ELPIDIO R. ESTIOKO: Milpitas Library hosts exhibit on African American Rural Histories

Did African-Americans travel only to big cities? Well, yes… that’s what majority of us knew, but some of them, maybe without us knowing it, also moved to the rural areas.

In the past, we knew that most African Americans travelled in big cities in California, but not known to many, several Black American families also moved to rural areas of the state. This is the main thrust of the mobile exhibit dubbed as:
We Are Not Strangers Here: African American Histories in Rural California, which are now on display at the Milpitas Library.

This exhibit, according to Mariana Walker, Associate Communications Officer, Santa Clara County Library District Services and Support Center, highlights the unknown and untold stories of Black farmers, ranchers and rural residents from the 1849 Gold Rush to today who lived as far north as Siskiyou County, to the Central Valley, to the Imperial Valley in the South. There are also podcasts available on Soundcloud and an audio tour that features scholars and descendants of rural Black Californians that will complement the experience of the exhibit.

The displays are located at the Milpitas Library Courtyard at 60 North Main Street, Milpitas, CA 95035 which will last up to Wednesday, January 4, 2023.

 “We Are Not Strangers Here.” the SCCLD spokesperson said, “is a collaboration between the Cal Ag Roots Project at the California Institute for Rural Studies, Susan Anderson of the California African American Museum, the California Historical Society, Exhibit Envoy and Dr. Caroline Collins from UC San Diego.

Prior to this, the Milpitas Library hosted the Nationwide Traveling Exhibit on Darshana: A Glimpse into Hindu Civilization from October 17, 2022 Through Thursday, November 10, 2022.”

The exhibit contained a colorful overview of Hindu concepts and practices, which offered participants the opportunity to learn about one of the oldest civilizations in the world.

It featured a variety of topics, ranging from yoga and divinity to mathematics and administration.

Created by Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (HSS), this traveling exhibit aimed to raise awareness on Hindu thinking, contributions and common practices. Darshana: A Glimpse into Hindu Civilization has been hosted by various institutions nationwide.

There were speakers who answered questions about the displays.

Both the exhibit and reception were free and was opened to the public and no registration was necessary.

The Santa Clara County Library District (SCCLD) is dedicated to promoting cultural enrichment, knowledge and ideas with programs such as Darshana: A Glimpse into Hindu


According to Pew Research Center, there are about 1 billion Hindus around the world, representing 15% of the global population. There is also a large Hindu community in the Bay Area.

Compiled by Hindu Americans, Darshana aimed to clear misconceptions, introduced key Terms and inspired further research into the rich culture.

Also, before the pandemic, in 2015, the Milpitas Library likewise hosted the Smithsonian’s ‘Exploring Human Origins’ Exhibit. The Smithsonian Institution’s “Exploring Human Origins” exhibit featured more than 40 educational panels, interactive kiosks and displays exploring what it means to be human. according to Julian Ramos, The Mercury News.into the rich culture.

The free exhibit took visitors back to the earliest stages of human evolution, development and civilization.

Milpitas was one stop in the exhibit’s 19-city tour across the United States. It offered rare insights into how early humans came together, learned, developed and grew into communities, organizers said.

Pieces of the display arrived from Utah in 23 crates and were assembled in the reading room near the library’s auditorium.

Milpitas’ was the only library in California that hosted the traveling exhibition.

Then Milpitas Community Librarian Stephen Fitzgerald said the library applied for a grant to receive the exhibit and was selected.

“We like to think that we proposed a great location in a great building that could accommodate the size of the exhibit (1,200 square feet), a great set of complementary programs (clergy tour, poetry workshop and reading, essay contest and local expert lectures), and fun children’s programs,” Fitzgerald said.

The Santa Clara County Library District and Milpitas Library hosted the display, which was created and curated by the Washington D.C.-based Smithsonian Institution in partnership with the American Library Association. Grants from the Templeton Foundation and the Peter Buck Human Origins Fund helped made all of it possible.

The display included a range of human skull casts marking key periods of human evolution and a life-size sculpture of a Neanderthal mother and child. Also offered were series of lectures, documentary screenings, poetry events and an essay contest for children in fourth to 12th grades. The essay topic was: “Has your understanding of what it means to be human changed since viewing the exhibition? Why or why not?” It was sponsored by the Milpitas Library Education and Advisory Commission (LEAC), the Milpitas Library and the Friends of Milpitas Library, in collaboration with the Milpitas City Council.

The Santa Clara County Library District (SCCLD) promotes knowledge, ideas, and cultural enrichment such as those already mentioned. Founded in 1914, its collection includes more than 2 million books, videos, CDs, DVDs/Blu-rays, audiobooks, eBooks and extensive online resources accessible from anywhere with an internet connection, according to SCCLD spokesperson.

For the last fourteen years, Library Journal has recognized SCCLD as one of America’s Star Libraries, and in 2021, SCCLD was rated as a 5-Star library in their Index of Public Library Service, one of only five library systems in the United States with expenditures over $30 million given this honor. In 2014 and 2019, SCCLD won Innovator Awards from the Urban Libraries Council. SCCLD also received a Challenge Award in 2019 from the California State Association of Counties and an Innovative Project of the Year Award (Large District) from the California Special Districts Association in 2020.

SCCLD includes two bookmobiles, an online library, seven community libraries and one branch library, serving the cities of Campbell, Cupertino, Gilroy, Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, Milpitas, Monte Sereno, Morgan Hill, Saratoga, and the unincorporated areas of Santa Clara County. In Fiscal Year 2021-22 SCCLD had 551,623 library accounts, over a million unique website visits, and a circulation of 10.5 million items.

Milpitas Library, hosted these international exhibits… will there be more?

(ELPIDIO R. ESTIOKO was a veteran journalist in the Philippines and a multi-awarded journalist here in the US. For feedbacks, comments, email the author at estiokoelpidio@gmail.com.)