'Black is Beautiful' traveling billboard arrives in Norfolk with a Hampton Roads history lesson

Posted at 10:32 PM, Jul 16, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-16 22:43:32-04

NOROLK, Va. - “Black is beautiful,” said Daniel Caballero.

Those are the words on the billboard on Azalea Garden Road.

“It’s a bold statement, especially with what’s going on right now,” said Yasmine Trevino.

The sign stands right in front of her bus stop.

After the recent protests across the country, the creators of this billboard, Whitney and Ricky Parker, want to help heal the community.

"Really serve as empowerment and positive affirmation to the Black community,” said Ricky Parker.

It’s doing just that for people in the area.

“It’s good to see that reminder because a lot of us aren’t told that every day,” adds Trevino.

The creators of the billboard say it’s more than a sign of empowerment for the community. It’s also a way to honor enslaved men and women who worked in the shipping industry right here in Portsmouth and the entire Hampton Roads area.

"We want to use the billboard as a history lesson for people that may not know about Black history,” Parker adds.

History that expands from Fort Monroe to the Norfolk Naval Shipyard.

"The first dry dock, Dry Dock Number 1 - that was constructed by enslaved men who were stone masons,” said Dr. Cassandra Newby-Alexander.

Newby-Alexander is a historian and dean at Norfolk State University.

"The ferry that went back and forth between Norfolk and Portsmouth for centuries was manned entirely by enslaved African American men,” she adds.

Women also played a role working at nearby hotels and taverns.

"That display really helps just give us a taste of the importance of shipping and how African Americans were an important part of that,” Newby-Alexander adds.

"We just wanted to amplify the stories of our ancestors,” said Parker.

And their descendants.

Related: 'Black Is Beautiful' movement gains support from local breweries

“Believe it or not, a lot of this stuff reflects on our kids,” adds Caballero.

The couple says the billboard will be in Norfolk until August 7. They are planning additional stops. We will update this story with those locations as we find out what they are.