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

Naima Moore

Little Desert Sanctuary

A 35-year resident of the Antelope Valley, Naima Moore first found herself at Jackie Robinson Park in the ‘80s after being invited by the park’s former recreation services supervisor, Peg Lee. “She used to call me out…to judge the competitions with the kids, whether it be drill team, art,” Moore remembers. “One year, I brought African artifacts, and we filled up the gym, which was very instrumental for the kids to be able to see authentic artwork from Africa because the community was primarily Black.”

That first invitation blossomed into a nearly 25-year career shepherding art and activities at the park. 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. “Community-involved activists should always try to encourage things in the community, especially for the kids,” she notes, citing opportunities for community engagement and mentorship as some of the “most hopeful things” local leaders can facilitate. “You can see the community is not developed in the way you would really like for it to be. It’s beautiful, don’t get me wrong, but [it’s crucial that kids have] those opportunities and [a chance] to see themselves or someone like them engaging in those opportunities.”

It’s no surprise that she considers herself “pretty radical in terms of development,” encouraging everyone who interfaces with her community to “leave a little monument or something to say, ‘You know, I contributed to the Antelope Valley.’ … We have a thing going on right now where a Home Depot is supporting a healing garden next to our church. Bishop [Hearns] worked alongside Pastor Rivers to approve it,” she shares, acknowledging the ongoing contributions of a friend and collaborator she’s known for years. Together with Rhonda Moss, Moore and Hearns organized an annual “Justice Sunday” gathering that celebrates the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. What started in 2008 as a project within Living Stone Cathedral’s Call to Action Ministry is now a major civic event for the city of Lancaster.

“Not only is he a Minister, Bishop, but he’s also a community advocate, and even at 89 years old, he continues to be involved.” Moore admires Hearns deeply, and hopes other residents of Sun Village—new and old—will be inspired by his ongoing efforts to help the community keep the faith. “Age is a number. You might not be able to do all the things you normally do, but you can do something, even if it’s just a word of wisdom, plant a seed.” She recognizes that this is a hard time for a lot of people, but hopes everyone continues to honor the love they have for their community. And Moore asks that former residents of Sun Village who now live elsewhere not hesitate to return to their roots. “Don’t be afraid to share yourselves…Just because you moved away doesn’t mean you can’t pay it forward, or pay it back.”