Black Girl in Suburbia

Friday, June 13, 2014

Melissa Lowery ’09 was in third grade when she first realized her skin color might set her apart. A little boy in her class refused to use the water fountain after her, fearing that her darker skin would “rub off” on him.

Lowery’s oldest daughter, Jayla, was about the same age when she started asking her own questions, like why she was the only “brown kid” in her class who didn’t speak Spanish and, a few years later, why people commented on her hair.

“We had a conversation about where we live, how to handle yourself, that it’s OK to just be you,” Lowery said. “But I started looking back at my own experience and thinking, ‘Huh, this is a good opportunity to dig into this experience a bit more.’”

The result: Lowery, a media arts graduate from Pacific University, just released her first feature-length documentary, titled Black Girl in Suburbia, about the experience of growing up as an African-American woman in the predominantly white suburbs of Oregon and elsewhere in the United States.