Black History on a Boat Cruise

Review by Mbeke Waseme

A Black History boat tour sounded like a quaint thing to do.  In the UK context, there was no guarantee of good weather which, for me, could be a deal breaker.  I decided to go ahead anyhow and to take the risk. It was scheduled to take place on the weekend of my sister’s birthday and I knew that it would be something we could both gain from.

The idea of Black History is itself significant in an environment where the growing hostility towards Black and Brown people have become more overt with the number of European far right-wing parties on the increase; the Windrush scandal born out of the policies that created the hostile environment alongside UK and US Heads of State, asserting and promoting racist propaganda!

Black History is a part of world history. As simple as that sounds, many of us have been denied the knowledge and contributions that African people have made to the arts, technology, medicine, etc.  These omissions, alongside a celebration of us as athletes and musicians, and the ongoing criminalization of African men, means that most of the world accepts us in very limited categories with no understanding of the major contributions we have made.   In fact, for some Black Historians, a rephrasing of the word history to OUR story was one move towards empowerment. The Lions are now telling OUR story!

I have attended Black history workshops in large conference halls, in musky church rooms, and in parks for over thirty years.  I am a professional educator with an understanding that we all learn in different ways. For those who are familiar, within the teaching and learning sector, you have people who learn through doing, hearing, reading and seeing. See authors Honey and Mumford as one of the originators of this. So, with this background, I was keen to experience this boat tour as an educator.

I was not disappointed. My sister and I arrived at Victoria Embankment on the River Thames to a long queue who, like ourselves were eager for the day to begin.   The trip combined the great commentary and knowledge of S. I Martin.  This Historian has led Black History talks and walks around London for many years.  I recall his contribution to the lives of my own children at the Horniman Museum many years ago when they were then 4 and 9 years old.  They are now 23 and 28.

The cruise takes place on a double-decker boat for three hours along six miles of  London’s River Thames.  The tour includes information on the Black Romans, the West India Docks and the real pirates of the Caribbean. The view from the river afforded us a different perspective and opportunity to fill in some of the questions about London’s story.

Where some of the information had been heard before, the reminders were welcome as it takes most of us a few times to hear something, before it settles into out short and then long term memory.

The cruise is broken up with commentary, guest appearances by great historical figures and short presentations.

The cruise is a great way to introduce people to some of the missing parts of OUR story and to reconnect others to works they may have read twenty or thirty years ago.  It is definitely a family activity where small children and grandparents alike will be wowed by all that is on offer.  It is also a place where people like myself, reconnect with brothers and sisters we have not seen for many years, only now we have our children, grandchildren or grandparents with us.

In my case, it was my big sister and, although she may not have accompanied me to a conference or to a musky hall in the past, in her birthday speech on the following day, she commented on how the boat trip had taught her about the African presence in the UK 4,000 years ago and how pleased she was to now know this!

The next event is coming up in September and I suspect, just like the one that we attended, this too will be sold out!

For more about the Black History Boat Tour see link:

See also Mbeke Waseme Story on :

2 thoughts on “Black History on a Boat Cruise”

  1. Thank you Mbeke for sharing your back story in such an eloquent manner, your understanding of Our Story was condensed in a few paragraphs which for me was refreshing and really motivated me look into booking up for the September tour, we can never know or learn too much.

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