Community, city work to fix eyesore cemetery in historically African American community in Virginia Beach

No one owns cemetery in Newsome Farms
Posted at 3:12 PM, Mar 28, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-28 17:42:37-04

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - A cemetery in a historically African American community in the City of Virginia Beach is an eyesore, and community leaders are looking to clean it up.

The News 3 I-Team went digging and found out no one owns the land.

Walking through the cemetery located in the center of Newsome Farms, you can see tattered flags, broken glass, downed tree limbs and a lot of debris.

Community activist and civic league member Linda Carrington has been working to get people to help clean up the plot of land near Daniel Smith Street and Coffee Court.

It’s nestled in the heart of the historically African American community Newsome Farms, and it doesn’t have an official name, according to Carrington.

“We know they’re dead, but we still care about them,” said Carrington.

There are about 40 tombstones - some marked others not - and it’s believed there are more unmarked graves.

It's believed there are veterans buried there along with other civilians of African American descent. A few of the graves date back to the 1800s.

“Basically, it’s an eyesore to the community because of the upkeep,” said Harry L. Kirkley, the Newsome Farms Civic League president.

Kirkley said he’s tried to clean it for the last 20 years, but said it is a big job that entails a lot of raking, mowing the grass and removing debris due to many trees in the area.

“It’s our responsibility in a way to maintain their gravesites and not allow people to run all over it like it’s nothing. I feel strong about it, being ex-military myself,” said Kirkley.

But the problem is that no one owns the land, according to the city.

“There is no individual corporation or government entity that owns the property, so we are concerned about its ongoing maintenance,” said Mark Reed, the historic preservation planner for the City of Virginia Beach.

That’s why last week, the city took the first steps to go to the state with a preliminary information form. This is the first step to getting a property listed on the Virginia Landmark Register in hopes of getting it on the National Register of Historic Places, which could allocate funding for upkeep.

“We’re very hopeful that we will be able to get some funding, hopefully partner in some way with a civic league. We just want to make sure that this cemetery is maintained,” said Reed.

Related: Hampton organization looks for help to restore historically black cemeteries

They’re also looking to track down relatives of those buried at the cemetery and organize a group cleanup next Saturday.

Volunteers are welcomed to come out next weekend to help clean up the cemetery at 10 a.m. near the corner of Daniel Smith Street and Coffee Court.

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