A Black-owned swim club is changing the narrative by teaching Black adults how to swim without fearing water.

Nadine Ford, swim coach and executive director of Evolutionary Aquatics, a nonprofit led by Black women in Charlotte, North Carolina, dedicates her time to mainly teaching Black adults how to swim. According to the website, the club’s mission is to “reteach Black adults their authentic and genetic aquatic culture” and to shatter stereotypes that “Blacks don’t swim.”

“People want to learn how to swim,” Ford told WFAE, Charlotte’s NPR station. “They may have had trauma, they may not have had access. Or maybe they took lessons, and they just wanted to get stronger.”

According to the CDC, the drowning death rate among Black people is 1.5 times higher than their white counterparts. Additional research shows adults have reported being unable to swim or having limited knowledge of navigating waters.

The federal agency suggests taking swim lessons to lower the drowning death rate in the U.S.

Ford and her roster of certified instructors plan to educate the Black community in Charlotte that learning to swim can be a positive experience.

Evolutionary Aquatics has about 32 people enrolled in its four-level swim instruction: Level 1 is an introduction to basic water skills, including floating on your front and back; Level 2 is learning how to kick in various motions; Level 3 is developing the skills to swim in different techniques, and Level 4 is advanced training for those interested in competing in swim meets.

The nonprofit launched in 2014 under Mahogany Mermaids, a private members-only swim club. However, in 2020, the organization rebranded as Evolutionary Aquatics and became more inclusive. Ford said the organization is a space for Black people to gather and discuss issues mainly affecting their communities.

“We talk about our hair a lot because it’s our crown; it’s part of what we do. We may talk about products that make your hair more curly or enhance your natural curl pattern because we have curly hair,” Ford said. “We will discuss swimsuit fits because most Black women are curvy … we discuss swimsuits that will cover our curves. We’ll talk about modern politics as it affects our culture or whatever is going to affect us.”