Recent drowning deaths in Mississippi, and pools opening for the summer, have raised the issue of swimming safety. As MPB's Mark Rigsby reports, young African-Americans are more likely to drown than whites.
Two teenagers, DonTarious Bowens and Juwine Hughes, drowned in two separate incidents in Forrest County over the recent Memorial Day weekend. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 4 out of 5 drowning deaths are male, and rates for African-Americans are higher. There's a noticeable difference at swimming pools, where African-Americans between 11 and 12 years old are 10 times more likely to drown than whites.
"Several kids in that family did not survive," says Barnett Taylor, the aquatics director for 100 Black Men in Jackson, a group that empowers and educates young people. The group's free swimming program started after tragedy struck at a black family reunion held near water.
"Maybe we can prevent those same kinds of tragedies from occurring in other families," says Taylor.
Taylor says historically, blacks haven't had equal access to quality swim instruction and pools. It reinforces the stereotype that blacks can't swim. He says the program teaches 400 kids swimming instruction and water safety each year.
"We thought it would make a big difference in the local Jackson area, and as it has turned out it's become a multi-county resource," says Taylor.
A bright spot for the program is the development of a swim team in Jackson Public Schools.