Diving with a Purpose: A Fifteen-Year Odyssey


Thursday, October 22, 2020, 6:00pm to 7:00pm



Man with scuba equipment diving in the ocean.

Free Virtual Panel Discussion

Jay Haigler, Master Scuba Diver Trainer, Professional Association of Diving Instructors; Scientific Diver and Diving Safety Officer, National Association of Black Scuba Divers, Foundation; Board Member and Lead Instructor, Diving with a Purpose

Albert José Jones, Professor Emeritus, Marine & Environmental Science, University of the District of Columbia; Founder of Underwater Adventure Seekers Scuba Diving Club; Cofounder of the National Association of Black Scuba Divers

Erik Denson, Chief Electrical Engineer, NASA Kennedy Space Center

Ayana Omilade Flewellen, Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology, University of California, Riverside.

Diving with a Purpose is an organization dedicated to the documentation and protection of African slave trade shipwrecks and the maritime history and culture of African Americans. Jay Haigler and Albert José Jones will share the organization’s work and recent discoveries. They will discuss the importance of submerged heritage resources in advancing the fields of maritime archaeology and ocean conservation and the need for a better understanding of the transatlantic slave trade and its global, cultural, and social-economic impact on society.

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To join the program, you will need to download the free Zoom app in advance. If you already have Zoom, you do not need to download it again. For details on how to improve your Zoom experience, visit the How to Attend an HMSC Program webpage.


About the Speakers

Jay Haigler is a director with Diving with a Purpose (DWP), a volunteer underwater archaeology program which began under a partnership with the National Association of Black Scuba Divers (NABS) and the National Park Service (NPS) in Biscayne National Park located in Homestead, Florida. DWP performs extensive underwater archaeological documentation of shipwrecks; surveys their condition; and develops detailed maps of the wreck sites. Haigler is also the Diving Safety Officer for the Scientific Diving Program of the National Association of Black Scuba Divers Foundation. He was formally a National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) scientific diver. A graduate of the Catholic University of America, with a BA in Electrical Engineering, Haigler mentors and trains new divers and encourages their exploration of such meaningful diving pursuits as DWP and Youth DWP. He received his initial Open Water training in 2005 through the Underwater Adventure Seekers (UAS), the founding club of the National Association of Black Scuba Divers (NABS) (www.nabsdivers.org). In 2010, he became an Open Water Scuba Instructor. He continued his dive education by becoming certified as a Master Scuba Diver Trainer by the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI). He was formally a National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Scientific Diver and in this capacity trained scientists, engineers, and technicians to perform a variety of underwater tasks in support of NOAA missions.

Dr. A. José Jones is a director with Diving with a Purpose (DWP). Dr. Jones’s career as an educator and scientist spans thirty-seven years. For twenty-five years he taught at the University of the District of Columbia as a professor of marine biology and environmental science. He also served as chairman of the department of environmental science, dean for the College of Life Sciences, and provost and vice president of the university. Dr. Jones holds a master’s degree from Howard University in aquatic biology and a PhD from Georgetown University in marine biology. He was a three-time fellow of the National Science Foundation. As a Fulbright Scholar, he studied marine biology at the University of Queensland, Australia and dove the Great Barrier Reef for two years. Dr. Jones began his diving career while serving in the U.S. Army. While in college, he formed the Underwater Adventure Seekers (UAS) of Washington, D.C. in 1959. UAS is one of the oldest dive clubs in the world and it predates most national certifying organizations. As a master scuba instructor, Dr. Jones has amassed more than 6,000 dives in more than fifty countries where he has spread his message of swimming and diving safety. Dr. Jones is a spearfishing champion, scuba rodeo champion, and an underwater photographer/ videographer. Jones is co-founder, former president, and current chair of the Science & Education Committee of the National Association of Black Scuba divers (NABS). Through UAS and NABS, Dr. Jones and his team have trained and certified over 2,000 divers free of charge. In forty-five years he has taught over five thousand people to swim. Dr. José Jones serves as a role model and mentor for many people of all ages, creeds, and backgrounds. His leadership and standards for excellence have shaped many divers and emerging leaders.

Ayana Omilade Flewellen (she/her) is a Black Feminist, an archaeologist, a storyteller, and an artist. She is the co-founder of the Society of Black Archaeologists and sits on the Board of Diving with a Purpose. Dr. Flewellen is an assistant professor in the department of anthropology at the University of California, Riverside. Flewellen has been featured in National Geographic, PBS, and Science magazine and has spoken at institutions such as the National Museum for Women in the Arts, the National Park Service, and Stanford University. Her research and teaching interests are shaped by and speak to Black Feminist Theory, historical archaeology, maritime heritage conservation, public and community-engaged archaeology, processes of identity formations, and representations of slavery. Her current book project, tentatively titled A Black Feminist Archaeology of Adornment, examines sartorial practices of self-making among African American tenant, sharecropping, and landowning farmers in post-emancipated Texas. Sartorial practices, in this forthcoming work, are defined as social-cultural practices, shaped by many intersecting operations of power and oppression including racism, sexism, and classism, that involve modifications of the corporal form (e.g., scarification, body piercings, and hair alteration), and all three-dimensional supplements added to the body (e.g., clothing, hair combs, and jewelry). She currently is Co-PI of the Estate Little Princess Archaeology Project, an award-winning collaborative, community-engaged archaeological project based on the island of St. Croix, USVI.

Erik Denson is a board member and Lead Instructor for the Diving with a Purpose (DWP) Maritime Archaeology Program. He has been involved with DWP since its inception in 2004.

Erik is Co-founder and President of DIVERSe Orlando, a National Association of Black Scuba Divers (NABS) affiliate. Erik has been a certified diver since 1992 and has logged over 900 dives worldwide. He is a PADI Divemaster and a member of the NABS Hall of Fame. Erik holds Nautical Archaeology Society (NAS) Certificates and a PADI Specialty in Underwater Archeology. He is an American Academy of Underwater Sciences-NABS Foundation Scientific Diver and a volunteer diver for the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the National Park Service (NPS). Over the last sixteen years, Erik has assisted in training over 300 divers to become advocate underwater archaeologists. Mr. Denson received a BS in Electrical Engineering (cum laude) from Howard University in 1988 and is a member of Tau Beta Pi, the National Engineering Honor Society. Erik also went on to receive a MS in Electrical Engineering from Polytechnic University of New York in 1990. Mr. Denson is currently the chief electrical engineer for NASA at the Kennedy Space Center and has been with NASA for over thirty years.