Discussion Explores African American Impact in Silicon Valley

By January 2, 2024January 4th, 2024Press Releases

LOS ALTOS, CA (Jan 2, 2024) To commemorate Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Los Altos History Museum is hosting “Conversations and Reflections: The African American Experience in Santa Clara County” on Thursday, January 18 from 5:30–7pm.


A panel of experts will discuss the often-overlooked contributions made by African Americans to the business and cultural development of Silicon Valley, persevering despite deliberate barriers.


Jan Batiste Adkins, drawing from research from her book “African Americans of San Jose and Santa Clara County,” will reveal strategies used to tackle discrimination in housing, jobs, and community growth. Since 2007, she has served as adjunct professor of English, Literature, Composition, and Creative Writing at San Jose City College.


Kathy Cotton, creator of the documentary “A Place at the Table,” will share how Black individuals influenced the tech industry’s growth. A former HR professional in major corporations like Hewlett-Packard and TRW, she hosts the podcast “Cottontales,” a series of conversations with people of color involved primarily in high tech.


Kenan Moos, co-founder of grassroots non-profit Justice Vanguard, will analyze the deliberate destruction of Black communities in the Silicon Valley and the resulting erasure of contributions made by people in those communities. He has been awarded with Congressional and Senate recognition, the 2022 African American Community Service Agency MLK Gene Young Award, and was named the 2020 Los Altan of the year.


Moderating the discussion will be Dr. Perlita Dicochea, Chair of the Museum’s Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Committee. She holds a background in teaching Ethnic Studies, Chicanx Studies, Women Studies, Environmental Justice Studies, and Communication Studies at institutions including San Jose State University and Santa Clara University. She also served as Communications Associate and Program Coordinator at Stanford University’s Center for Comparative Studies in Race & Ethnicity.


The event includes a preview of Kathy Cotton’s documentary “A Place at the Table,” recognized at the 2019 San Francisco Film Festival. This documentary uncovers the untold stories of Black pioneers in Silicon Valley, emphasizing their impact on technology, STEM fields, and computer history.


“When you see your image in the past, you are assured that you will be part of the future,” Ms. Cotton said.


The panel discussion aims to deeply explore historical stories and current insights into the African American experience and contributions within Silicon Valley, providing attendees with a more comprehensive understanding of the region’s diverse heritage.


Kathy Cotton said, “Diverse groups collaborating together can be a successful force, benefiting us all with their invaluable contributions.”


Admission for the event is $10/person, free for Museum members. Register at losaltoshistory.org/AfAmerExperienceSV. Wine and refreshments will be provided.


Los Altos History Museum began in 1977 with the opening of the historic J. Gilbert Smith House, built in 1905 on 14+ acres of apricot orchards planted by Mr. Smith. In 2001, Los Altos History Museum opened the modern building next door, which houses the Museum’s collections, permanent and changing  exhibitsstore and administrative offices. The Museum and its grounds are available for rent during evenings and weekends. Its collections are owned by the City of Los Altos and are managed by an independent nonprofit organization, whose staff and volunteers are responsible for all programs and operations.


The Museum is open Thursday through Sunday, from noon-4pm. Admission is free. Tours of the J. Gilbert Smith House are available during open hours. The outdoor agricultural exhibit, gardens and picnic area are accessible beyond Museum hours. For more information, visit: losaltoshistory.org, email hello@losaltoshistory.org, or phone 650.948.9427 x14.


Los Altos History Museum: Elisabeth I. Ward, 650.948.9427 x10,