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Lakeridge Black Student Union hosts screening of 'Black Girl in Suburbia' Dec. 11

On Wednesday Dec. 11, the Lakeridge High School Black Student Union screened a segment of the documentary "Black Girl in Suburbia" with the goal of sparking conversations around race and diversity in predominantly white places.

Two members of the BSU, Sonoma Leland and Zoë Walkenhorst, introduced the screening of the first 20 minutes of "Black Girl in Suburbia" and welcomed the filmmaker, West Linn native Melissa Lowery, to stage for a question and answer section.

Lowery started "Black Girl in Suburbia" in 2009 following a conversation with her oldest daughter, Jayla, who came to Lowery with questions after a girl pointed out that her hair was different. Lowery was raising her daughters in the predominantly white suburb of Hillsboro.

The conversation with her daughter about why her hair was different from the other kids at school led Lowery to reflect on her own childhood as a black girl growing up in West Linn, another predominantly white community.

She took to the internet to find other stories like hers and found nothing.

"To me it was sort of a no-brainer that this was a story that needed to be shared," Lowery said. So she shared the story herself.

The film was completed in 2014 and Lowery has been screening it ever since. PGM PHOTO: ASIA ALVAREZ ZELLER - Melissa Lowery answers questions about her film Black Girl in Suburbia

Veronica Burgos, Spanish teacher and BSU liaison at Lakeridge, contacted Lowery for advice and direction for Lakeridge's first BSU, new this year.

She was brought in to help Lakeridge start a conversation around race and the experience of being the "only" and feeling "othered".

These conversations are extremely important, Lowery said, because it validates the experiences of black and brown students.

Lowery said the biggest detriment to black students and other students of color is a school not validating their experiences.

"A goal for me was just to make those kids feel validated … and also to bring awareness to these experiences and not to poke anyone or make anyone feel ashamed or bad," Lowery said.

"(Students of color) tend to many times be the elephant in the room. Schools that are predominantly white have a hard time seeing those elephants."

Lowery added, "Those conversations lead to other conversations, hopefully, down the road."

Burgos said that the goal of the assembly was to spark future conversation.

Lowery added, "I think Lakeridge is at the beginning stages of really starting to take action and starting to have those really uncomfortable and deep conversations."

She said she's happy to be a part of that. She hopes to see partnership in the future between different schools' BSUs and other diverse groups so that all students know they are not alone in these experiences

"I'm really proud of the work that Lake Oswego is doing right now," Lowery said. "It's a huge step and I hope that it continues."

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