Introducing yourself to a group of people who will likely never meet you in person is a very interesting task, but I believe we can get through it together.
I’m Barinaale Dube, your inaugural Cultural History Fellow. The End.
Now you know my name, the job I’ll be performing this summer, and nothing else. This is where I’m starting with a lot of the cultural information about the Preserve. People’s names and the work they did to survive. This summer, and a little bit into the fall, I’ll be working to introduce you to many of the people who lived and worked on the Bull Run Mountains Preserve, starting with myself.
In the backyard of my childhood home, we had all kinds of edible things growing. Sugarcane, oranges, bananas, guavas, okra, peppers, bitter leaf, scent leaf, and whatever produce scraps my mother threw in the backyard. Many things that people wouldn’t necessarily group together thrived in this space because my mother provided the attention, space, and care necessary for them to grow. The only plants that were prioritized were the ones that were struggling and not quite reaching their full potential. Everyone that ever visited our backyard constantly told us how rich we were. What my backyard taught me is that richness is not necessarily the abundance of one thing, but the brilliant mix of many things, all existing together, and enriching one another.
The preserve has a plethora of things to offer and teach us, but foundationally it shows us how diversity isn’t just nice but necessary for survival. The Preserve would not be the Preserve if it only housed, one plant, one insect species, and one animal. It’s teeming with life because thousands of different organisms exist together in beautiful chaotic harmony. This is a lesson that I was, fortunately, able to learn even before I came to the Preserve. Growing up in the best city in the world, Houston, Texas, I picked up a number of skills and lessons that only contribute to the work that I do. One of the first ones being, how to deal with Southern Virginian heat and humidity. Houston has four seasons like every other place in America, the 9th circle of Pandemonium, the 5th circle of Pandemonium, Hot and Warm. On those especially hot days, you can take a deep breath outside and get a lovely gulp of water at the same time!
In addition to heat training, I was surrounded by representatives from practically every continent in the world. Standing at the intersection outside my neighborhood was equivalent to walking through a major airport. I had a local passport to places like Nigeria, India, Vietnam, and El Salvador. It taught me the value of an authentic narrative. No one can tell a story better than the person who lived it. Even though many of the people I’ll be looking into have long passed away, I’ll be taking the oral histories of descendants and other people who have lived in the area.
Through a combination of preliminary archaeological work, scouring through census, marriage, birth and death records to name a few, and talking with the descendants of the Preserve matriarchs and patriarchs, We will begin to tell the story of the Preserve in living color. Not only do we hope to uncover the narratives of the Black people that literally carved a life for themselves out of stone, but we will be working to incorporate these stories into the long-lasting legacy of the Preserve. As I surround myself with information about the lives of these marvelous people, I can see myself.
I imagine that they enjoyed the same or an even greater level wonderment and tranquility that I experience out on the Preserve. I consider it a sort of inheritance and believe that it’s available for all who want it.
So grab a water bottle, put on your bug spray and sunscreen, get a good notetaking device, and join us as we look at the legacy that has been left for us.