Tara Roberts was working for a non-profit when she discovered a photo that changed her life. During a visit to the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington D.C., Tara came face to face with a photo of Black scuba divers that sparked her curiosity. “It stopped me in my tracks,” she said on the Tamron Hall Show.
“It made me super curious about who they were. And so I read the little information about them and it said that they were a part of this group called Diving with a Purpose and that part of their mission was to search for and help document slave shipwrecks.” According to their website, Diving with a Purpose is a 501 (c)(3) non-profit that is a leading international organization that provides education and training programs, mission leadership, and project support services for submerged heritage preservation and conservation projects worldwide with a focus on the African Diaspora.
Feeling that she had to be a part of the group, she began her scuba diving certification training, which took three months and it took her almost a year to get the training needed to be a part of Diving with a Purpose, in which she was required to do 30 ocean dives. She revealed that it was after her 5th dive that she realized that she wanted to document their journey.
“I was like, wait a minute, this is a story to tell. People need to know about this work and they need to know about this history,” she said. Tara, who has a background in journalism, began documenting their journey and is now a National Geographic Explorer with her six-part podcast seriesInto the Depths for National Geographic which launched in January. She is also the first Black female explorer to be on the cover of National Geographic and is currently a lab fellow for MIT Open Documentary.
When she is underwater, she is not only exploring the ocean, but she also uses that time to reflect in silence, be present, and feel her surroundings.
“The fact that 1.8 million Africans died in the middle passage is not a number that I think most people know,” she said. “Most of those people who died have never been mourned. They’ve never been grieved. There’s no memorials to them. So, when I’m under the water, I’m thinking a lot about acknowledging these people and honoring these people and that gives me such joy and pride. It gives me power and agency to help bring these lost stories up from the ocean bottom and bring them back to collective human memory. It feels really powerful.”
She Quit Her Job to Tell the Stories of Black Scuba Divers Searching for Slave Shipwrecks
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