Action News' Sharifa Jackson opens up about fear of swimming, hopes to inspire others

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Thursday, June 13, 2024
Action News' Sharifa Jackson opens up about fears of swimming
Action News' Sharifa Jackson opens up about swimming fears, hopes to inspire others

YEADON, Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- As we head into summer, pools start opening and beaches become packed.

But there is this alarming reality: African-American children have a 70% higher rate of accidental drowning than white children.

The reasons are many, not least of which, is access to guarded pools.

Action News reporter Sharifa Jackson opened up about a near-drowning experience when she was a teenager.

Until recently, she did not know how to swim, but she decided to change that and said you can, too.

"One is almost always met with surprise when people learn or realize I can't swim," reveals Jackson.

At the age of 14, she was at a pool party with friends when she almost drowned.

"In the pool having a great time. It was a slope in the pool. It went from 4 feet to about 9 feet. I slipped down there. Immediately panicked," she explained.

The scary ordeal kept her out of the water-deep water-for 16 years.

But she recently turned to the Nile Swim Club in Yeadon and instructor Nellda Harris for help.

"A lot of your problem was because of what happened in the past, you have that in the back of your head. That fear is very real," said Harris.

The lessons started with blowing bubbles and then the feeling of being completely submerged.

"It was very uncomfortable in the beginning," Jackson says.

Along this journey, she learned she was not alone. Most people can't swim well enough to save themselves. Those statistics are even higher among Black Americans.

According to USA Swimming, 64% of African Americans don't know how to swim.

The Nile Swim Club is working to change that. It was created in 1958 and is one of the oldest historically Black pools in the country.

After eight lessons in the water, Jackson was swimming. It is a representation of years of fear and anxiety pushed away with each stroke and kick.

"I wanted to learn to swim, I want my kids to be able to swim and we all can feel safe in the water and have a good time because I spent way too much time in oceans in pools not to be able to swim," said Jackson. "I was just holding myself back. So I just went for it."

Jackson hopes to encourage others to get in the water.