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.

Alexis Brooks and Saren Scott

Friends for Life

For lifelong friends Alexis Brooks and Saren Scott, Jackie Robinson Park feels like home. The duo met playing tee-ball together at the park back in elementary school, and share warm memories of time spent in the after-school program with Deputy Johnie Oates, on basketball courts through the summertime Sheriff’s League, and at countless barbeque cookouts with friends, family, and loved ones. “There’s a saying that it takes a village to raise a child and my parents always tell me that’s true,” reflects Brooks. “It took Sun Village to raise [me]…Really, the community comes together to take care of each child.” And Scott agrees. “We [are] able to really love one another the way that family does. You might not get along all the time…but we’ll never turn our backs on you.”

Like many of their neighbors, Brooks and Scott attribute one community leader’s contributions to the park’s enduring impact. “When you think of Jackie Robinson Park, you think of Miss [Peg] Lee,” exclaims Scott. “She definitely made sure that we had what we needed.” Although her demeanor could be stern, Lee’s jovial humor kept everyone smiling even when there was work to be done. “She’s a staple in the community,” Brooks concurs. “Growing up, it felt like she lived here because she was here so much…She was so invested—and still is so invested—in the community that she made a point to be here all the time and to pour into kids. I was one of the kids that was able to benefit from that.”

When envisioning the park’s cultural evolution, both women hope that any future public art installations speak authentically to the community in which they’re located—including, and especially, to local kids and teens. “I would definitely love to see artwork displayed in our picnic area, just because…that’s where we commune…where we spend time eating, laughing, and enjoying ourselves,” remarks Scott. “I love, love, love the idea of having new art and introducing the youth to that artwork. [I] want to make sure that the youth feel included within that artwork…I would love for the youth to see a reflection of themselves.” 

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.

“I didn’t realize the beauty of Sun Village until I left, really,” Brooks continues. “How precious it is to grow up with someone, and be with them, friends to them 20 to 30 years later. We will be,” 

she notes, gesturing towards Scott. “I think that’s something that’s really unique to being from here, that you get these lasting relationships, and it really feels like family,” Scott replies. “The people that established Sun Village, the reason why we were able to purchase land here, honestly, is because there was nothing here. There was nothing that was established, and this was somewhere that no one wanted to be, but our ancestors were able to come here and to build here. When they built what was here, they built community.”