Outdoor Afro x Black People Will Swim enter ‘World’s Largest Swimming Lesson’

Jump in! Outdoor Afro’s annual Making Waves program will partner with Black People Will Swim (BPWS) for the second year in a row – this time making a cannonball splash Thursday, June 20. A summer day internationally known as The World’s Largest Swimming Lesson (WLSL). “This global lesson is a first-time experience for both our organizations and connects perfectly to Outdoor Afro’s sixth annual Making Waves program,” said Founder and CEO Rue Mapp. “Partnering with our swim provider, Black People Will Swim, makes the moment historic to support this life-saving skill.” Outdoor Afro will sponsor BPWS in offering free swim lessons to up to 200 Black kids and caregivers in a single day at York College Natatorium in Jamaica, Queens, New York. When registration opened Saturday, June 8, the day lesson already attracted 250 registrants. “Our sessions are always sold out,” said BPWS Founder Paulana Lamonier. “This free event is our way of saying we haven’t forgotten about you. Here’s your chance to practice water safety with us. Let’s make a splash by starting summer off on a safe note.”

The two organizations are simultaneously providing free swim lessons with hundreds of swim schools across the globe. This epic pool experience will build on Outdoor Afro’s 2024 Making Waves goal to fund 1,500 new swimmers to learn water safety and basic swimming techniques by the end of the year. Open to all ages, the 30-minute pool sessions led by BPWS will rotate from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. EST. These lessons are another way to bring awareness to drownings in the United States, said Lamonier. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Black youth ages 10 to 14 drown in swimming pools at a rate more than 8 times that of white peers. During 2019, Outdoor Afro launched Making Waves in response to the growing and alarming number. Meanwhile, WLSL developed through the World Waterpark Association and became a worldwide public relations event to help educate the public about water safety and prevent drownings.

Supported by aquatic centers, waterparks, swim schools, and community pools, the awareness day is also celebrating its 15-year anniversary this year like Outdoor Afro. Both organizations collaborate with swim operations nationwide to help families unlock the joy of developing positive relationships with water. WLSL aligns with the opportunity Outdoor Afro and BPWS are creating to reach newer generations of confident swimmers, explorers, and conservationists, said Mapp. “In addition to the urgency to save lives, we know that if a child does not know how to swim, they won’t ease into a tippy kayak, cast a pole in a lazy lake, or care about the crisis of plastics filling our oceans,” Mapp said. “Positive connections with water start with learning how to swim. And Outdoor Afro is proud to continue our efforts with Black People Will Swim as part of  this year’s roster of partner providers.”


  • In addition to BPWS, Outdoor Afro collaborates with the following U.S. swim providers to fund 2024 swim lessons: Evolutionary Aquatics in Charlotte, North Carolina; Foss Swim School in Eden Prairie, Minnesota; LEGITswim in Washington, D.C.; SwemKids in Atlanta, Georgia; and Oshun Swim School in Seattle, Washington; and Yu Ming Charter School in Oakland, California.
  • BPWS is the only swim school in the five boroughs participating in WLSL that is sponsored by Outdoor Afro.
  • WLSL will serve as an Open House for families wanting to meet the BPWS team and take a swim assessment before registering.
  • After this event, BPWS aims to expand to the Long Island area to provide further instruction.

ABOUT OUTDOOR AFRO: Outdoor Afro is a national not-for-profit organization that celebrates and inspires Black connections and leadership in nature. What started as a kitchen table blog by Founder and CEO Rue Mapp in 2009 has since grown into a cutting-edge nationwide organization. Outdoor Afro’s U.S. networks include nearly 100-plus volunteer leaders who guide nature activities in up to 60 cities with network participation reaching 60,000 people annually. Outdoor Afro reconnects Black people to the outdoors through outdoor education, recreation, and conservation. Connect with @outdoorafro on social and visit outdoorafro.org to follow our year-round nature narratives.