Who we are:

We are a group of triathletes and swimmers associated with Tri Team PDX, who in the wake of the Black Lives Matters nationwide conversation, rose to action.  Our consultation on our potential action focused on the epidemic of drowning within the Black Community. Our Black Swimming initiative seeks to expand meaningful participation in water sports by providing a strong sense of belonging for black athletes of all backgrounds, abilities, and lifestyles by supporting safe and accessible water safety and swimming instruction.   

Morgan Spriggs, Co-Founder

“Growing up in the northwest, I was always near a body of water yet my family was fearful of entering it.”  With the help of friends, Morgan started his journey of swimming in 2013.   Early on he would start with a front crawl and end up on his back doing an elementary backstroke.  His fear of the water eventually faded as he and his youngest daughter spent time playing in the water.  “As she learned to be confident in the water, I gained strength from her.”  His persistence led to his accomplishing a 3.8K swim in open water in 2020.  In 2021, he successfully completed a 140.6 triathlon; his next goal is completing the Portland Bridge Swim held in the Willamette.

Emily Lighthipe, Co-Founder

Emily is a Portland native, and although she knew how to doggy paddle her way across a pool, she didn’t learn to swim well until she was 38. With the help and support of friends she became comfortable swimming laps in a pool and a lover of swimming in lakes and rivers too! Already a "wannabe" runner and cyclist, the sport of triathlon was a natural next step, and that is how Emily connected with Morgan. 

The resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement spurred Emily to become a part of the solution to dismantle racism in aquatics. Through the dedication of a small group of local swimmers, triathletes and water lovers, the Black Swimming Initiative was born.

Dena Marshall, WaterStrong partner

Dena Marshall is a lifelong swimmer and educator, a mother, adventurer, and founder. In 2016, she founded The WaterStrong Initiative to save lives and heal the planet through global programs in swimming, water safety and water stewardship. Originally from New York State, Dena has called Portland home since 2004.

“Something I’d like you to know about me is that on a regular basis before the sun comes up, I’m swimming in the Columbia River. When I’m in the water and the initial shock of cold and prickly skin wears off, I feel comfortable, strong and in control. I breathe, take my strokes, and I am connected with the water and the earth. A lot of this involves trusting my gut. Safety always comes first. If something feels unsafe or if I’m very cold or disoriented, I get out. I’m not afraid to make a firm decision based on what I know and what I feel, and to stick with it. But I also push myself on a near daily basis and I always look out for my buddies. I trust them and they know they can trust me.”

Angie Williamson, Outreach & Development

Angie is a lifelong swimmer and water lover who seeks to share that passion with individuals of all backgrounds and lifestyles. At Black Swimming Initiative she performs tasks as delegated including website maintenance, community outreach, fundraising, curriculum development, and on site volunteering during events- including sandwich making!  She is the first known person to swim the length of the Lower Willamette from the confluence of the Clackamas to the confluence of the Columbia (24.5 miles), which she completed in 2021 &  2022 as a fundraiser for Black Swimming Initiative. If you are interested in learning more about Angie, or following her swim journey you can visit 

Core Volunteers

Everything is possible with the help of our volunteers. Thank you. 

Lisa Yamamoto

Dishaun Berry

Joe Robichaux

Randy Fujioka

Elsa Hume

Kirsti and Krista Golgotui

KJ and Helen Loving

Larry Hermida

Tim Cespedes

Gaby Cruz Thompson

Isaiah Bucchanan

DJ Austria

Avi Ben Zaken

Ben Nevills

Kelly Ace

Jen Simonson

Casey Bodenhammer

Matt Wadleigh

Dannette Fuller

Jane Morse

Brianna Showell

Stacey Triplett

Michelle Macy

Matan Gold

Willie Levinson

Sheila Hanson

Clayton Jacobson

Lacey Buck

Abi Smith

Harmony Hoerth

Savannah Eadens