Morehouse College will host a swim meet over the weekend to demonstrate the legacy that swimming and water sports have at HBCUs. 

Diverse in Aquatics’ second annual HBCU Celebration Swim Meet and Water Safety Festival will focus on the future of swimming. Aquatics programs are regaining popularity at HBCUs, as well as career opportunities. According to And Scape, the event production company partnered with the Cricket Celebration Bowl. Miriam Lynch, executive director of Diversity in Aquatics, says the meet is more than a competition. 

“They knew swimming was networking,” Lynch said. “You know what they say, ‘You need to learn how to golf because most of your business is on the golf course.’ The same thing with swimming — you need to learn how to swim because that’s also where business is conducted, during those summer times at the pool. Water safety was a part of the culture, a part of the lifestyle.”

It wasn’t until the Coronavirus pandemic a few years ago that Howard and other HBCUs required students to pass a swimming class to graduate. Since it was founded in 2010, Diversity in Aquatics has grown to about 2,000 members, which includes Olympic medal-winning swimmers Cullen Jones and Maritza Correia McClendon. In addition to Howard being the only HBCU with a swimming program, Diversity in Aquatics organized a swim meet and water safety festival to raise awareness of drowning.

Teshia Lincoln is a kinesiology professor at Grambling State who helps facilitate a club program at her alma mater and is passionate about swimming, water safety, and education. As a child, she grew up swimming with her siblings in ponds, lakes, and rivers near Louisiana.

“It wasn’t like we went to the YMCA to learn how to swim,” she said. 

She became interested in water sports and education when she took up water aerobics to rehab from a dance injury. Tiger S.H.A.R.K.S. at Grambling State University stands for swimming, health and wellness, aquatic fitness, recreation and rehabilitation, kinesiology, and safety awareness, and is designed to serve the university and the local community. 

The program has had challenges, including the fact that Grambling has not had a working pool on campus for nearly three decades and the continued reluctance of Black people to get in the pool — “the fear factor,” Lincoln said.

For Black people ages 10-14, drowning death rates are 3.6 times higher than for whites and 7.6 times higher for those ages 10-14 when they are in swimming pools, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The second annual meet has been scheduled for Dec. 16 at Morehouse College.