By Tran Nguyen
A prominent organizer and community leader in Silicon Valley for more than a decade, Rev. Jeff Moore II has left the South Bay in search of better opportunities in Atlanta.
Serving as San Jose-Silicon Valley NAACP’s fourth president, Moore organized and advocated for a number of racial and equity causes since 2008. Last Friday, Moore told his executive team that he was stepping down.
Bob Nunez, the organization’s vice president, will take over the helm until the next election in 2022.
A graduate of San Jose Christian College, Moore lived in the South Bay for decades. When the Great Recession hit Silicon Valley in 2009, the pastor said he lost everything, including his home in San Jose, forcing Moore and his family into a rental home that they stayed at until their move to Atlanta.
“The whole market went upside down then,” Moore told San José Spotlight. “I ended up losing everything, I ended up filing for bankruptcy.”
While Moore gradually recovered financially over the years, the prospect of owning another home in San Jose never materialized, he said. Moore began contemplating his move out of Silicon Valley.
“It’s about housing, jobs and education for my sons,” Moore said, adding that he hopes to work on voter suppression issues in Georgia—and buy a house.
“There are not the same opportunities (in San Jose),” he said. “Here I was surviving, but I wasn’t thriving.”
Moore’s decision to move out of Silicon Valley speaks to a trend of Black exodus happening since the early 1960s, Silicon Valley Minority Business Consortium CEO Walter Wilson told San José Spotlight.
“San Jose is not a place for Black people,” Wilson said Monday, citing racial segregation and profiling issues. “We’re not welcomed here, not really… and that is by design.”
As the cost of living and housing continues to climb, San Jose saw the sharpest decline in population in a decade last year. But the area is also losing its Black residents because of local policies on housing, minimum wage and voting, Wilson and Moore said. Disparities also grew over the pandemic, as Black residents in the South Bay accounted for 2.9% of COVID-19 deaths despite being only 2.4% of Santa Clara County’s population.
“No matter what we say, the City Council still turn their noses up,” Moore said. “There’s no care for the common people… That’s why you see an exodus of people of color and essential workers.”
Census data shows a steady population decline in Black Bay Area communities for decades. While other metro areas such as San Francisco and Oakland saw sharp decreases of roughly 40% in Black residents between 1990 and 2019, San Jose lost about 17.67% of its Black population over the same period.
In 1990, Black residents made up 4.7% of San Jose’s population. That’s around 36,790 people, census data shows. That number dwindled to approximately 30,288 people—about 3%—in 2019.
Prior to his decision last week, Moore said he also knows of at least four other Black residents who are considering or in the process of leaving San Jose.
"We are not the same caring San Jose that we once were," Moore said, referring to recent decisions on the flea market and low pay raises for city workers. "The City Council plays games when people's lives are being affected... They are destroying communities and traditions."
Wilson agreed and said after living in the South Bay for nearly 50 years, most of his friends moved to other areas or out of state.
“There’s only a handful of us left,” Wilson said. "If the city wants to change, they better start investing in our communities... and our kids."
Previously, Moore founded and co-chaired the Black Leadership Kitchen Cabinet, a partnership working to promote public safety, education and economic prosperity in the South Bay. He also served on the Coalition for Justice and Accountability, Santa Clara County’s committee on juvenile justice models, SJPD Community Advisory Board and Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, among other groups.
"I'm not angry or bitter," Moore said. "San Jose was my home, and I loved it, but it didn't love me back."
Contact Tran Nguyen at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow @nguyenntrann on Twitter.
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This article was originally published by The San José Spotlight.