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Black Girl in Suburbia cover photo

Black Girl in Suburbia 2016

Highly Recommended

Distributed by Distributed by Women Make Movies, 115 W. 29th Street, Suite 1200,New York, NY, 10001; 212-925-0606
Produced by
Directed by Directed by Melissa Lowery
DVD, color, 88 min.



High School - General Adult
Japan, Popular Culture, Music Trade, Singers

Date Entered: 12/11/2018

ALA Notable:
Reviewed by: Reviewed by Monique Threatt, Indiana University, Herman B Wells Library, Bloomington, IN

“Too Black to be White…to White to be Black, let me give you a little insight from the inside.” –
Chanted chorus

In Oregon where African Americans make up two percent of the population, African American filmmaker Melissa Lowery takes us on a journey to shed light on what it means to be a black person growing up in a white suburb. High school educator Nia Lewis notes, “Oregon is the fifth whitest city in America so diversity is not prevalent, and people of color stand out.”

The film addresses topics such diversity in K-12 schools, or lack thereof, possible solutions to incorporate diversity into the curriculum, self-awareness, and identity. Interspersed with poems chanted as voice-overs, “too black to be white and too white to be black,” the filmmaker interviews teenage girls of color, educators, and friends to reveal a myriad of perspectives and personal narratives associated with being and living as a black person in an overwhelming white society shrouded in white thought.

The filmmaker points out that by moving her family to the suburbs, she is providing an opportunity for her children to attend better schools, and experience a healthier way of life. However, where once “white flight” was the norm--whites fleeing the city to the suburbs-- a shift in economics is leading more whites to flee back to the city in what author Annellee Newitz categorizes as “white infill.” This reviewer then questions if more whites are fleeing to the city, thus taking their dollars and resources with them, subconsciously contributing to the gentrification of neighborhoods, what then, does this mean for those left behind in the suburbs?

This is an interesting documentary in that primarily the narratives are from teenage girls of color, many of whom are of mixed ancestry. Although, several of the young girls in the film are recipients of passive aggressive stereotypes and jokes, many ignore the micro-aggressions of racism, and are comfortable “to go along to get along.” However, in reality, these young women must find a balance to live within white society while embracing their cultural and racial identity of being black, and/or bi-racial.

This film serves as a great library resource supporting African-American studies, community, education, gender studies, psychology, and sociology.