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Long-Awaited Silicon Valley African American Cultural Center Gets $4.8 Million Federal Grant

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Walter Wilson, project manager for the planned African American Cultural Center of Silicon Valley, speaks during an event celebrating a federal grant for the center in San José on Wednesday, May 29, 2024. (Joseph Geha/KQED)

A major effort more than 30 years in the making to create a community hub for African Americans in the South Bay is getting a big boost of federal funding.

During a time when African American residents are exiting Santa Clara County in droves, as massive racial disparities persist, the long-envisioned African American Cultural Center of Silicon Valley is receiving a $4.8 million federal grant.

The money was secured from federal coffers with the help of U.S. Rep. Ro Khanna, whose congressional district includes Silicon Valley. It is the largest single grant the project has received to date, said Walter Wilson, the center’s project manager and the co-founder of the Minority Business Consortium.


“There’s a sense of feeling amongst African and African Ancestry people here that there is no here in Santa Clara County for Black people. There is no sense of being, no sense of place,” Wilson said. “The center will address that issue because we believe we need to be here. We have to be here.”

The cultural center is envisioned to feature a new location, such as the African American Community Service Agency, the Roots Community Health Clinic, and Ujima Adult and Family Services, officials said.

Also planned for the space are about 150 homes, all of which will be rented or sold below market rate, reserved for people earning from extremely low to moderate incomes annually. The center will have a performing arts theater, a museum, athletic facilities and retail and commercial spaces.

Wilson said the center has seen years of fits and starts over the decades but feels confident it’s on a track to completion in roughly five years. In all, the project has raised about $30 million so far, of an estimated $200 million.

Over the next year and a half, Wilson said his team would aim to raise their total to $50 million, allowing development to begin, while roughly $140 million from state low-income housing tax credit funding is pursued.

The project has received funding contributions from a bevy of sources, including local, state and federal governments, nonprofits like the Silicon Valley Community Foundation and corporations such as Google. Crucially, Santa Clara County purchased a nearly 3-acre parcel at 2001 The Alameda that is being held for the project.

Khanna said the funding is the largest grant that he has secured for a community project in his seven years in Congress.

During an event on Wednesday to celebrate the grant, Khanna noted how other cultures, including the Indian American diaspora, have benefited from the work of African Americans to push for civil rights legislation in America in the 1960s.

Congressman Ro Khanna speaks during an event in San José celebrating a nearly $5 million federal grant for the planned African American Cultural Center of Silicon Valley on Wednesday, May 29, 2024. (Joseph Geha/KQED)

“The Indian American community has had an Indian community center for the past 15 years, right? The Vietnamese-American Community Center. We can’t have an African American community center, given the history of 250 years of slavery, 100 years of Jim Crow? We need to speak honestly about the economic disparities in this country,” Khanna said.

He said he hopes the center, once completed, will attract talent from historically Black colleges and universities to the region and graduates from other top universities.

“And that’s what’s going to help revitalize the African American community in Silicon Valley, which is critical for us, not just to bridge the economic divides, but also to lead in the 21st century,” he said.

Chike C. Nwoffiah, a Nigerian filmmaker and the founder of the Silicon Valley African Film Festival, said he believes the center is bigger than just the South Bay and will help bring waves of young, passionate people from all over the African continent to the region. He lauded the community leaders and organizations who helped bring this project together.

“You are creating a home for people that look like me, and you are saying yes to the fact that we belong and we ought to be here. Because for far too long, our stories have been told by people that don’t look like us,” Nwoffiah said.

“But this now becomes the home where our stories are preserved and honored and affirmed, and so that we can come out of these doors being our true selves.”

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