While summer fun often includes visits to the beach, lake or pool, not every child is offered the same opportunities to learn to swim or gain confidence in the water. In fact, Black children in the United States are nearly six times more likely to die from drowning than white kids, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Advocates say that this unfortunate truth is directly related to decades of segregation and exclusion from public pools and beaches. A national program, “Making Waves” from Outdoor Afro, is working to change that legacy by making the water safer for Black children, aiming to impact 100,000 Black youth and their caregivers over the next 10 years.

“Making Waves” is a partnership with Outdoor Afro, the nation’s foremost not-for-profit organization celebrating and inspiring Black connections and leadership in nature and KEEN, the global footwear brand on a mission to make outside inclusive and accessible to all.


Kids and their caregivers may sign up for scholarships for swimming lessons, known as Swimmerships, on Outdoor Afro’s website beginning this summer. Each Swimmership provides a new swimmer with a full swim course of 8-10 lessons. Swim lessons take place at local YMCAs and select community pools. To learn more or to sign up for a Swimmership, visit

Supporting the Movement

Individuals can sponsor a swimmer on Outdoor Afro’s website. $10 = a lesson, $100 = a Swimmership and $1,000 funds a full class of 10 new swimmers.

Additionally, they can support the growing movement through a new collection of KEEN x Outdoor Afro limited edition sandals. The collection, released in support of the program, is designed to raise awareness of this issue while raising funds for Swimmerships. The collection features artwork from Outdoor Afro volunteer leader, Leandra Taylor. Taylor has been an inspiration, teacher and friend to kids hungry to learn about the outdoor experience. Her art is incorporated into silhouettes for the whole family, including the Newport H2 for men, the Astoria West for women and the Newport H2 and Stingrays for kids.

“The statistics speak for themselves,” says Erik Burbank, vice president of The KEEN Effect, the team that leads the brand’s social justice efforts. “We’re proud to be supporting Outdoor Afro in this movement, and to help it continue to build momentum.”

The statistics are alarming, but there is hope. Giving kids confidence in and around the water will save lives, reduce water-related injuries in every community, and help forge strong connections to the outdoors.