Thursday, July 09, 2009

Apparently Philadelphia has witnessed swimming pool racism 50-years before and in 1958 it inspired the creation of 'The Nile Swim Club'

[This was originally posted here in September 2008. I am reposting it as a reminded to what travails people of color have had in finding a place to swim in Philadelphia. Everything in brackets represents the updates.]

The Nile Swim Club is celebrating 50-years of service. Snippet from the Herald Tribune: "...It's a scene that wasn't possible more than 50-years ago in Yeadon, a Philadelphia suburb where black households wanting to join the local private pool were turned away because of their skin color.

[ Now fast Forward to The Valley Swim Club in July 2009 where this was said to the parents of African American parents who paid for the right to swim at the facility:

"I heard this lady, she was like, 'Uh, what are all these black kids doing here?' She's like, 'I'm scared they might do something to my child,'" said camper Dymire Baylor.

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."

[Link] ]

But in 1958, a group of eight black residents banded together to create the Nile Swim Club. The trailblazing facility is now celebrating its 50th year even as USA Swimming, the sport's national governing body, tries to recruit more minorities and reduce racial lopsided drowning rates. ..."

[ From the Red Cross:

"... Unless children receive proper water safety and swimming lessons - pools, water parks and even bathtubs can be dangerous places. According to the CDC’s latest study on water-related injuries the drowning rate in the US averages to nine people per day. Moreover, a disproportionate number – more than 40% – of those deaths are predominantly in communities of color. A startling statistic considering studies show minority children actually have less exposure to water-related environments1.

[Link] ]

[ The Nile Club History

Established in 1893, Yeadon, PA, had long been a comfortable, racially diverse suburban community. However, in 1958, when two African-American families applied for membership to the racially exclusive Yeadon Swim Club, club management stonewalled the applicants, indicated that their paper work had become lost and refused to admit them as guests or members of the facility. In response, Yeadon's African-American community solidified and decided to build its own private swim club.

On September 30, 1958, organizers in Yeadon's African-American community established a Pennsylvania non-profit corporation called the Nile Swim Club of Yeadon. After formalizing the corporation, the new club purchased a two-acre plot of ground on Union Avenue in the borough and hired a contractor for the construction of a swimming pool and clubhouse. The facility officially opened its doors for the 1959 season and offered $250 non-interest-bearing bonds and $30 memberships per family.

The club's opening was a significant story of African-American economic self-determination and was closely followed by national media. Celebrities such as Harry Belafonte and Motown's Supremes met with and supported the Club's founders.



Anonymous said...

The statistic about minority drowning rates almost included Cullen Jones. At the age of 5 Cullen was apparently a far cry from his current world record breaking, gold medal winning ways and had to be revived after nearly drowning at a pool party.

Since then he has donated boatloads of his time to the Make A Splash foundation, promoting swim lessons for minority youths.

He has released a statement on the Valley Swim Club here:

Seth said...

Good repost. I didn't see the original, but am glad you wrote it. I was a member of the Nile for many years as a youth (through my mother), whose father was also a member and active on the Nile's board. I was also a lifeguard there for four years during my high school and college years, and that time was the best of my life. I have many great memories from my time swimming and working there, and it is a jewel not only to African Americans, but all Americans.

My thoughts on the Valley Club situation: