Creating Community in Hampton Roads, Virginia

A summer morning at 4th St., Virginia Beach
Beginning this month, I started contributing to AltDaily, an excellent local progressive community/culture/arts/music/politics website dedicated to creating community in the Hampton Roads area. Hampton Roads (or Tidewater) is a huge area of southeast Virginia that is off most people's radar screens, encompassing the cities of Hampton, Newport News, Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, Norfolk, Suffolk, Portsmouth, and others. Its combined population of 1.7 million makes it one of the larger metropolitan areas in the country.

Before I moved here six years ago from the D.C. area, I didn't even know there was a large city in this part of the state (Virginia Beach, the city I live in, has over 437,000 people). My geographical knowledge of southern Virginia ended at Williamsburg.

View of shipping yard across from downtown Norfolk
Now that I'm here, I have grown to love this sprawling yet strangely beautiful area, with its contradictory mix of beaches and ports, whale watching and navy jet watching, strip malls and waterways, hometowns of Pat Robertson and Timbaland. There's a large military presence and the area is more conservative than the very blue part of Maryland I used to live in. Every once in awhile, I'm reminded I'm in the South when I hear the polite "honeys" and "y'alls," or see the occasional gun and Confederate bumper stickers.

The cool thing is that over the years, I have met some excellent friends and have become aware of a vibrant creative community. The downtown and Ghent areas of Norfolk have an artsy vibe, and other pockets of art, music and creativity are found throughout the region. is one of the hubs of this activity -- it's like the free weekly alternative papers that used to be found at coffee shops, but online.

Lynnhaven River in Virginia Beach
So I'm thrilled to contribute to the site. Most of the work that I will post there on a monthly basis has been featured in this blog, but it's exciting to have a larger local audience for it. I also look forward to deepening my own ties with this community. Here are my March 2012 info comic posts on AltDaily.