Lila Beldo at Juneteenth celebration at Jackie Robinson Park in Sun Village in the Antelope Valley, Los Angeles County, CA.

Lila Beldo 

A Grand Place to Live

When Lila Beldo’s mother, Josephine Bullard, relocated their family to the desert in the 1950s, Beldo and her brother, Milton, feared the worst. “We thought she had lost her mind,” Beldo quips. Still, it didn’t take long for the duo to acclimate to their new, more arid home. “When we started school, the kids were so friendly, and they wrapped their arms around us. We only had one high school, Antelope Valley High School in Lancaster. Back then children were bussed from several locations: Littlerock, Wilsona, and Sun Village. I said, ‘Okay, Mom. You don’t have to take us back to LA every week so we can see our other friends,’ because we had made friends up here.’”

For Beldo, life in Sun Village is warm and loving in a way that sets it apart from anywhere else she’s been. “I’ve had the privilege of traveling a little bit, you know, in different countries, but I always want to come back here…it’s a grand land, a grand place to live, especially to bring up your children.” Part of this feeling stems from a deep sense of care that spans generations. Growing up, “the older people [at church]…just kind of took us under their wing,” she recalls. “Back then, you would listen to what people say because you know that they weren’t gonna harm you. Whatever they said was [in] your best interest because if you didn’t tell your mother or you were doing something wrong, well, they would tell them and you might get a spanking.” 

“When I was raising mine, people look after your children if you aren’t around, or if you turn your back or whatever, there was always somebody that was going to look after your children to keep them out of harm’s way.These days, she’s proud to continue this tradition as a community elder. “I like for older people to be doing that, and now I’m doing that for other children.” She’s also one of Sun Village’s biggest cheerleaders. “I don’t think people would have any regret of moving up here, you know, away from the hustle and bustle, because I think the big cities have gotten so large to where that warmth and closeness is not there. But I find that it’s still here in the Valley.

Her favorite memories of Jackie Robinson Park involve time spent with the First Baptist Missionary Church (now the Living Stone Cathedral of Worship). “Our church…used to have our picnic out here. I think my fondest memory was getting into that kitchen there. And me, I don’t cook, so I was just talking, you know, making everybody laugh and stuff like that, but it was such a warm place to be. That’s one of my greatest…memories, having a picnic up here and mingling with all the members, not only members of our church, but the community because they knew if First Baptist was out here in the park, they could always get something to eat.”

Like many of her neighbors, Beldo hopes to one day witness the unveiling of a monument honoring the park’s namesake. “A statue of Jackie Robinson—I would like for it to be at the entrance of the building,” she shares. “[Him coming here] was great for us, a real good thing for us, you know. And when I say us, I mean the Black community.”