Honoring Forefathers: John Riddick speaks out

Published 6:19 pm Friday, February 10, 2023

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John Fitzgerald Riddick is speaking out on the condition of neighborhoods in the City of Suffolk’s downtown. 

Riddick is the son of Hayward Miles Riddick, Suffolk’s first black mailman, and nephew of both Moses A. Riddick, the city’s first black vice mayor, and Deputy John Riddick, who is both one of the first black deputy sheriffs in Nansemond County and served the School Board for 50 years. With this family legacy, he hopes his words bring change to the downtown neighborhoods of Norfolk Road and E Washington Street.

“I just want to pay tribute to the forefathers before and this is Black History Month, to keep their dream alive,” he said. “Keep recognizing what they fought for.”

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Riddick discussed the conditions of the neighborhood across from Suffolk Police Station Precinct 1.

“Across the railroad track where the police station used to be the old fruit stand, where Red Barn is,” he said. “It seems like that neighborhood is… it’s decaying, by the day. And it would be nice for some gentrification to take place.”

Riddick said he would like for them to tear down some of the old ailing, ancient buildings that have become eyesores for the city. 

“You stop right there, you’re tearing down everywhere else — Kings Fork, Harbour View, Pitchkettle Road,” he said. “They’re just building up throughout the outskirts of Suffolk and people coming in from out of town loving it. The population is growing, business is booming. But for that downtown Suffolk area — Norfolk Road, East Washington Street — across the railroad track, just being ignored and people paying taxes, hard working people come out of that neighborhood. And they’re not receiving any love, and it’s an eyesore.”

Likewise, Riddick shared his ideas on what the city should provide to the area within the neighborhood to bring it up to par with various other Suffolk areas.

“The city needs to get together and put plans together and allocate income facilities. Training programs, or even put bowling alleys, skating rinks. You could go back and get with Food Lion, you could get with Walmart, build one of those small meat shops, grocery stores there,” Riddick said. “It’s far too long — you took the fairground from there that you put up on Carolina Highway. But to beautify Norfolk Road, the people that sweat blood and tears, paved the way for all the other areas to come up that was here. I am just here to give those people a voice that are no longer with us, and the neighborhood they grew up in, it’s just not being cared for.”

Riddick also explained why he believes it’s important for the city to honor both the legacy of Riddick’s forefathers and other black historical figures of Suffolk’s past such as Dr. Margaret W. Reid, Suffolk’s first black female physician and the Rev. D.W. Lamb and Rufus Hart, founders of the Metropolitan Church Federal Credit Union.

“If you’re not going to do the gentrification, put murals up of their faces,” he said. “You got the Hofflers, you got Moses Riddick, you got my father Hayward, you got a lot of pioneers, Dr. Reid, Bettie Davis, they honored her on Carolina Highway, the apartments there. If you’re not going to rebuild it, at least put murals there,” Riddick said.

He said they’re beautifying the surrounding area, because the economy is booming on the outside, but right down the heart of Suffolk where all the pioneers are no longer with us haven’t received anything. 

“You got hard working taxpayers — Lake Kennedy, South Suffolk, Norfolk Road, Jericho,” he said. “Those people are still paying taxes. Those people still have to get in their cars and go miles and miles for some gas.”

Likewise, Riddick discussed how his uncles helped bring a key figure of equality to the City of Suffolk. 

“A lot of things that they set out to do have come into fruition. The Riddick brothers were very inspirational in getting Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. here in the sixties, and it would be nice for the city to recognize a great tribute, a landmark of naming E. Washington Street, ‘Dr. Martin Luther King Boulevard’, that would be nice.”

Finally, Riddick shared a message to city officials


“I want the city to know that we see them. We see exactly what they are doing and a lot of people have a bad taste in their mouth. It’s like they’re on the job, but they malinger to go down there and do something. All the people want is the city to be brought back, we need help,” said Riddick. “They don’t love us anymore. They’re not showing us any love.”