Black People Will Swim, an Organization on the Rise, Making a Difference

Paulana Teach Student
Photo Courtesy: Black People Will Swim

Black People Will Swim, an Organization on the Rise, Making a Difference

Paulana Lamonier has made a home around the pool.

Now she is doing the same for others.

Lamonier started an organization called Black People Will Swim, with an aim at breaking down stereotypes. It started with a lesson for 30 people in New York.

“This is a call to action. I wanted to teach Black and brown people how to swim. There aren’t enough opportunities to engage. I taught my 30 people, and it started to get out of hand with the response. I decided to create Black People Will Swim,” Lamonier told Swimming World. “For me, it was about the stereotype. I had a student say that I couldn’t swim because my bones are too dense. If this is something she thinks is the truth, how many people think that there is something false like this. It is really jarring how racism has a trickle down effect, especially in the sport of swimming.”

The student’s comment was an example of how racism and segregation still affect our country today, something Lamonier wanted to do something about, even in her side hustle of swimming. She has a main job as a social media strategist.

“It means a lot to me for a number of reasons. It means a lot to me as a Haitian-American woman. I am first-generation American,” Lamonier said. “There are a lot of firsts taking place here. To show my family and friends what is possible is amazing. But what makes this most worthwhile are the lives we are saving. We want to change that narrative. That is what makes this worthwhile to me.”

Myra Teach All Girl Class

Photo Courtesy: Black People Will Swim

Lamonier grew up swimming, but after years away, rekindled her relationship with the water in college.

“I have been swimming since I was a kid but relearned in college. I joined the swim team to stay in shape and stay active,” she said. “Swimming has always been my side hustle in college. I taught people lessons.”

Then she came up with the idea of teaching 30 “Black and brown” people to swim.

“After I realized that we were on to something, I purchased the domain name, hired a creative director and invested $5,000 to get this going and get our business affairs in order. We had to establish our mission and price point. That is what really scares people off. We had to create a price point that was fair,” she said.

It is working. Black People Will Swim had about 100 students in the summer with another 100 on a wait list.

“This summer, we sold out of caps and goggles and a lot of things,” Lamonier said. “We will likely need more instructors to support the demand. We are hoping to have more offerings for people wanting 1×1 lessons and people with special needs. We taught people from ages 2-60s. We had nearly 100 students in our program this summer. The reviews and reactions have been really great and welcoming. We had a wait list of 100 people. That goes to show that there is a demand for Black people – and brown people – wanting a safe place to learn how to swim.”

It was a strong response after struggling during the pandemic.

“It was incredibly difficult during the pandemic,” she said. “We made it work and now we are trying to see what our future looks like.”

The future looks bright.

Lamonier said Blake People Will Swim has some lofty long-term goals.

“We are a finalist for a grant. If we get it, we will be able to break ground on the first Black-owned swimming facility on Long Island. There is Black-owned (all kinds of things), and this will help us kick start that next goal. That is our long-term goal,” she said.


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