« Adios! | Main | Why YOU Can't "Boycott" BET - A Letter from the Battle Scarred »

Surely You Jest:Valley Swim Club to Black Children... Drop Dead

We combine a casual, friendly atmosphere with an emphasis on family. With ten spacious acres of land, there is room for everyone[except Black children] to relax and enjoy themselves at the club. Valley Swim Club

Did you know that the group of children most likely to drown are African American children?
Nearly 60% of African-American children can't swim, almost twice the figure for white children, according to a first-of-its-kind survey which USA Swimming hopes will strengthen its efforts to lower minority drowning rates and draw more blacks into the sport.

Stark statistics underlie the initiative by the national governing body for swimming. Black children drown at a rate almost three times the overall rate. And less than 2% of USA Swimming's nearly 252,000 members who swim competitively year-round are black. USA Today

I wonder why?
The Creative Steps Day Camp paid more than $1900 to The Valley Swim Club. The Valley Swim Club is a private club that advertises open membership. But the campers’ first visit to the pool suggested otherwise.

“When the minority children got in the pool all of the Caucasian children immediately exited the pool,Horace Gibson, parent of a day camp child, wrote in an email. “The pool attendants came and told the black children that they did not allow minorities in the club and needed the children to leave immediately.”

The next day the club told the camp director that the camp’s membership was being suspended and their money would be refunded.[...]

“There was concern that a lot of kids would change the complexion … and the atmosphere of the club,John Duesler, President of The Valley Swim Club said in a statement.

The folks over at Jack and Jill Politics are not amused:
If you’re mad as hell like I am, you can email, call or just go on ahead and “change the complexion” of the Valley Swim Club by showing up with picket signs. I am picking up the phone after I finish this post, y’all. Do it for the kids.

Physical Address:

Club Phone Number:


Club E-mail:

Hmm I wonder if this "club" has non-profit status? Yep, they do :) This could be a problem with the revenue department if there is any pesky non-discrimination requirement. I suspect a well worded apology letter shall be issued any moment now.  The lawyers are just figuring out who to throw under the bus. I'm going to make another prediction that we'll also have a tearful press conference as well thrown in to boot. In any event, another school has stepped up to the plate.

So the staff at Girard College, a private Philadelphia boarding school for children who live in low-income and single parent homes, stepped in and offered their pool.

"We had to help," said Girard College director of Admissions Tamara Leclair. "Every child deserves an incredible summer camp experience."

The school already serves 500 campers of its own, but felt they could squeeze in 65 more – especially since the pool is vacant on the day the Creative Steps had originally planned to swim at Valley Swim Club.

"I'm so excited," camp director Alethea Wright exclaimed. There are still a few logistical nuisances -- like insurance -- the organizations have to work out, but it seems the campers will not stay dry for long. Source

As someone newly acquainted with a pool following learning how to swim as a child, forgetting, nearly drowning as an adult, and relearning how to swim in addition to treading water (yay!), there is no better workout, I even chopped off my hair to spend more time in the pool. Chlorine and relaxers don't play well together. .

Reader Comments (27)

Very sad commentary. Fortunately Senator Arlen Spector was informed, and is now looking into the matter. "The allegations against the swim club as they are reported are extremely disturbing," Specter said in a statement. "I am reaching out to the parties involved to ascertain the facts. Racial discrimination has no place in America."

Ironically, I remembered remembered reading how Girard College was involved in its own landmark U.S. Supreme Court Civil Rights case when it was desegregated in 1968 (http://tinyurl.com/lrndrz). I'm glad that the school extended their pool to the campers. I learned to swim at the age of 4 at summer camp, and I'm happy that I was never denied that opportunity. It's great to see that the parents/camp staffers brought it to the media's attention.

July 9, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterurbanbydesign

It comes full circle. Discrimination is why too many black kids can't swim.

July 9, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLaJane Galt

Did these idiots not see the movie "Pride" it was based in Philly I believe. See we are not in a post-racial country as so many have stated.

Cullen Jones, I applaud you for your Olympic victory in Swimming, that's an in your face for the people who turned away the black kids at their pool!

July 9, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterWanna Twinkie

Ha! Their voicemail box is full!

July 9, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterWanna Twinkie

I don't think discrimination has much to do with blacks not swimming. The older generation in my family were/are afraid of water and they passed that fear down to myself and my younger relatives.

Travelling a lot, I have noticed in many countries or Islands with large black populations you will see few blacks swimming or at the beach.

Even in places like Martha's Vineyard where priveledged blacks with much greater exposures linger for the summer. I see a lot more parading around looking beautiful at the beach than actual swimmers.

So sad to hear the stats about black kids drowning...but it seems logical that that would be the case.

July 9, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterknockoutchick

This makes me so angry! I want to make a phone call and voice my complaints. I need to write out a prepared script because i am not that good off the cuff....but these folks will hear from me!

July 9, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterkeke

This reminds me of the Dorothy Dandridge movie starring Halle Berry, when she stuck her toe in the water at the pool and the hotel drained the pool out and had the maintance man scrub the pool down. The more things change the more they stay the same.

Cosign with knockout chic and Gina, that was my issue to when I was younger; chemicals in my hair and my older relatives telling me that swimming in chlorine water makes you dark.

July 9, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLD

I called, and their voice mail is full.
I'm sending an e-mail.


I can't speak for anyone else, but in my hometown when the courts ordered the public pools to integrate, they closed the public pools. I didn't learn to swim because my family couldn't afford the YMCA and certainly we didn't have access to private swim clubs.

July 9, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRoslyn Holcomb

The United States needs to look itself in the mirror before it preaches about diversity, equality and justice to the rest of the world. We do not live in a post racial society no matter how much the old hippies, liberals, self called progressives insistant. Racism will not go away with the election of Barack Obama nor during his presidency. Look at how much Obama was demonized leading up to the elections! You even had people threatening to kill him...You have the police literally getting away with murder of innoncent black men and boys because they look threatening or were mistaken for attacking the police. No this is not an exaggeration. Truth is and again no one wants to hear it, yhe U.S. has never confronted racism face to face, through dialogue nor want to listen to consequences of racism, eurocentrism and white privalege toward people of color in U.S. and world. You must travel to see the consequences of eurocentrism. We may live in a globalized world but the western world doesn't want to hear any grievances about racism where Europe or U.S. is to blame. The motto is we live in a post racial world, African Americans have their civil rights and there is no colonialism because of western guilt so lets all be happy and forget the past. I beg to differ.

July 9, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAan Barnes

I was enraged when I first read about this incident on another site - how dare they! I truly hope that folks that live it the area do protest, and "change the color!"

What I have heard from older folks was that they didnt learn to swim due to hair issues. Folks couldnt keep their hair straight if they were swimming, and so they didnt.

My mother never learned to swim and thats why she had my sister and I enrolled in classes while we were still toddlers! I honestly dont remember a time when I couldnt swim. Its definitely a necessary skill.


July 9, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterlola gets

Lola gets, I agree it is a survival skill and I need to learn as well...Your mother was smart to get you and your sister started young.

July 9, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterwannatwinkie

Roslyn is right. There absolutely is a racial discrimination aspect to the large number of black children that aren't exposed to swimming pools.

In many southern cities, officials chose to cement pools closed instead of allowing integration... so black and white children lost out. The white families usually were able to find another place for their kids to swim -- like private clubs or clubs that had a fee.

Here is an article about a situation in North Carolina in the 1960s regarding swimming pools and integration.


July 9, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterlisa99

@ LD

LOL at "chlorine water makes you dark".

Thanks for that...you gave me a good crack up. :-)

My older relatives had some good ones too....brings back memories!

July 9, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterknockoutchick


Discrimination has a lot to due with why black americans can't swim.

Most public pools were segregated and when they were forced to integrate they shut down instead. So most blacks didn't have access to pools to learn.

Also most beaches were off limits as well. Since an older generation didn't learn to swim, the younger generations followed suit.

As a matter of fact as late as 2000 some of those public pools that were closed still hadn't been reopened or were just being reopene.d

July 9, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJJ

I can't swim, but my daughter an sisters are in swimming lessons this summer.

I told my mother there would NOT be another generation of girls not being able to swim...after much harassing she signed them up...lol.

July 9, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJJ

OK.... you Ladies have helped me to see another side of this. I grew up in New York and had full access to pools yet my older family members were just afraid of water.

Since there is never solely one cause for most issues. I would say blacks not swimming is caused by a witches brew of fear, ignorance, outdated thinking and discrimination.

July 10, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterknockoutchick

There are many unanswered questions about this case.
Why did the Swim club accept $1900.00 from Creative Steps Day Camp knowing that the children were African-Americans and Latinos, if they were not prepared to honor their agreement?
Were the Euro-American members of the swim club unaware of the agreement with Creative Steps until the children arrived? If so, why?

The Valley Swim Club brouhaha is the natural result of three decades of Euro-American backlash to the Civil Rights movement with it's attendant demonization of African-Americans and loud, huffing denials by racists of "alleged discrimination".

We will see all of the post-Civil Rights moves: official denials of discrimination due to race/ethnicity, silence on the part of the members as they hunker down and ride out the predictable outcry, fleeting attention by a big name "black" with a small "b" political organization and muted statements of concern by various politicians.

In the end, the Valley Swim club members will achieve their desired objective: a segregated pool. in the end, our children will have suffered rejection and humiliation in a public setting through no fault of their own. in the end, nothing will have changed.

July 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAfram

I have a little different take on this. I think that they should be picketed and maybe sued but I don't think that folks should take those kids back to that pool unless there is absolutely no other pool that they can go to. I don't believe in giving racists our money. I don't think that we should contribute to their wealth. Wealth justs makes them that much stronger. As a short term solution maybe but only as long as it takes to get our own pool.

July 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterStriker

I agree with you, Striker, our own pool would lift us off our knees and set us squarely on our feet. We need to end this macabre dance with bigots and start playing our own tunes.

July 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAfram

I am getting so many emails about this it is amazing. I do not think picketing or protesting this folks helps much...they will still be bigots. I think that energy can be better directed. Kids in North Philly have much bigger issues than swimming at a private pool...they can barely peek their heads outside their doors without being shot.

July 11, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterknockoutchick

KOChick, you have a point. In the scheme of things the incident at the swim club is minor. I think what has people's backs up is the sheer hypocrisy of these suburban bigots. These people and their leaders proclaim loudly to all who will listen that they are "colorblind" & "post-racial". They bristle at being called "racists", yet they act like their relatives in St. Petersburg, Florida circa 1955, when African-Americans were trying to desegregate the beaches: in a word, ugly.

July 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAfram

I do not see a problem not allowing the black kids in to the pool. You blacks have BET (no whites on it), Miss Black beauty pageant (whites CANT have a Miss White beauty pageant because it is discrimination...) When Farrah Faucett, Ed McMahon, Billy Mayes died where was Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton?? You blacks are the most discriminating class of citizens since George Wallace back in the 50s!! While the REST of the USA tries to move past the actions and feelings from the 50s-70s, you try to bring it back up and make yourselves included in EVERYTHING but exclude all other races ESPECIALLY WHITES!! You people are hypocritical and are no better than Ku Klux Klan and I hope that all you hypocritical @ssholes rot in hell for being hate mongers!!

I for one support the swim club because if I ran any thing I wanted to be exclusive, I would turn away ANY one I did not want there and then I would DARE you to show up with your D@MN pickets.... Rot in hell you racists b@stards...

July 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterWhiteyCanSwim

Here's why it matters (a poem by Countee Cullen):


Once riding in old Baltimore,
Heart-filled, head-filled with glee,
I saw a Baltimorean
Keep looking straight at me.

Now I was eight and very small,
And he was no whit bigger,
And so I smiled, but he poked out
His tongue, and called me, "Nigger."

I saw the whole of Baltimore
From May until December;
Of all the things that happened there
That's all that I remember. "

No, there was no child called a name (at least that we know of) but the stigma, the pain will follow these kids around. That's why it has to be loudly and publicly stated as to the wrongness of the club's behavior.

July 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterWesty


Actually, everyday citizens and neighbors are slamming Valley Club so hard that the two Revs (Sharpton and Jackson) will have little to "protest."
Read this excerpt from Washington Times column:

"Whenever legitimate acts of bigotry occur, they should be exposed to the light of day. The media and the legal system - fueled by public outrage - can do the rest. In this case, substantial national and even international news coverage of the Valley Club incident is beginning the process of making the campers whole.

Racism is so unwelcome in America these days, government is no longer the most effective mechanism to thwart it. The common sense of good-hearted citizens is enough to shame culprits to relent. Modern institutions have filled the void where organizations like the NAACP have become more and more irrelevant - and hopelessly partisan - in confronting bigotry.

Facebook and Twitter, powerful social media tools, worked so quickly that Mr. Sharpton and Mr. Jackson didn't have time to book their flights to Pennsylvania. Good Samaritans came out of the woodwork to offer the campers opportunities such as cooking lessons from local chefs and classes from professional filmmakers and other artists. Nearby Girard College has offered its swim facilities to the kids for free."


In short, Valley Club's rep is in the mud while the Black kids get FREE swimming lessons as well as other perks.

America still has racism issues, but it is still a lot better than what my parents endured.

July 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterFred

EuropeanPersonCanSwim you are welcome to BET and Al Sharpton, LOL!!!

July 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAfram

WhiteyCanSwim – You must not be from the USA, because if you were, then you would know that racism against “you blacks” is centuries old not 3 decades. Clearly we can see that from the Valley Swim Club incident, things are not improving.

Do you even know Americas history?? I don’t think so because you would not even dare say something like “While the REST of the USA tries to move past the actions and feelings from the 50s-70s“. Tell me how do you “move past” being abducted from your homeland, stripped of your identity, having generation and generations of your family forced into slavery for hundreds of years, to endure all that and still not be seen for the quality of person you are but only the color of your skin?

Remember this, all the progress that has been made for blacks in the US, has not even begun to break the surface of what is rightfully OWED

July 20, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterWOW

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>