CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Jahari Dunn doesn’t seem to be doing anything that miraculous when she swims with the Queen City Dolphins.
But the 17-year-old Cato Middle College High School student knows that what she does with her team is remarkable.
"I saw the water and i jumped in and i didn't know how to swim. My mom jumped in and saved me. And she didn't know how to swim either,” said Dunn.
Yes, Dunn almost drown when she was a toddler. She's swimming now, part of the minority based swim team the Queen City Dolphins.
"Being able to experience how people see black swimmers…I didn't know how important it was until I went to a state meet and I was like wow, I'm a minority,” she said.
"The work she's doing is significant, important. Consider this. African American children are nearly three times more likely to drown than white children."
Rodney Sellars is Dunn’s coach.
"She's tangible. She walks in and they see her working in her neighborhood pool or they see her swimming with her team. And it's a team they can join,” he said.
Olympic medalist Cullen Jones is helping athletes like Dunn. He too almost drown as a child, and like Dunn wants more minorities to learn how to swim.
"You wouldn't allow your child in a car without a seatbelt. You wouldn't allow them to play football without pads. But you allow your child near a pool without being able to swim. That's a big problem,” said Jones.
He said fear is the number one factor minorities don’t learn how to swim. Parental backing is a second reason. And physical appearance also plays a role.
He said African American females don’t like to get their hair wet because it can be damaging. And he said many young men don’t like the small bathing suits that competitive swimmers wear.
He’s hoping too that swimmers like Dunn will help break those barriers. And he’s confident programs like the Queen City Dolphins will open a new world to African American children who might want to give the sport a try—either for competitive swimming, or simply enjoyment.
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