The Journeys to Freedom: (Un)Known Project River Cruise will make its debut on the Belle of Louisville

While floating along the Ohio River between Kentucky — a slave state — and Indiana — a free state — participants will be immersed in the stories of two families seeking to escape enslavement by boat. As each guest boards the Belle for the river cruise, they will receive a color-coded passport and be assigned a persona for the event. The passport will give different passengers access to various spaces throughout the boat as the performance progresses. 

The immersive river cruise was commissioned by IDEAS xLab and written and directed by artist Sidney Monroe Williams (they/them).

Journeys to Freedom will run June 9, 10, 22, and 23. Tickets are $45 for General Admission; $150 for VIP (includes early boarding and cocktails with the project leaders before the event). Registration is available at this link

“When we started the (Un)Known Project we were on a journey that started standing in The Door of No Return in Dakar, Senegal which led us to Natchez, Mississippi, to Forks of the Road. Our journey traced the route back to Louisville, Kentucky, standing on the banks of the Ohio River as we learned about the devastating impact enslavement had on our state,” said Hannah Drake, IDEAS xLab Chief Creative Officer and (Un)Known Project co-lead artist. “Through storytelling, participants will learn about enslavement in Kentucky, the hidden places that tell the stories of so many that have long been labeled as unknown. They are unknown no longer.” 

“We’re committed to providing programming that allows passengers to explore history and cultural heritage in a way that represents diverse stories and honest experiences,” said Belle of Louisville Riverboats CEO Krista Snider. “For that reason, we’re so honored to partner with the (Un)Known Project on the ‘Journeys to Freedom’ cruises. These on-the-water experiences are going to be particularly powerful, given the geographic and symbolic role the Ohio River played to enslaved people.” 

“Reconciliation has become something we really centered on in creating Journeys to Freedom,” said Williams. “Through this immersive experience, I hope that reconciliation is achieved through multiplicity, pluralistic perspectives, and engaging in the history of enslavement that implicates all of us. We’re all still very much engaged with it. For some of us, in very real ways. We’re inviting people into this history and these stories to play, to learn, to choose your own adventure.” 

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About (Un)Known Project  

(Un)Known Project creates artistic spaces and experiences to support learning, healing, reflection, reconciliation, and action by honoring the names and telling the stories of Black men, women and children that were enslaved and hidden figures in Louisville, KY and the surrounding region. The Project is led by artists Hannah Drake and Josh Miller of IDEAS xLab. Partners include Roots 101 African American Museum, Frazier History Museum and Louisville Metro Government. Current support for (Un)Known Project includes grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Mellon Foundation, the Ford Foundation, Humana Foundation, Foundation for a Just Society, Elhapa Foundation, Brown-Forman, Republic Bank, LG&E-KU and individual donors.  

About IDEAS xLab  

IDEAS xLab is a dynamic artist-led nonprofit based in Louisville, KY – and working nationally that proactively seeks to unearth and honor community stories that transform people, spaces and cultures. The organization leads collaborative efforts including (Un)Known Project, has an ongoing partnership with Louisville Metro Department of Public Health & Wellness focused on creating a Lead Free Louisville, and offers IDEA workshops and keynotes focused on Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Accessibility.