Black History Month: Black History Invitational Swim Meet Honors African-American Coaches

Black History Month: Black History Invitational Swim Meet Honors African-American Coaches

By Nailah Ellis Timberlake//Manager of Communications, Multicultural & Foundation  | Wednesday, February 17, 2016

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Legendary swim coaches Tommy Jackson (Atlanta, Ga.), Gary Peterson (Detroit, Mich.) and renowned instructor Lee Pitts (Ft. Myers, Fla.) were honored for their contributions to the sport during the 30th Annual Black History Invitational Swim Meet (BHISM) at the Takoma Aquatic Center in Washington, D.C.

“DPR is proud to host this historic event and honor three coaches that have supported us for all 30 years," said Tyrell T. Lashley, Director of Aquatics. "This year's theme is 'Make A Splash, Be Legendary' and through their lifelong commitment to Aquatics, they've exemplified this in every way."

Co-founded in 1987 by the D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) and the United Black Fund, Inc. (UBF) in honor of Black History Month, the BHISM is a highly competitive swim meet that hosts over 1,100 minority swimmers from 25 teams over the three-day event. Swimmers travel from all over the country and from as far as St. Lucia.

“The Black History Invitational Swim Meet brings swimmers from diverse backgrounds together to celebrate Black History Month and highlights the contributions of African-Americans to the sport of swimming,” said Manuel Banks III, USA Swimming’s Diversity & Inclusion Membership Specialist. 

Since 1989, notable African-Americans in the field of swimming have been acknowledged at the Honoree’s Dinner, including coach Jim Ellis, Olympians Cullen Jones and Maritza Correia McClendon, All-American Byron Davis and 10-time American record holder, Sabir Muhammad. 

This year’s honorees join the esteemed group with over 100 years of combined service to the sport.

In 1989, Jackson became Head Coach of the City of Atlanta Dolphins Swim Team. Under his tutelage he developed state, regional and internationally ranked swimmers and helped hundreds secure collegiate swimming scholarships. 

Peterson retired in 2011 as the Aquatic Coordinator and Manager for the Detroit Parks and Recreation Department after 38 years building a youth swimming program in the city. Has been a mentor for the USA Swimming Diversity Mentoring Program that targets active coaches in urban areas who are interested in raising their level of expertise and skill.

“It’s a great honor to be part of such a legendary swim meet with such great coaches and great swimmers,” said Peterson. “I’ve participated in the meet for the last 29 years and I’m humbled by the recognition.”

A world-renowned swim instructor, Pitts is the Founder of the Lee Pitts Swim School, where he has taught thousands to swim and provides free swim lessons to disadvantaged children. Growing up as a youth swimmer in Birmingham, Alabama, Pitts also produced the first swim instruction video with African-American instructors and swimmers.

“I’m overwhelmed!” exclaimed Pitts. “This is a really big deal and I’m humbled and honored by the recognition.”

Hosted by the DC Wave Swim Team (DCPR), this year's meet had the largest number of swimmers in the event's history. The meet provides minority youth with the opportunity to meet prominent coaches and a chance to compete at high level. For more information, visit:



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