For those who don’t know, I usually blame my mother for everything I don’t like about my life. Granted the list is relatively short. However, there is some blame to be placed squarely at my mother’s feet. As an adult, I am compelled to inform her of her inadequacies and missteps in raising the perfect child.

Today, for one brief moment, I almost blamed Clara. As my body parted the warm water, my arms stretched out and my legs began thrashing about, I could only think back to my childhood and the fact that I never learned to swim as a child.

Clara! Clara! Clara! SMH

How could you allow me to become another statistic?

How could let me be one of those black children who never learned to swim?

As my body glided across the water (rather haphazardly of course), I had a moment of clarity. This was not her fault. This problem was something grander and beyond the control of Clara and what she could or could not provide for her child (yes, there were others, but this is about me).

As I looked around the pool, I realized (tongue-in-cheek) I was the only black person at the pool. Then I started to think about the time when blacks were not allowed at pools. I thought about how some were disgusted. I thought about how black communities didn’t have pools. I know we have come a long way, but there is so much more to do to bring about equality of opportunity. This is also true for something as trivial as swimming. The proportion of black youth who learn to swim is dismal. The risk of unintentional drowning is alarming, with 70% of black children lacking basic swimming skills.

As I continued to swim, I became even more determined. My body glided across the water much faster than I’d ever gone before. For a couple of seconds, I found myself thinking, “GO VANESSA! I’VE GOT THIS! I am not a statistic! I can do this. I can do anything I set my mind to.”

As my fingers touched the pool’s wall, I couldn’t curtail my enthusiasm. I emerged from the water overcome with joy. I thought about all of those who fought so that I could have the right to swim in this pool. I also thought about Clara and the things she must have endured before 1965 and even until this day. I love my mother. I appreciate all she has done to support me in becoming the person I am today. THANKS CLARA!

For the record, my mother has four children. Three swimmers. One on the cusps of becoming a world-class swimmer (that’s me). ROFL

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