To celebrate Black History Month, The Beat wanted to shine a light on the Black leaders who are currently making a difference in Milpitas.
Check out our list below, and leave a comment if there are any other names you want to add and shoutout!
- Nyla Choates is the Founder of My Roots are Rich, a nonprofit dedicated to pushing back against systemic racism. She is currently a Senior at Milpitas High School. Last year, Choates organized a Black Lives Matter protest in Milpitas, which drew thousands to attend. The protest was a peaceful and empowering example of the power of young people and their ability to positively shape our world. “I’ve been able to gain many scholarships and acceptances to schools where I’ll be able to continue my activism,” Choates wrote to The Beat in an email. “My greatest achievement this month was having the opportunity to interview the living legend, activist, author Angela Davis. That was a surreal experience that I will remember for the rest of my life.” She’s currently working on organizing a Black Student Unions Black History Month Showcase, which will be held virtually on February 26th at 6pm. Everyone is welcome. For more info follow @bsu.milpitas on Instagram.
- Donnie Eiland is the Producer and Executive Producer of the documentary ‘54: The Story of Sunnyhills. When Eiland discovered that the Sunnyhills neighborhood, where he grew up, had a rich history, he was determined to make a film about how it all came to be. As one of the first integrated communities in the United States, Sunnyhills is a testament to the power of acceptance, diversity, and community. “For me, I’ve always had such a love and passion for my neighborhood. I knew it was special,” said Eiland. “And I truly wanted to honor the men and women, and tell our story and let people know that a place exists where people of all races do get along and did get along, and it was a special place.” On February 27 and 28, the Christ Community Church will be sponsoring a ‘54 Movie Night and Discussion virtually. Find out more here.
- Pastor Jeff Moore is the President of the San Jose/Silicon Valley NAACP, and is a past Co-Chair and Founder of the Black Leadership Kitchen Cabinet, which works on developing programs and initiatives to enhance the well-being, public safety, educational outcomes, and financial health of African-Americans living in Santa Clara County. He has contributed his wisdom and knowledge to many events and discussions in Milpitas, and has been a strong, fierce voice speaking out against racial injustice and inequity.
Demetress Morris is the founder of Flamekeepers, an organization devoted to closing the achievement gap for minority students. She served on the Milpitas Planning Commission from 2012-2019, and was its Vice Chair from 2018-2020. She is also a member of the Milpitas Executive Lions’ Club, and does all she can to participate and support the community. “I love to serve my community. It is a pleasure to network and collaborate with other leaders at the local, state, or federal level,” shared Morris. “The true joy is working with those in our community to shape and maintain Milpitas’ legacy of love.”
- Henry Nichols has lived in Milpitas since 1956 — and still owns the original house in the Sunnyhills neighborhood that he grew up in. It’s no wonder he worked as the Historian for Eiland’s ‘54 documentary, helping to provide and fill in information about people and events from decades ago. Nichols works professionally as a DJ, and even volunteers at the Second Harvest of Silicon Valley by playing music every other Saturday, in an effort to give back to the community. “Every other Saturday I set up my DJ gear and my generator while the community gets food,” shared Nichols. “We have had over 1,000 boxes of food given out during the day.”
- Christopher Norwood is President of the Milpitas Unified School District’s Board of Education. He is also the Founder of the Bay Area Tutoring Association, which in 2017 received recognition as Silicon Valley’s Nonprofit of the Year. A few months ago, he was named as the 2020 California School Boards Association (CSBA) Board Member of the Year, after having competed against board members across nearly 1,000 different school districts statewide. Norwood’s organization recently launched a COVID-19 Black Lives Matter Learning Pods Project to provide 24 hours of free tutoring to students of African-American ancestry across grades 1-12.
- Henry Robinson is an At-Risk Specialist, working as a liaison for the Milpitas Police Department and the Milpitas Unified School District. He supports K-6 students in foster and homeless programs, helping families in need access resources like food and housing. Before that, he worked for many years as a teacher with the Milpitas Unified School District, building up a reputation as a well-respected and beloved educator within the community. Through his five decades of serving students and families in Milpitas, he has made an undeniable impact. “Having spent my whole career in Milpitas is like seeing a baby growing up…the town has grown up,” said Robinson in a recent interview with The Beat. “There are a lot of positive things happening in the community and the school district, and how they’re moving forward.”