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  • Writer's pictureWandering Wanda

What’s the News in Newport News, Virginia?

As I prepared to depart from the downtown area of Norfolk during my week of touring the areas near Virginia Beach, I pulled out my phone to get some insights on Newport News and to determine whether there was a viable downtown area to visit. Just prior to the day at my hotel, the in-room television show depicting the attractions of the local area, provided a glimpse that Newport News which was known for its ship building but had not notice if there was mention of an historic district.

After existing the highway, I typed in the downtown area of Newport News on my phone, a search engine response of “is Newport News a ghetto?” appeared. I thought this was an interesting question, and as I arrived and inched slowly off the interstate onto Jefferson Street trying to determine if I should go straight or make a left or right, I was greeted with many dilapidated and structured red brick standard low-income housing structures and homes and it made me wonder too, is Newport News a ghetto? I now had sensed why this was a question was posted on the internet. I had envisioned some foreigner visiting the USA and dropping into Newport News just as I did, saw the plight and wondered if this is what an American ghetto looked like.

As I am sure there are some nice areas, but to witness this as the first sight, I did not expect my journey here to last very long. But perhaps I will find some good local joint with great food, other than the Churches Chicken that I had passed within the first minute of existing the freeway.

After passing through rows of red brick structures I was able to get on track to the downtown area, which was less than inspiring. You know you are in the hood when the main downtown street is named Martin Luther King Avenue and I should have been suspicious when the main road off the highway was Jefferson and Washington Street, which in my opinion is a give-away for ‘you in the hood now” – or maybe it was the Church’s Chicken as the first restaurant in site - lol.

I knew I was near the shipyards as the view of the water and mighty ships were visible once crossing the bridge on 28th street. The scene of people transitioning at the 2PM shift was a sign of a blue-collar town. A swarm of men of all races departed from one of the shipyards as though a bell at recess had rang. Everyone appeared to be responsible donning their masks, which I would suspect is mandatory for the working conditions. But all were in a hurry, moving briskly through the street with their heads down to get to their cars or other modes of transportation, off to the next place in their day. Aside from the huge ships and the Victory Landing Park gated entrance there was not much to see.

While in town, the rain was fierce, and the winds were up feeling like at least 30 - 50 mile per hour gusts as I sat by the water to view the ocean waves breaking at least 3 to 6 feet up against the banks of the seaport and the nearby anchored vessels. By this time of the day, the dreariness was not inspiring me to get out and walk about the town. The grey sky and the solemn streets reflected the spirt of the town. However, the flame at the large concrete arch entrance of the Victory Landing Park, blazed brightly and strong as the downpour of water splattered all around, so perhaps that was a good sign of the character of the residents.

As I drove toward the highway to depart from the town, the song ‘Freaky Dancin’ by Cameo popped in my head. It always made me laugh when I heard the shout out of Newport News. You ready? New York(Freaky Dancin) L.A.(Freaky Dancin) Atlanta(Freaky Dancin) Cinncinatta(Freaky Dancin)Chi-Town(Freaky Dancin)Detroit(Freaky Dancin)Newport News(Freaky Dancin) And our friends in Baton Rouge! Who ever heard of that town and how could this city shoutout be included with the other big-time towns named? It does not even match up and I always figured someone in the Cameo group was from Newport News.

I only knew of the city because my hometown neighbor’s family was from Newport News and probably would not have had any knowledge or interest in visiting this place. My neighbor’s had cousins from Newport News that visited every summer. Based on their southern drawl I always assumed Newport News was like a farm, since as a child I suspected people with twangs lived in rural areas. Shipyards and Churches Chicken were not part of that vision and I ventured once again over the Hampton Road River Bridge and through the tunnel to my next destination.

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