When my husband and I became parents, we made a commitment to raise our children with progressive values, a desire to protect the environment, an appreciation for being outdoors and a focus on turning walls into bridges by helping to build inclusive communities. When we relocated to Los Altos in late 2012, we initially thought we had checked all of those boxes.
Our arrival into Los Altos provided the excitement of exploring a new town, making new friends and enjoying all that the Bay Area has to offer. We quickly became involved with our local schools, took part in neighborhood street parties, met new and interesting people and found our new town to be pleasant and easygoing. It was an idyllic transition, but something was missing.
About four months after our relocation, I asked a new friend – who is a white woman – “Where are the Black people in Los Altos? The only Black people I’ve seen are the ones I live with. For a place that constantly talks about diversity, I’m finding it lonely here. I need at least one Black friend. Do you know anyone? Can you set up a grown-up play date for me?”
Within a week, my friend sent an email introducing me to another Black woman who lived in Los Altos. The Black woman was Toni Moos.
Our initial interaction lasted two hours, because we were ecstatic about meeting each other. There was an instant connection in what it meant to be living in a community with a handful of Black families. We talked about where to go to get our hair done because Los Altos didn’t provide salon services for textured hair. We shared the challenges of protecting Black children in a community where they tend to be the “only ones” in their classes. We explored our experiences in dealing with questions we received from non-Black Los Altans as to how and why we were living in this community, where exactly our homes were located and how we could afford to live here.
We talked about the stares we received while window shopping in downtown Los Altos and how we conditioned ourselves to always have a friendly look on our faces when people were observing us. We reflected on how exhausting it was to initially feel safe within a group of Los Altans only to have that shattered when something racist was said in a casual setting and no one but us flinched.
Soon I met another Black woman who was new to Los Altos. Her youngest child was in the same class as my son. I saw her at drop off and when our eyes met, we quickly made our way over to each other. I quickly told her I knew one other Black woman in our community and that we should all meet for coffee. Being in the company of these two Black women felt nourishing and safe. I felt seen, understood and unburdened.
Harnessing the power of Black magic
I decided that day that I wanted to create a space for Black women to feel supported, thrive, grow and experience daily joy – while living in Los Altos.
I shared my idea with Toni about creating this safe space. I talked about us both being connectors and that we could be the initial hub to lay the foundation for this group. We brainstormed some ideas for names and settled on the Silicon Valley Black Girl Magic Group (SVBGMG). Our guiding principle for the SVBGMG was to be the “welcome committee” we wished we had when we arrived in Los Altos.
The SVBGMG started with two people, and in eight years, we have grown it to a membership of 23 Black women who reside in Los Altos, Mountain View, Palo Alto, Saratoga and Sunnyvale. It is an incredibly diverse group of women who are educators, artists, best-selling authors, philanthropists, medical professionals, engineers, mothers, single, partnered, natives and transplants – the list goes on.
The SVBGMG provides a safe outlet for us to discuss a variety of challenges that directly affect Black people. We help each other navigate daily racism and provide support tools so that members don’t have to feel alone. We share strategies for our overall mental wellness, because Black women are the most negatively targeted racial group in this country. We create space to celebrate, unwind and have fun, because experiencing joy is revolutionary.
By having the SVBGMG as a touchstone, all of us are able to show up fully within the greater community and offer contributions that elevate the desirability of living in a place like Los Altos. Last year showed many in our local community the amount of learning and unlearning that needs to happen to make communities more inclusive, welcoming and safe for all of us. The SVBGMG is proud to be a catalyst in helping us all move in a kinder direction.
Kanesha Baynard is an author, creativity expert and productivity specialist. She founded the Bold Living Today community, which helps people disrupt unfulfilling patterns through creativity. She also leads small groups for teens, educators and adults on creating inclusive communities and building ally skills. For more information, visit boldlivingtoday.com.
Thoughts from members of the Silicon Valley Black Girl Magic Group
• “It’s often exhausting to be a Black person in America, but it’s even more so when you live in a predominantly white space, so having a group of women who inherently understand that, as they are living that same day-to-day life, means not having to explain.”
– Toni, mother of 4
• “I rarely see Black people in Los Altos, so when I saw a mom and daughter, looking to be about the same age as my little brown girl, at the Los Altos Library, I waited to talk with them. This mother understood and wasn’t off-put by my eagerness to speak with her. We had a friendly chat, exchanged numbers, and that night she added me to the group text with a warm welcome. This group has been affirming and supportive even though some of us have yet to meet in real life. There is no application or membership fee. There is only friendliness and a desire to be connected with and champions of Black women.”
– Catherine, mother of 1
• “The group means so much to me. Seeing the WhatsApp notification feels like my friends from home are about to educate me on something extremely important. When you get Black women together, they thrive, uplift and support. This group is a safe space where we can share our lived experiences. I love that this group is accessible for a quick dinner, a walk or even guidance on parenting Black children on the
– Dana, mother of 1
• “It’s nice to have a space where my experiences of being Black in Silicon Valley are not met with contempt or questioning, but rather a diverse group of women who can relate. It keeps me sane. It reminds us of what an exceptionally small minority I am in this techy context. I frequently look up the statistics and I see that in California, the population of Black people overall is somewhere around 5%, but in Los Altos it’s like less than a quarter of 1%. That is exceptionally small. It’s also telling. “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been disappointed meeting Black people who once lived here after they’ve already moved out. The fact that they move out is further evidence for me that the experiences I have here are very much real and difficult.”
– Deneva, mother of 1