Stats by Sport England show that 95% of Black adults and 80% of Black children in England do not swim.
One in four Black children leave primary school not knowing how to swim.
Research also shows that the risk of drowning is higher in Black and ethnic minority communities.
It was these sobering stats that lead Ed Accura to learn how to swim as an adult – and to document his journey in a powerful new film.
‘A Film Called Blacks Can’t Swim’ tells the story of Ed’s phobia of water, which developed after he read reports about flooding.
The film – which is partially documentary and partially drama – aims to tackle and eradicate the negative views and stereotypes associated with Black people and swimming by encouraging more people in the community to learn to swim and reduce the number of deaths by drowning.
‘I never learnt how to swim as a child,’ Ed tells Metro.co.uk.
‘My first encounter with swimming was probably aged 9, when I asked my parents to teach me, but it was never a priority and hence it never happened. As I grew older it became easier to just hide behind the stereotypes.
‘”I’m Black, so I have heavy bones and can’t float”, I would say. I’m sure at some point I started believing it.
‘I have a 9-year-old daughter and she was the trigger for me learning how to swim. If she was ever in difficulty in water on holiday or even in the pool, and I couldn’t save her, I would never forgive myself.’
Ed only started learning how to swim last year, so he is still not wholly comfortable in the water. But he is relieved that the intense phobia he has carried all of his life has now been lifted.
‘I also no longer have to be the person looking after the towels and bags on the beach whilst everyone else is in the water having fun,’ he says.
A Film Called Blacks Can’t Swim is about the anxieties that many Black Brits feel about not being able to swim, and the struggle with the fact that these spaces are often inaccessible or unwelcoming for ethnic minorities.
‘The film depicts the effects of the stigma, stereotypes and myths and includes personal views and experiences of various people within the BAME community,’ says Ed. ‘The film highlights why there is such a cultural divide when it comes to aquatics.’
Ed says he was shocked at the disproportionate number of Black people who do not swim, and scared by the stat that Black children are at least three times more likely to drown.
‘I need to highlight the issue on a wider scale,’ he says. ‘It is easier now to have these conversations as the elephant is out of the room.’
As well as creating this film, Ed is also the co-founder of the Black Swimming Association (BSA), alongside Danielle Obe – the first organisation of its kind that aims to highlight the importance of swimming as an essential life skill and prevent drowning in Black and minority ethnic communities.
‘The benefits of engaging in aquatics for health, well-being, social and economic empowerment are truly endless,’ Danielle tells Metro.co.uk.
‘Swim England’s 2019 Value of Swimming report highlights how invaluable swimming is to our society, saving the NHS £365M, improving community cohesion and being a big part of the solution to many socioeconomic issues.
‘The turn of a new decade heralds a great opportunity to drive forward more participation, inclusion and strategic engagements with underrepresented communities in the UK. Communities who would not normally engage in aquatics and all the great benefits it has to offer.’
After the launch of the film, the BSA aims to carry out substantive research to better understand the impact of these issues on the community.
‘Data from this research programme will go a long way to inform how educational resources and learning programmes can be designed to make swimming more inclusive and accessible for BMEs in the UK,’ Danielle adds.
Ed wants the film to help Black people confront their fears, address the stereotypes, and dispel the myths.
‘The last recorded data from 2018 shows that less than 1% of registered competitive swimmers with Swim England identify as Black or mixed-race,’ says Ed. ‘It’s now my duty to make this film available by officially releasing it and sharing my personal swimming journey to all.’
The film is available to watch online now, after the successful release of the pilot last year.
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