According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are nearly 10 accidental drownings in the U.S. every day. That’s 3,500 people every year who die in water. Within these numbers is a startling fact: the fatal-drowning rate of Black/African-American children is three times higher than white children.
On November 17, 2021, Prime Time hosted Water is Our Medicine where more than 50 attendees joined to screen the award-winning and Emmy nominated documentary, “Wade in Water, Drowning in Racism.” The documentary takes a deep dive into Black Florida’s 1960s fight for the right to swim in state beaches and swimming pools. Following the screening, attendees joined in small breakout groups to discuss their water experiences and their take-aways from learning about the obstacles that separated Black people from their historical connection to the water.
“I truly appreciate the opportunity to view the documentary, it provided more insight into an area I had some understanding of, but not all the pieces.” – Event Attendee
“Profound! That is the only word that can describe my feelings/reaction to the movie and discussion this morning. I learned so much and was so moved. I am a water soul and to hear the history/context that Thaddeus shared for Black and Brown people has awakened me.” – Event Attendee
Attendees then heard from the event panelists:
“When I discovered diversity and aquatics … and all of the history of the beaches here in South Florida and the struggle to get access to the water, and then I found the backstory how Africans were amazing swimmers and had an aquatic tradition that it all just came home to me and I felt that I needed to tell the story in the hopes to reconnect Black people with the water.” – Cathleen Dean, Filmmaker, Wade in Water, Drowning in Racism
“When we were able to connect the water to something more than just recreation, like job opportunities and personal development, and having personal breakthroughs in a way that they could feel more self-efficacious, it can feel that they can save themselves, and they can interact with their environment in a way that’s necessary” – Thaddeus Gaory, Director of Partnerships & Collaboration, Diversity in Aquatics
“90 to 95% of our first time students, even all the way up to high school, have never been in the salt water on the boat in the ocean.”- Rich Brochu, Founder & CEO, Florida Fishing Academy
When we asked attendees how this event will change their work in the future, they said:
“To continue to support and promote water access and programs for the disadvantage.” – Event Attendee
“Helping youth lose fear of water, knowing our history” – Event Attendee
“I will connect others to the film to learn of local history of people of color and the power of connecting to water. It is important to share water safety with my family members, friends, and OST program directors to ensure we all support drowning prevention efforts to keep everyone safe in our Florida beaches, pools and surrounding bodies of water.” – Event Attendee
Following the event, attendees were sent resources to utilize mindfulness and healing–centered practices, diversity in aquatics and community-of-practice opportunities and resources for the benefit of youth, colleagues and families in our out-of-school time environments.