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FairfaxExecutive director of NOVA Parks honored by NAACP

Executive director of NOVA Parks honored by NAACP

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Karen Campblin, president of the NAACP Fairfax County branch, poses with NOVA Parks executive director Paul Gilbert in February following the installation of an interpretive sign on Jim Crow laws along the Washington & Old Dominion Regional Trail in Herndon. The local NAACP recently gave Gilbert an award for advancing the park agency’s inclusive historical initiatives.

The Fairfax County branch of the NAACP has awarded NOVA Parks executive director Paul Gilbert a Freedom Fund Community Advocate Award, which celebrates community members who fight for equality and a better future.

The award resulted from a partnership between the county’s NAACP branch and NOVA Parks, which focuses on telling a more inclusive history of Northern Virginia. Under Gilbert’s leadership, NOVA Parks has unveiled nine new interpretive signs in the past year that showcase a more diverse history.

NOVA Parks’ recently adopted 2023-27 strategic plan also prioritizes “Belonging” as one of its five main pillars.

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“The end result of diversity, equity and inclusion are parks and programs that engage the various cultures and communities that make up Northern Virginia and create a sense of belonging for all,” NOVA Parks officials said in an Oct. 4 statement.

“Fairfax NAACP has enjoyed a strong partnership with NOVA Parks,” said Rev. Lynda Alicudo, chairman of the branch’s Religious and Community Coordination Committee. “We owe that to Paul Gilbert. Paul has been tireless in his commitment to a vision that includes programming that engages our community – the African-American community – and tells a more inclusive history.”

The stories recently highlighted have been both painful and inspiring, NOVA Parks officials said.

In February, the parks agency partnered with the NAACP branches in Arlington, Fairfax and Loudoun counties and dedicated signs in all three jurisdictions to tell the story of Jim Crow-era laws, which discriminated against people of color who rode the Washington & Old Dominion railroad in the first half of the 20th century.

Also in February, which is Black History Month, NOVA Parks dedicated a site at Bull Run Marina in the Clifton area, which had been a graveyard for enslaved people.

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