US Congressman meets with Silicon Valley's Black leadership, addresses disparity

U.S. Representative Ro Khanna met with leaders from the African American community in Silicon Valley today. He says he was disturbed by a recent report highlighting disparities affecting Black people throughout the South Bay. 

Congressman Ro Khanna says after reading the Silicon Valley Pain Index, he wanted to address the needs of his African Americans constituents. And in this meeting with Khanna, they made it clear, that they often feel ignored and left out of the conversation when it comes to community investment.

"The index says that Black people in Silicon Valley are leaving, that they are disproportionately the homeless in San Jose, they disproportionately have food insecurity. So I wanted to meet with the leaders of the Black community to hear, what is it that we’re missing?" said Khanna, who represents California's 17th District.   

About a dozen people gathered at Nirvana Soul in Cupertino to discuss issues and resolutions that are affecting the Black community in Silicon Valley and throughout Santa Clara County. 

"So what we find is in many areas throughout Santa Clara County, there’s plenty of food but it’s all fast food, fried food, low-quality convenience store, high sugar food. So what we’re doing is actually fueling diabetes, fueling heart disease, fueling obesity," said Jocelyn Dubin, Lead Public Health Nutritionist for Santa Clara County. 

Community leaders told Khanna that less than 1% of venture capital goes to Black business, there are very few Black executives in major Silicon Valley companies and small Black-owned businesses are not receiving the support they need. 

"One person said that the African American community has been celebrating Juneteenth for 41 years and yet a lot of the companies never reached out to the people who’ve been celebrating it long before it was a holiday," Khanna said.   

Advocates also say some form of reparations and financial investment are crucial to engaging and maintaining the Black community in the South Bay.  

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"We’re close to 20% of the homeless population here in the County. How can we ensure housing for Black residents? How can we invest in projects like that? How can we invest in agencies like the Community Service Agency? Like the Roots Community Health Center and so on, that serve our community?" said Jahmal Williams, with the Black Leadership Kitchen Cabinet of Silicon Valley. 

Khanna said these conversations will continue throughout the year. Santa Clara County also announced today that it will join President Biden’s House America plan, working to house 20,000 people by 2025.