African Americans are woefully underrepresented in competitive swimming. Organizers of a new campaign hope to change that.

To get more children of color in the pool, Bounce TV is airing a campaign of public service announcements through Labor Day. The 20-second spots will star Olympic medalist Maritza McClendon.

The ads also raise the profile of an organization called Black Kids Swim, which is dedicated to combating the community’s alarming drowning rates and changing the perception that swimming is a sport predominately for white people.

Ebony Rosemond launched the nonprofit in 2015 after realizing her daughter was one of the very few black children participating in swim sports. She searched Google for more information. The keywords “black kids swim” brought up a startling drowning statistic: According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, African-American children are more than five times more likely to drown.

“We decided to change that,” said Rosemond, who operates Black Kids Swim in Largo, Md.

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Earlier this year, she penned an op-ed in the Washington Post highlighting some concerning facts. “In wealthy, majority-black Prince George’s County, not a single elementary, middle or high school has a pool,” she wrote. And out of 107 historically black colleges and universities, only Howard University had a competitive swim team. And of USA Swimming’s 337,000 members, only 1.3 percent are black.

“With few role models and scarce opportunities to swim,” Rosemond wrote, “too many black children see swimming as an inaccessible and uninviting sport.”

The article caught the attention of Bounce TV, a network catering to the African-American viewer. The station offered to share Rosemond’s message across the airwaves. She then recruited McClendon to participate. The YMCA of the USA got involved, too. The campaign encourages viewers to participate in the Y’s new Safety Around Water classes.

While Black Kids Swim is primarily concerned with increasing participation in swim sports, the organization must also confront the fact that most black people do not know how to swim. According to the USA Swimming Foundation and the University of Memphis, 70 percent of African Americans lack basic swim skills.

That’s why Black Kids Swim pairs parents with local swim schools, in addition to offering a wealth of resources for those who'd like to compete, such as scholarships to defray swim-team membership costs.

“Even though we’re focused on competitive swimming, we’re addressing the fact that we’re not going to get more competitive swimmers if people can’t swim – period,” Rosemond said.

The PSA could go a long way toward developing swim competency among this demographic. The spots will get a lot of eyeballs. Bounce TV is available in dozens of major markets nationally. In 2016, the network enjoyed its highest prime-time ratings ever.

It also helps that more black athletes are breaking records in the pool. Last year, 20-year-old Simone Manuel became the first African-American woman to win Olympic gold in swimming.

“It’s turned a lot of African Americans’ heads to look at swimming as an option,” said McClendon, herself a record-breaker. She was the first black woman to earn a place on the U.S. Olympic Swim Team, earning a silver medal in the 400-meter freestyle relay in 2004. “And now we have a better platform to talk about the importance of learning how to swim in our community.”