JUST ONE YEAR after leaving San Jose, a beloved civil rights leader is back — but he finds himself separated from family, ousted from a job where he reported inappropriate conduct and is now struggling to find work.

The story of struggle is not unique to Rev. Jeff Moore II, the former leader of Silicon Valley’s NAACP chapter. But it paints a somber picture of how tough it is to leave America’s 10th largest city — and even tougher to come back.

Moore, who is a household name in Silicon Valley, led countless civil rights campaigns before abruptly announcing a move to Atlanta in June 2021. But despite his credentials as a reverend, a leading member of the country’s oldest civil rights organization and a Black man with family ties to the area, Moore struggled to find work in Atlanta. He moved back to San Jose last year.

“(In Atlanta) they’re very protective of you being from there, since there’s so many people moving in,” Moore said. “So if a company doesn’t bring you there, you’re competing against the locals and their friends.”

But returning to the Bay Area led to more problems. Moore’s children and wife are still in Atlanta and he’s struggling to find a job here.

“The only Black people who work in these companies around here, don’t have enough power to offer me a job,” Moore said.

A friend connected Moore to a job in Vallejo’s code enforcement department, Moore said. Vallejo’s code enforcement department is under its police department, and as a vocal critic of police violence, Moore was wary.

‘If it’s wrong, it’s wrong’

Days into his job there, Moore spotted a portrait of former President Donald Trump in the office, well after Trump supporters had occupied the White House and inspired an insurrection. Moore notified the police chief, who agreed it was inappropriate. Moore took the photo down before returning it to the officers who asked for it.

“The government code says they’re not supposed to have any political stuff on their wall,” Moore said. “For me, I’m not going to be intimidated by anybody. Even if I work for you, if it’s wrong, it’s wrong.”

Moore said he was removed from the department. Vallejo leaders offered him another job, but it was for less pay. Moore declined and is once again out of work.

Vallejo city officials did not respond to a request for comment.

The reverend suspects that his role as a moral leader — who has defended the rights of homeless residents, stood up against police violence and corruption, fought against mass incarceration and helped countless others do the same — may make him less attractive as an employee, particularly at a time when some firms have made a show of reigning in their workers. “Some say I was not ‘trainable,’” he said. “But I like to think maybe I’m not controllable enough.”

“Some say I was not ‘trainable.’ But I like to think maybe I’m not controllable enough.”

Rev. Jeff Moore II

Santa Clara Valley Water District CEO Rick Callender said Moore’s leadership is defined by his recognition of the common struggles between different groups, and a willingness to bring those groups together to effect change.

Callender expressed hope that the reverend would be able to find suitable work in San Jose.

“I’m generally positive that he’ll be able to find something in this area for work,” Callender said. “It’s good to have him back, and I hope he can climb back on his feet and get his family back out here.”

When San Jose’s Black community spoke out against the racist attack ads published by the San Jose Chamber of Commerce, then known as the SVO, Moore organized a diverse array of leaders to speak out against the ads. Moore and others led the chamber to dismantle its PAC. He also helped establish Juneteenth as a recognized holiday in San Jose.

‘People can’t afford to live here’

Elizabeth Kamya, secretary for the San Jose NAACP, said Moore’s difficulty finding work and a home for his family speaks to the struggles faced by a growing portion of working families.

“It’s a sensitive subject, but it’s a very real subject that we have to face — people can’t afford to live here,” Kamya said. “I’m so happy that he’s come back, but a lot of things need to change within this city to make sure that we can keep really amazing champions here, who love this city and are the best voices to speak and advocate for their neighbors.”

Bob Nuñez, who succeeded Moore as president of the local NAACP chapter, shared a similar sentiment.

“I would hope that those persons in positions look out and see if they can’t assist him in his search for a position,” Nuñez told San José Spotlight. “I know that being separated from your wife and children is difficult, and I’d hate to think that there isn’t some way for him to find employment here.”

For now, the reverend keeps what matters most — his faith and his family — close to his heart while he looks toward an uncertain future.

“You come home, and they tell you there’s no room for you. That’s where I’m at right now,” Moore said. “Whatever mission the Lord has me on, I’m still waiting to get it clear.”

Contact Sonya Herrera at sonya@sanjosespotlight.com or follow @SMHsoftware on Twitter.