Ayana Omilade Flewellen
Undertaking undersea archaeology in the Carribbean
2021

Ayana Omilade Flewellen

Archaeologist

Envisioning a Brighter Tomorrow, without Limitations

meet ayana

A black feminist, an archaeologist, a storyteller, and an artist, Ayana is the co-founder and president-elect of the Society of Black Archaeologists and sits on the board of Diving With a Purpose. An assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of California, Riverside, her research and teaching interests are shaped by black feminist theory, historical archaeology, maritime heritage conservation, public and community-engaged archaeology, processes of identity formations, and representations of slavery.

Envisioning a Brighter Tomorrow, without Limitations
Nominated by: Nancy Nenow MN'04
Class of 2021 Location USA

The most meaningful aspect of my work has been working in African descendant communities. In February 2020, I traveled to Port Huron, Michigan, to work with Diving With a Purpose (DWP). I spoke with first graders about recovering a Tuskegee Airman’s submerged aircraft that crashed in the Great Lakes during a WWII training mission. Speaking to students in a rural town was heartwarming. It’s in these moments, where there are no cameras, where the work does not ‘count’ toward promotion or tenure, that I find value. Sharing uncovered histories to grade-schoolers opens their eyes. Similarly, with Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) students who I work with at the Estate Little Princess field school at St. Croix, USVI, I get to introduce a field they did not have exposure to at their home institutions. These students get the opportunity to think more broadly about the research they want to pursue, without limitations.

The land we walk on and the ocean that surrounds us hold so many stories about our past, and within those stories are the lessons for how to live a better today and how to envision a brighter tomorrow.

- Ayana Omilade Flewellen

I remember my mother taking me to the Smithsonian’s American History Museum, spending hours with the exhibits. These experiences set my love for history; I wanted to explore the world around me and touch history. After the course “Archaeology of African American Life” I have had a trowel in my pocket ever since. There is something deeply impactful about recovering the history of people through the materials they left behind when the written record of their existence often works to deny their humanity.

I do this because the land we walk on and the ocean that surrounds us hold so many stories about our past, and within those stories are the lessons for how to live a better today and how to envision a brighter tomorrow.

never stop exploring

LEARN MORE ABOUT THE CLASS OF 2021

Get the EC50 print publication