Jackie Robinson Park

Jalisa Burton, Alexis Brooks, and Saren Scott at Juneteenth celebration at Jackie Robinson Park in Sun Village in the Antelope Valley, Los Angeles County, CA.

In conjunction with LA County Parks and Recreation, Clockshop has been collaborating with artist April Banks and Kounkey Design Initiative (KDI) on a permanent public art installation at the first Jackie Robinson Park in America in Sun Village of the Antelope Valley. The historically significant community of Sun Village is an incredible example of the self-determination of generations of Black families who, in the first half of the 20th century, carved out a home in the desert, away from the racist housing covenants and unfair lending practices rampant in neighboring cities like Palmdale, Lancaster, and Los Angeles. This intrepid community, led by a Woman’s Club that still exists today, built churches, educational institutions, gas lines, sewers, dug wells, and established the historic landmark Jackie Robinson Park as a recreational green space for the entire community. 

Clockshop and partners have organized community meetings, storytelling, and archiving sessions with Village elders and younger generations of residents over the past year that have informed the design and content of a monumental mosaic mural by April Banks to be installed on the park gymnasium wall. We also collaborated with the Sun Village Museum Project on an exhibition and publication focused on Sun Village oral histories and archives that was unveiled on Juneteenth 2023. The permanent mosaic mural artwork by artist April Banks and an interpretive exhibition focusing on the people who shaped Sun Village will be installed in the park in 2024.

History of Jackie Robinson Park

Jackie Robinson Park was the first park in the nation named after baseball legend and civil rights icon Jackie Robinson, who attended the park’s opening in 1965. The park’s history reflects the resilience of African-American communities in Los Angeles – and in Sun Village in particular – and their desire to find belonging and community after fleeing discriminatory housing practices, or redlining, in the urban core of the city.

When African Americans began moving to Sun Village in the 1950s, the area lacked even basic infrastructure. Ultimately, residents paved streets, installed streetlights and gas lines, and built the park themselves. The Women’s Club of Sun Village, founded early in the history of the establishment of Sun Village as a means for women to gather, organize, and provide for the community, organized bake sales and other fundraisers to purchase most of the land for the park, and then donated the land to the County Parks Department. The Women’s Club also sponsored the annual Juneteenth pageant, which was an opportunity to celebrate the young women of the Sun Village community. The park became a hub for a thriving African American enclave for decades. 

To this day, many African American residents have a strong sense of ownership of the park, which they see as a symbol of how far they’ve come as a community – even as the neighborhood has become predominantly Latino. This project and culminating event will represent and amplify this significant history, centering it on the African-American , experience in Sun Village, while also bringing in the history and roles of newer community members.

Jackie Robinson Park Publication

Illustration by James Brooks, Jr.

Jackie Robinson Park Publication

As part of the community engagement and design process leading up to the installation of this work, Clockshop commissioned photographer Stella Kalinina to interview generations of villagers and take their portraits at the 2022 Juneteenth Festival in Jackie Robinson Park. These stories are presented here on the occasion of the 2023 Juneteenth Festival, accompanied by an introduction to Sun Village history by local historian Daria Collier Jiles, and a newly commissioned artwork from Village son James Brooks, Jr., that is interwoven with quotes from initial research collected by Lynell George. View the publication here.

Concept Design for a Mosaic Mural

Concept Design for a Mosaic Mural

Artist April Banks conducted a series of presentations on her concept renderings for an interpretive artistic representation that includes various visual elements that represent and bring to life the rich history of Jackie Robinson Park and the Sun Village community. Banks gathered feedback from these gatherings to complete and submit final renderings to be approved for the interpretive project. Our goal is to tell the story of the founding of the park and to represent it within the park so it is not lost.

The proposed mural celebrates the women of The Civic Women’s Club of Sun Village and all of their care and effort to make Jackie Robinson an official park. The legacy of events and experiences that this “town center”, “oasis in the desert” provided for this community will also be depicted in smaller mosaic “medalions.” These represent some of the important stories that have been expressed through oral histories, community meetings and other documentation of life in the park and in Sun Village.

Stories from the Community

Clockshop commissioned photographer Stella Kalinina to interview generations of villagers and make their portraits at the 2022 Juneteenth Festival in Jackie Robinson Park. The interviews explored each individual’s memories of Jackie Robinson Park and their vision for how April Banks can honor and celebrate it within her design.
Explore their stories here.

Excerpts from the interviews: 
For Hearns, Jackie Robinson Park heralds back to a time when “people cared about their community” and “houses…really represented home.” “My kids grew up around here,” he recounts. “One of the things that I remember that was very precious to me — my kids could come here to the park, and everybody was their parent. So, talking about taking a village to raise a kid, well, everybody here helped to raise my children.”

Brooks expands on this definition of community to include not only those in Sun Village now, but also those who came before. “The Black community really built Sun Village, and it’s changed over the years, but…it still has that presence and that spirit. I would want [the art] to definitely reflect the people who live here and the people who have built it up. I would like to see a mural somewhere in the park…[something that communicates] the whole experience of what Sun Village” is, complete with imagery depicting historical figures, music, sports, local agriculture, and food.

Her favorite memory of time spent there? Witnessing the community’s enthusiastic response to its milestone event: the annual Juneteenth celebration. “My aspiration is to see it come back in terms of the liveliness of it, with the excitement.” For Moore, strong civic engagement is key to activating optimism in any community. And she believes deeply that this engagement must be a collective effort that includes residents of all ages – especially children – working alongside developers, local businesses, and other community-based organizations.