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I never quite understood the relevance of the theory behind ‘You Can’t Be What You Can’t See’  It just did not made any sense to me whatsoever. It confused the relevance of pioneers as they would have had to have taken their inspiration from someone, and if there wasn’t anyone in their colour, gender, or whatever the physical attributes that highlighted them visually were, then how were they inspired? And then the youth. Are we assuming they don’t have the imagination and vision to pave their own destiny?  I don’t like it.

The mantra, You Can’t Be What You Can’t See! is demeaning to both the pioneers and our youth. Or at least so I believed.

When I initially created the Blacks Can’t Swim film documentaries, the primary focus was to highlight the issue of the disproportionate number of people of African, Caribbean, and Asian heritage that did not swim or at least have adequate knowledge of water safety and drowning prevention. Based on this, I co-founded the Black Swimming Association, together with Alice Dearing, Seren Jones, and Danielle Obe. Through advocacy, research, and education, together with the governing bodies, water safety partners, and various charities, we continued to drive change and diversity within aquatics.

Only after the production of my film documentaries Blacks Can’t Swim The Sequel (2021) and Blacks Can’t Swim Rewind (2022) did I realise that our agenda went far beyond swimming or aquatics.  After speaking with many of the young cast members of both film documentaries, it became apparent that all the research, advocacy, education, and funding in the world will make very little difference if they didn’t acknowledge the relevance of swimming or aquatics in their lives. So many people within our communities still have the feeling and belief that swimming is not for us. The statistics speak for themselves.

But this goes beyond swimming, aquatics or any water safety agenda we are trying to push. It became very apparent to me that there was an underlying issue when one of the young cast thanked me for giving him the opportunity to be involved in the making of the film documentary and told me that the involvement had inspired him enough to consider a different path, put down the knife and walk away from gang life. He felt a sense of belonging and could now see the possibilities in areas that he previously did not believe existed for people like him, a young Black boy from a low socioeconomic background fighting racial prejudices on a daily basis.

It just so happens that we are talking about a film documentary with swimming as the subject but, in theory, this could have been anything.

In many communities, underprivileged youth from various backgrounds are growing up believing that they can’t be or they just don’t belong. Without positive role models, they are fighting against the odds to succeed and therefore it’s easier to just give in to the stigmas, myths and stereotypes and assume the status quo.

It’s so important to have role models and representation in our media, communities and society and to be able to look around and seek motivation, inspiration, and reflection from the success of people we can identify with. My idea of role models goes beyond just celebrities and can take the form of parents, siblings, friends, teachers, etc.

How many youths will never come close to their full achievement potential for the simple reason that thanks to society, they will never believe they can?

When I wrote the song ‘Can’t Be What You Can’t See’, I invited Boy Sayso and Emarvellous to join me as featured artists, especially as we all had very different interpretations and lived experiences based on the song title

As a result it ended up becoming a song mixed with inspiration, anxiety, pain, passion, frustration but with hope

Thanks to everyone for the massive support over the years, and for directly and indirectly inspiring our youth against all odds in making something positive of themselves

watch the video here

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