Daria C Jiles at Juneteenth celebration at Jackie Robinson Park in Sun Village in the Antelope Valley, Los Angeles County, CA.

Daria Jiles 

Miss Sun Village

“When this park was dedicated, I was looking down on Jackie Robinson himself,” reminisces longtime Sun Village resident Daria Jiles (née Collier). “They were doing the groundbreaking. I didn’t quite know exactly who he was at the time because I was so young. There was a rocket here that was part of the playground equipment, it was me and Joanne Jenkins who were in the rocket. We were looking down and we were wondering, ‘What’s all the fuss about?’”

Although nonplussed by this arguably cosmic encounter in 1965, Jiles’s youth is full of cherished memories from the hometown she affectionately calls “The Village.” “We had the Teen Post, a state program run by Mr. and Mrs. Levi and Olean Kindred. It was located just adjacent to the park on 90th Street, and it was phenomenal for us because they would take us on trips. We would visit other parks, meet other teens, we’d have dances, go swimming, roller skating, [and] participate in other fun activities. The Kindreds kept us busy. In fact, they had this woman—she reminded me of Debbie Allen, the famous dancer—who came out here, and in the summer she taught twenty of us an African troupe dance. We competed in a major talent show at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. We placed in the event and were awarded with trophies. Eyewitness News filmed it, we got accolades from the newspapers. It was really a good time for us.”

And the laurels didn’t stop there. Jiles was crowned “Miss Sun Village” in 1971, advancing to the Miss Antelope Valley pageant where she competed alongside beauty queens from neighboring Palmdale, Lancaster, Antelope Acres, and Lake Hughes. “I really didn’t have a town that I [could] tout about and say…we have this here, and that there, and you want to come and visit because we’re famous for this. We weren’t famous for anything. For my platform, I went on the strength of the people, and the love and the respect that we had for one another and the community.”

After graduating from Antelope Valley College, a yearning for greener pastures led Jiles to Hawaii and then around the world. But it wasn’t long before she found her way back to Sun Village with her husband in tow. “I’ve been to seven countries, various places, but this place has always been a home for me.” And it’s clear that feeling runs in the family. “You know, older people, they grow gracefully out here…My mom lived here up until four years ago when she passed away. She was 102, and she just lived over on Avenue R-8, and she loved it here. You couldn’t get her to move anywhere else or be anywhere else.”

When asked what kind of public art she’d like to see installed in the park, Jiles’s response evokes the magnificence of the desert she adores. “I’ve thought about that and because of our breezes and beautiful clear blue sky and sunsets, I would like to see something standing erect.” Indeed, the Antelope Valley’s strong winds are so central to life there that even the desert trees grow at an angle out of the ground. “It might be several—maybe eight—bars or something, but I’d like to see those bars blowing in the wind and making a chiming noise, perhaps a song, if you will, in honor of our pioneers who worked hard for this self-built community. I think that would be beautiful.”