Chasing Waterfalls

The Undefeated

There’s this idea out there in the world that black people don’t like water. There are historical reasons for these myths, but the truth is something else. From the days of segregation in Baltimore to today’s Rio de Janeiro suburbs to the crystalline waters of St. Kitts and Nevis to a hot afternoon on Brooklyn, New York’s Coney Island — black and brown people around the country and around the world find joy and peace in water and have expertise in aquatic sports. From Olympic gold medalist Cullen Jones in his glory to kids frolicking in Zanzibar to girls surfing in Durban to swim lessons in Alabama, The Undefeated takes you down to the water.

African-American children in a segregated swimming pool at Druid Hill Park in Baltimore, 1955. “As it remains today, the now weathered Memorial Pool area continues to serve the tennis and recreational needs of hundreds of thousands of predominantly African-American park goers annually.” (Photo by Afro-American Newspapers/Gado/Getty Images)
Hanging out in the Atlantic Ocean on July 24, 2015, at Coney Island Beach in the Brooklyn borough of New York. “Though Coney was often called the ‘People’s Playground,’ not everyone was always allowed to play in the same places.” (Photo by Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images)
During a sunny weekend in a Rio de Janeiro suburb, teenagers play in a swimming pool on Aug. 25, 2007. (Photo by Ricardo Funari/Brazil Photos/LightRocket via Getty Images)
As swim instructor Brittany Hatcher lifts Donovan Dorsey, 5, out of the pool, Satchel Parker, 6, right, gets a high-five from instructor Reggie Hough, 15, after a swim class on June 30, 2008. (Photo by Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post/Getty Images)
Simone Manuel launches off the blocks at the start of the women’s 100-meter freestyle prelim at Mesa, Arizona’s Skyline Aquatic Center on April 16, 2016. (Photo by Chris Coduto/Getty Images)
It was June 2010 and Jayla Fenderson, 9, right, was working on her freestyle stroke with Olympic gold medalist Cullen Jones as part of the USA Swimming Foundation’s Make a Splash water safety initiative on June 22, 2010, at Douglas Park Cultural & Community Center in Chicago. (Michael Tercha/Chicago Tribune/MCT via Getty Images)
Chilling at the pool in Kingston, Jamaica.
Surf’s definitely up: Pro surfer Suelen Naraisa places second in her heat to advance to the round of three of the Quiksilver ISA World Junior Surfing Championship at Durban’s North Beach in South Africa on Aug. 21, 2003.
Just cooling: Zanzibari boys jump into the Indian Ocean.
Fun times on a Frigate Bay beach — the green hills of St. Kitts and Nevis frame the day.