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Milpitas celebrates Black History Month with lively event

Last week, on February 1, a lively Black History Month celebration and flag raising took place in Milpitas.

It was an evening overflowing with powerful speeches, poetry, dance, drumming, food, and connection. 

The event was hosted by Parenting with a Purpose and My Roots are Rich. Colette Choates, Founder of Parenting with a Purpose, spoke at the event and also introduced all the speakers and performers. Pastor Dean Gardere from BibleWay Christian Center delivered a stirring Benediction at the start of the program; Kuumba performed an igniting Opening Drum Ceremony and Dance; Paula Bates sung a beautiful rendition of the Black National Anthem; and Renne Diop gave a moving reading of Maya Angelou’s poem “Still I Rise.” 


Tiye Garrett of Kuumba (left) with Colette Choates of Parenting with a Purpose.


Milpitas elected officials Evelyn Chua (Vice Mayor) and Hon Lien (Councilmember) also got up to speak during the event. 

“People of all ages filled the community center, sharing history, acknowledging the challenges faced, and finding the strength to move forward with courage,” shared Councilmember Lien with The Beat. 


Left to right: Councilmember Hon Lien, Vice Mayor Evelyn Chua, and Milpitas City Manager Ned Thomas.


Henry Robinson, a retired Milpitas High School government teacher, currently works as a Community Liaison for the Milpitas Police Department and Milpitas Unified School District. Robinson got up and spoke of how he started out as a teacher in Milpitas at Samuel Ayer High School in 1970. He’d received seven other teaching job offers at the time, but out of all of them, he chose to come to Milpitas. 

“I knew the city was going to grow because Silicon Valley was beginning to grow,” said Robinson to the crowd.  


Henry Robinson addresses the crowd at Milpitas’ Black History event.


At Ayer High School, the leadership indicated to Robinson that they had a problem. Students of different backgrounds wanted an Ethnic Studies Class, because none existed at the time. They asked Robinson if he would be willing to teach such a class, and his response was: “School starts in one week.” 

Thirty-five students signed up for the very first Ethnic Studies class in Milpitas history.

Milan Balinton, Executive Director of the African American Community Service Agency (AACSA), was Keynote Speaker at the event. He delivered a powerful speech centered around the importance of Black history…

“Don’t let the news channels always tell you that it’s just negative things in our community. Black history is about the kings and the queens who came all the way and still made a way,” said Balinton during his speech. “ When you stop at a streetlight, think Black history. When you comb your hair, think Black history. When you put on stylish clothes, think Black history. When you walk into a room or a classroom, and you don’t see yourself, think of Naomi Campbell, and walk into that room.”

Paid for by Evelyn Chua for Milpitas City Council FPPC#1470209spot_img
Rhoda Shapiro
Rhoda Shapiro
Rhoda Shapiro is the winner of a 2022 Golden Quill Award for her Education journalism. She works as a journalist and media consultant in the Bay Area. She has written for both the Tri-City Voice and the Mercury News, and is the founder of Chi Media Company, which works mostly with nonprofit organizations and educational entities to elevate their marketing and communication platforms. Rhoda is also the author of “Fierce Woman: Wake up your Badass Self” and “Magic Within: Womb-Centered Wisdom to Realize the Power of Your Sacred Feminine Self.” Her YouTube channel features practices in yoga, meditation, and women’s empowerment. Rhoda is The Milpitas Beat’s Founder and Editor-in-Chief.


  1. Two days after this event, Milpitas’ own Nyla Choates presented her story for the Sunnyhills Neighborhood Association’s annual Black History Breakfast. Starting with her experience growing up black in Milpitas, she also shared how she coordinated the remarkable Milpitas Black Lives Matter march as an MHS student! She spoke about the book she authored – My Roots are Rich – and why! Nyla founded a nonprofit organization that’s guided by its mission to empower, inspire, and educate people about the rich history of African Americans and all their contributions to America. It was heart-warming, and attended by MUSD Board member Chris Norwood, County Supervisor Otto Lee, and Congressman Ro Khanna.

    You can watch a video replay of this inspiring presentation using this YouTube link: https://youtu.be/GWaNvZIje_4


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