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(Washington, DC) The DC Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) will host the 27th Annual Black History Invitational Swim Meet (BHISM) to be held from Friday, February 15, 2013, through Sunday, February 17, 2013 at the Takoma Aquatic Facility, located at 300 Van Buren Street, NW in Washington, DC. A Mayoral Reception for the DC Wave Swim Team only will take place on Thursday, February 14, 2013 and an Honoree’s Reception will take place on Saturday, February 16, 2013 at 12 pm. Both events are open to the media. Invited guests include this year’s honoree, John Tatum; DC Councilmembers including Ward 4 Councilmember Muriel Bowser; DPR Director Jesús Aguirre; Mr. Barry Lenoir, President of the United Black Fund, Inc. (UBF); past BHISM honorees, event partners, sponsors and other dignitaries. The theme this year is “From Start to Finish” and during the three-day Invitational, sessions will take place on Friday, February 15, from 4:30 pm to 8:30 pm; and on Saturday, February 16 and Sunday, February 17, from 7 am to 5:30 pm. All events are open to the public and free of charge. Due to the BHISM, Takoma Aquatic facility will close on Friday, February 15; Saturday, February 16 and Sunday, February 17. All other DPR Aquatic facilities will close on Saturday, February 16 and Sunday, February 17. All Aquatic facilities will close on Monday, February 18 in observance of Presidents' Day.
“DPR continues to highlight the benefits of swimming to our youth, particularly among minority communities,” stated DPR Director Jesús Aguirre. “We have placed an emphasis on early education regarding water safety, and our goal is to ensure that all children in the District of Columbia receive swimming lessons and water safety instruction at an early age.”
Hosted by DPR and the United Black Fund, Inc., the Black History Invitational Swim Meet was founded in 1987 by Dr. Calvin Rolark and Dr. William H. Rumsey. Their goals were to nourish self-reliance, determination, and the spirit of fair play for youth and parents. Over the years, the Black History Invitational Swim meet has provided urban youth, from across the nation, with a positive outlet and strong competition in the sport of competitive swimming. The BHISM is annual event that features over 30 swim teams from cities across the United States. During the three-day Invitational, over 800 youth athletes, ranging in age from 5 – 18, will compete in the standard swim events, including the Individual Medley, Freestyle, Butterfly, Back and Breast Strokes, and Relays. Now in its 27th year, the BHISM is hailed by USA Swimming, the national governing body for the sport of swimming, as the “premier minority swim competition in the United States and in the world.” DPR and UBF are also proud to welcome back our Program Partners - Potomac Valley Swimming and Diversity in Aquatics – as well as all of our Program Sponsors.
Since 1989, the Black History Invitational Swim Meet selects courageous and notable African Americans to be honored and recognized during the Invitational. Previous honorees include Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (posthumous); Dr. Dorothy I. Height; 2008 US Olympic Gold medalist, Cullen Jones; and DPR's Coach Rodger McCoy. This year’s honoree for the 27th Annual Black History Invitational Swim Meet is John Tatum.
John Tatum Bio
John Tatum is a 9-time medal winner in the National Senior Olympics games. Recently featured in the documentary film, Age of Champions, John Tatum is a native Washingtonian who officially started swimming at the age of 10, and unofficially was swimming as young as 3 years old. Growing up in the District, there were no pools when John Tatum was a small child for Blacks to swim in. John Tatum was born during the segregation era and at that time, Blacks were not allowed to swim in pools in the District. So John and his brother Brad, would play around in the Reflecting Pool of the Lincoln Memorial on the National Mall. The Tatum Brothers, as they are known in the athletic world, would play in the reflecting pool until the time would come when pools in the District would open up to Blacks.
Tatum swam during his teen age years and even competed on the swim team at Armstrong High School; however, it would be the competitive swimming that he would participate in after his retirement age that would bring the medals, honors and even a feature role with his brother, Brad Tatum, in a national documentary. In 2003, John Tatum traveled out of town for the first time with the team to a meet in Virginia Beach. After that 2003 meet, John Tatum started not only participating in major competitive meets, but he began to rank at the meets and win medals. He first medaled in Pittsburgh at the 2005 Senior Olympics with 2 silver medals; next Senior Olympics competition was Louisville where he won 1 bronze medal; in 2009, John Tatum competed in San Francisco where he won 3 gold medals and in 2011 he received 3 gold medals in the Houston Senior Olympics. The next Senior Olympics will be held this year in Cleveland and many are waiting to see what that competition will bring.
John Tatum currently trains at DPR’s Takoma Aquatic Facility and when asked what is that one thing that he loves the most about the sport of swimming, he shared the following: “To be with the kids (he refers to the 70 – 85 year olds as 'kids') on the team and to find out how everybody gets together and becomes a team. To watch and see how everyone roots for everybody. No matter what your level of competition, the entire team will root on their teammates as they qualify." John Tatum also immensely enjoys the camaraderie on the team. “Just to be with that group, where age is no barrier and ethnicity is no barrier – that is the ultimate utopian atmosphere. Some are physically challenged, about 6 or so are in the elderly age bracket, but we have no barriers. In the water, some of us swim better than others, but we are a strong, bonded family.” John Tatum also shares a passion for encouraging and inspiring people to be physically fit. “The main thing is to get other people in my condition to do it (be active in sports). If what I do inspires somebody else, then that is what is important. There are people joining more and more, and more people accepting that they are ‘aged’. I hope that by what I am doing people begin to accept that growing older doesn’t mean you have to slow down or stop. Seniors need to know that you can accept your age, be proud and still be active.”
Camaraderie, inspiration and striving to set an example, not because others are watching, but because it is simply a part of who you are, are a few attributes that describe John Tatum. At 93 years young, his love of swimming and his return to the sport after decades, just goes to show you are never too young or too old, and that there are no barriers - not age, not race, not physical circumstance – that cannot be overcome.
For more information on the 27th Annual Black History Invitational Swim Meet (BHISM)
call DPR's Aquatics Division at (202) 671-1289.
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