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Restoring our oceans, preserving Black heritage

Kristy Drutman

Image © AP Slave Ships Productions / Cornelia Street’s Ships

Kristy Drutman

Image © AP Slave Ships Productions / Cornelia Street’s Ships

For the past 34 years of his life, Kramer Wimberley has spent his time traveling to 35 countries as a scuba diver. After becoming a Master Scuba Diver Trainer in 2005, Kramer has also volunteered as a scuba instructor for inner city youth.

Kramer’s connection to the ocean runs deep, and the threat of climate change for coral reef habitats has opened his eyes to what is at stake when it comes to ocean conservation. This comes through in the words he spoke while participating in a Coral Restoration Foundation training session in Key Largo, Florida:

“If I did nothing but scrub algae and fire coral off of PVC trees for the rest of my life, it would not be a wasted experience.”
Kramer on a boat off the coast of Florida with the Diving With a Purpose team · Kramer Wimberley

Kramer shares his perspective on why, to advance marine conservation, Black stories must be woven into the fabric of this movement much more than they have been to date:

“Since our trafficking to the Americas, people of African descent have been separated from our connection to the ocean,” he explains. “Before that, many of us were seafarers, but that knowledge has been hidden from us. We are unaware that there were fishing communities all along the coastal waters of the continent. Unfortunately, it is not common knowledge that we were sailors also.”
The Diving With a Purpose team locates a historic ship's anchor of the coast of Florida while filming for “Enslaved” · AP Slave Ships Productions / Cornelia Street’s Ships
Rediscovering this history is very important to Kramer, who is also a member of the board of directors of Diving with a Purpose (DWP), a diving organization with the mission of “Restoring Our Oceans, Preserving Our Heritage.”

DWP focuses on the protection, documentation, and interpretation of African slave trade shipwrecks and the maritime history and culture of African-Americans who formed a core of labor and expertise for America’s maritime enterprises.

One of the notable trips undertaken by DWP centered on his dive team researching and studying the wreckage of the oldest known slave ship at the bottom of the English Channel. The expedition was featured in a documentary series, Enslaved, which follows Kramer, the team of divers, and journalists as they work together to build on previous research analyzing the remnants of the ship and the transatlantic slave trade. This form of ocean archaeology is resurfacing critical pieces of Black history that were left in the depths of the ocean for hundreds of years.

Samuel L. Jackson, third from left, appears in the documentary series “Enslaved” with divers associated with the group Diving With a Purpose. Left to right: Ken Stewart, Jay Haigler, Jackson, Chris Searles, Kinga Philipps, Kramer Wimberley & Josh Williams · AP Slave Ships Productions / Cornelia Street’s Ships
Alannah Vellacott and Kramer Wimberley embrace aboard a Diving With A Purpose expedition for the filming of “Enslaved” · AP Slave Ships Productions / Cornelia Street’s Ships
The Diving With A Purpose team scouts locations for a sunken slave ship in Suriname · AP Slave Ships Productions / Cornelia Street’s Ships

Alongside this research, DWP is helping restore corals on the Florida Reef Tract. Their aim is to train 1,000 instructors to teach coral monitoring to 10,000 eco-divers who will conduct 100,000 coral reef surveys, with the data from these surveys ultimately directing decisions on policy for saving our oceans. Through this, they are providing opportunities for instructors from diverse backgrounds to be part of fundamental ocean conservation research.

Learn more about Kramer

Diver & Researcher Website · Instagram


Kristy Drutman

Founder of Brown Girl Green

Kristy Drutman is a Filipina environmental media creator and the founder of Brown Girl Green, a media platform exploring the intersections between media, diversity, and environmentalism. As a sustainability communications expert, Kristy has spoken in front of thousands and facilitated workshops centered on environmental media and storytelling in cities across the United States. She has also worked with youth from around the world to create collaborative, intersectional online media with the goal of creating conscious, culturally relevant content to engage audiences about proactive solutions to the climate crisis.

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