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Access & hues of Blackness

Dear Community,

It's great to be back on the blog posts, connecting and sharing thoughts around our shared waters. Thank you for the feedback on our first blog for the year.

I hope you had a rested weekend and ready for the week ahead,

I’ve always had a dream of igniting swimming in communities, taking away the fear from deep waters, by helping the kids learn to swim, and so in December, our excursion started by putting the kids in the water, and seeing their competency in. As a self taught swimmer, I know the imperfection in the ‘learnt on the go’, but for the group, it would still need to meet a standard, being able to move yourself from A to B, and being able to tread water for a fair amount of time. But then I brought my friend in, James, he is a big wave surfer and is easily one of the most proficient swimmers I’ve ever seen, read very strong swimmer - dolphin energy. And so after the kids had done their laps, I looked over to him and asked for his thoughts, his first words were ‘we don’t fight the water, it's too big to fight. You need to be relaxed in the water’.

Something about this whole day ended up being transcendent for me, he operated from a space of calm and space and time, and I… from a seemingly desperate place to see the kids learn and know… in the ocean, we are calm and enjoyment and exploration, yet somehow in this pool was wanting to in-still this deep need… from a desperate point in my body… this energy is a world difference already.

And so a learning happened, for me and the kids as James went on to help the kids with their swim stroke, and the waters went quieter and quieter… and then off we went to the sea and beautiful snorkel play later.

I want to talk about 2 things from this day,

  1. Spatial Planning in South Africa

  2. Resources required to access this learning.

We had 2 older kids join the pool this day, they were from Stellenbosch and had played underwater hockey, and so the assumption of a strong swim ability. As James corrected the swim stroke, and later speaking to an old friend that had brought them to me, we spoke about access. How spatial planning had not changed for this community since apartheid. This means they have no pool in their community, a Black community, and how in the Brown community, there is a pool with lifeguards. So if the kids want to access the pool, they need to take taxis to get to town where they can be in a safer environment to learn, and second, however much they asked for a pool in their community, it is drowned out by housing needs, and so once again, the story of the desperate state of physical survival - shelter, meaning very little else can advance in dreams and skills.

Image by Bruce Buttery for CNN

And then, the resources required to access these waters, to learn. The boys that had joined us had an incredible swim coach in town (Stellenbosch), who helped to support their swimming, and underwater hockey, and was helping to fulfil their dreams of Commercial Diving certifications but they had had no luck thus far. We spoke about the challenge of money needed to travel to get to the pool, and how this blocks ability to grow as quickly as your peers and find the comfort that James so gracefully articulated with the water. It is a tale of 2 worlds that would never meet unless we bridged the gap, intentionally. No mother is giving money for a taxi to town, to do something not linked to active survival and later the family has no food to eat. It just doesn’t happen.

I found myself deeply triggered.

How apartheid still lives and breathes daily, most felt in communities that have lesser access to resources to help them move past their daily reality, like a pool in the community that kids can walk up to, and acquire a new skill in safety.

How apartheid racial categories and access per category still lives and breathes, where White communities of course has pools and lifeguards - and in this instance, the human I spoke with, clearly identifying the privilege accessed in Brown communities, that is inaccessible in the Black community. And the challenges in this space too. This is perhaps a story of many places not just Cape Town.

And last, the weight of Blackness. How in all worlds, no one could ever understand. How we are not ‘Black’ equally. Between the one drop rule, was a world of cascading ability to access more, based on the the looseness of a curl, and the hue of ‘Black’ skin. How Black in this instance could speak of growing numbers of swimmers from previously disadvantaged communities, but the numbers still don’t add up, and so the greater term ‘Black’, masking the challenges of integration towards better tomorrows for all… the inability to access new possibility, in this new South Africa.

A tale of endless thoughts around a big dream, and a country still in its dawn from the old.

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1 Comment

The humor and personal anecdotes you have included make this post relatable and enjoyable to read. moto x3m

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