African American urban youth participate in swimming at an alarmingly low rate with 69% self-reporting low or no swimming skill (Irwin, Irwin, Martin, & Ross, 2010). This lack of participation translates into a drowning rate three times as high as than their White/European American peers (CDC, 2009). To investigate this issue, 12 focus groups were conducted with parents and caregivers of swimming and nonswimming children at YMCAs in six American cities. Parents/caregivers who self-identified as Black or African American shared attitudes and values that impacted their child’s swimming participation. Some participants in the study identified structural barriers such as a lack of time, money, or facilities. Others shared attitudes of fear and discomfort in being in and around water. Parent/caregiver attitudes had a substantial impact on children’s opportunities to learn to swim. There was evidence that cultural expectations about swimming impacted the choices parents in this study made regarding swimming participation. Focus group participants shared strategies of effective messaging to influence caregiver attitudes to positively impact participation.