This Black Diving Group Amplifies Stories From Slave Shipwrecks

Photo credit: Kenneth Clark/Blavity News

Written by Alexa Lisitza
Published December 4, 2019

Of the estimated 12.5 million Africans sold around the world, countless died from shipwrecks.

The underwater cemeteries
are home to thousands of untold stories.

Diving with a Purpose,
co-founded by pro diver Kenneth Stewart and archaeologist Brenda Lanzendorf, pieces these stories together.

Although Lazendorf has since passed away, Diving with a Purpose’s mission continues to thrive.

Photo credit: Chris Searles

The first day of training
is all classroom,”
Stewart told Blavity.
“A mock wreck is placed outside, and they practice what they have learned..."

Photo credit: Chris Searles

Diving with a Purpose has worked with the Slave Wrecks Project to uncover many sunken slave ships.

Slave Wrecks Project

Remains from the São José Paquete de Africa were recovered thanks to The Slave Wrecks Project (SWP), an international partnership led by the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC).

Diving With a Purpose had the honor of partnering with the NMAAHC, Iziko Museums of South Africa, the U.S. National Park Service, the South African Heritage Resource Agency and the African Center for Heritage Activities to bring this shipwreck back to public consciousness.

One shipwreck carried ancestors of the Makua tribe from Mozambique.

Wikimedia Commons: Vivianamaj

An elder from the tribe connected with the diving team and gave them a basket filled with African soil.

The Makua elder asked the divers to pour the soil near the shipwreck so the souls could rest with a piece of home.

These moments give young divers a better understanding of what Black people around the globe endured.

Photo credit: Chris Searles

Stewart shared that it's crucial to include the youth who can continue
uncovering these narratives when older divers leave.

Photo credit: Chris Searles

The group continues to uncover pieces of Black history via donations and funds from diving classes.

Photo credit: Chris Searles

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