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At greatest risk of being shut out are communities of color, which may not have transportation to available pools, or which may lack money to pay for swimming lessons. Seventy percent of African-Americans and 58 percent of Latinos cannot swim, Lieder said.
Phillips, home to 20,000 people, is one of the poorest and most racially diverse neighborhoods of Minneapolis.
“This pool will save all the children in Minneapolis,” Minneapolis City Council Member Abdi Warsame said Friday, “but it is special to me because it is located in my community.”
Superintendent Johnson recalled growing up in the segregated South where, every year, someone in her class drowned. She didn’t learn how to swim until she was in high school.
In a related effort, a bill introduced by State Rep. Karen Clark and State Sen. Jeff Hayden, longtime supporters of the Phillips renovation, got its first hearing April 22. The bill would require all public schools in Minnesota to offer swimming lessons or basic water-safety principles.
The recent drownings have, surprisingly, made her work more challenging, she said. Panicked parents in communities of color are growing even more fearful of the water and are less likely to seek out swimming lessons for their children, particularly at cold, mucky lakes.
“We need that shallow, warm-water pool, because it is a clean and safe place to learn to swim,” she said. “When you have generational fears building up, you need to do everything you can to eliminate all the barriers you can. “This cycle needs to end.”
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