Former swimmer to share his story of adversity

In 1972, Philadelphia lacked a swim team for black athletes — until Jim Ellis started one himself.

Ellis, whose fight for aquatic equality inspired the movie “Pride,” will be recounting his experiences in a speech tonight on campus.

When prejudice dominated and there were few black swimmers, Ellis, a former college swimmer, set out to create the Philadelphia Department of Recreation Swim Club. Despite discrimination by city officials and local residents, Ellis and the PDR team fought back, sticking with competitive swimming, and turning out national qualifiers.

“Pride,” starring Terrence Howard as Ellis, tells this true story, showing the trials and triumphs that Ellis and his team suffered when facing white teams and the city officials.

“This is a topic that can touch a lot of college students,” said Lauren Baxter, an integrated strategic communications senior and director of the Student Activities Board pop culture committee. “It is something that everyone can relate to.”

When “Pride” was released in the spring, Baxter and others thought Ellis would be a great speaker at the school, Baxter said, since he gives a different perspective that not many students are aware of.

“The main idea is ‘overcoming adversity one lap at a time,’ ” Baxter said. “Students will gain encouragement to go at it if they have something to pursue, and he will inspire people to take that extra mile.”

Students can see Ellis speak for free in the Grand Ballroom of the Student Center tonight at 8.