Northern Exposure

A new podcast highlights the history and racial strife of Virginia’s Northern Neck.

Growing up in Virginia’s Northern Neck, Philip J. “P.J.” Haynie III recalls his first memory of experiencing racism. Going out one morning to farmland that his father had recently leased, the fifth-generation Black farmer says his family’s equipment was vandalized with the intent to intimidate.

“The tractors were shot up. The windows were busted,” says Haynie, now the CEO of Haynie Farms LLC. “We knew we weren’t welcomed in that town and that farming community then, and it just really put a fire in my belly to make sure that I earned my welcome. I stayed there and we continued to do a good job of farming and planting our crops on time.”

The incident is one of many illuminating anecdotes heard in “A Pixie from Kilmarnock,” a new podcast that highlights the history of Northern Neck’s Black community. This coastal place, bounded by the Potomac River on the north and the Rappahannock River on the south, is where Pixie E. Curry calls home.

“I’ve always been around the water,” says the 67-year-old podcaster, who now lives in Richmond. “My dad was a self-employed waterman, which was a real difficult occupation to be in for anyone, but to be one in a segregated society was even harder.”

Curry, whose career has spanned behind the scenes roles in film, theater and television, was in 9th grade when the schools of the Northern Neck desegregated. After her parents and sister passed away, Curry began thinking about how little she felt she knew about where she came from.

“Society, not only was it segregated by race, but women were also suppressed,” Curry recalls. “My dad was sort of a very strict kind of father. You stayed home and you took care of the house while your parents worked, so I didn’t really get to mingle with my friends. I didn’t really know a lot about the people that I grew up with.”

Wanting to learn more about her hometown, she began recording interviews with people on the Northern Neck in the interest of creating a show. Originally, “A Pixie from Kilmarnock” was intended to be a radio program on VPM*, but Curry says they couldn’t find the funding. Instead, she’s launched the show as a podcast on her website.

So far, Curry has edited 23 of the planned 26 episodes, with the majority clocking in around 53 minutes.

The episodes touch on racism and racial disparities experienced by the Black community of the Northern Neck, as well as sexism. In the episode with Haynie, he and Curry discuss the plight of the Black farmer in America and how they’ve been hurt by decades of racial discrimination in U.S. farm assistance.

Other episodes include interviews with the first Black superintendent of Virginia schools, a baseball player who tried out for the Brooklyn Dodgers alongside Jackie Robinson and a survivor of the 9/11 Pentagon attack. She also interviews two people who were the first white teachers who came to her high school, which had been previously segregated.

In her current home in Richmond, Curry says she’s done her best to embrace her Kilmarnock roots, displaying buoys with her father’s color scheme of red, black and white, a family telephone and flowering plants that once belonged to her mother. Among the latter is a lilac bush that goes back generations in her family.

“That’s what I think of being Kilmarnock: the closeness of family, and just keeping that tradition of ancestral plants going, and having her frying pans,” she says.

To help fund the podcast, Curry has created a Kickstarter that closes next Monday. Curry says her show aims to further the understanding of the Northern Neck and its people.

“It showcases the relationship between the people, the land, the waters and the challenges that generational families and individuals face to achieve the successes that the present generation are the recipients of, and the quest to ensure the same values and traditions are given to future generations.”

“A Pixie from Kilmarnock” can be streamed at The Kickstarter can be found here.

* Full disclosure: VPM is Style Weekly’s parent company.


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