Philly-area Swim Club Forces Out Black Children

Published July 10, 2009

A suburban Philadelphia private swim club turned away children from a day camp after the camp's director says members questioned why Black people were swimming there.

The children from the Creative Steps Day Camp in northeast Philadelphia were at the club June 29. Executive director Alethea Wright said Wednesday three children told her they heard members of The Valley Club asking what Blacks were doing there.

Wright says the club refunded the camp's swimming fees without explanation several days later.

Club President John Duesler Philadelphia television station WTXF that several club members complained because "there was concern that a lot of kids would change the complexion ... and the atmosphere of the club."

"I was amazed that they would think something like this," a tearful Marcus Allen, 12, told CNN. "We're just like you, we're just like your kids. This is kind of sad that people were still thinking like this, when I thought that these days was over."

The club has denied it was motivated by racial animosity, and claimed on its Web site that it underestimated its pool's capacity when it signed the agreement with the camp. At least one member has said he would seek Duesler's resignation for his "stupid" remarks but said the club had withdrawn an invitation from two other mostly White camps, CNN reports.

The club claims a "multi-ethnic and diverse membership", though no Black members are apparent in photographs on archived copies of the club's website, which was taken down when news of the affair broke.

"We thought that with issues like this - swim clubs and so forth - we had crossed that hurdle, but clearly we have not," Homer Floyd, executive director of the state Human Rights Commission, told the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Parents of the rejected campers are still waiting for the club to offer an apology for its actions, but in the meantime the Creative Steps Day Camp is looking for a new place that will the kids take a dip, NBC Philadelphia reports.

Black Olympic gold medalist swimmer Cullen Jones says "hearing about what's happened to these 65 kids is both disturbing and appalling."

Written by Associated Press

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