journey. “For us, our roots and our priority is educating [Black people] on the history and educating them on how to save their lives,” Lamonier says.

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SOURCE: Sports Illustrated, Danielle Bryant

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