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David Douglas family night continues conversation on race

A discussion of race, schools, families and community will be on tap Thursday night at the Eighth Annual African American Family Night in David Douglas School District.

The East County District of 10,330 students is about 10 percent black, growing more so as gentrification from North and Northeast Portland continues.

A counselor at the grade 9 to 12 Fir Ridge Campus began organizing the event eight years ago, in an effort to help those who felt displaced.

'A lot of our parents felt they weren't connecting with teachers, students felt they weren't connecting witih staff,' says La Shawanta Spears, known to her students as Miss Taye. 'It's an opportunity for our district come together, all in a room, having a real conversation.'

Eight years later, Spears is still hosting the event every February, around Black History Month, soliciting donations in the fall to pay for free dinner and childcare at the event.

Last year, about 115 people showed up; a prize raffle and entertainment are also on tap.

This year there will be an academic award in honor of Rob Ingram, the city's Office of Youth Violence Prevention director who died in November of a heart attack, and was a big presence in the David Douglas schools.

Students will perform spoken word poetry and violin music; a Hillsboro mom, Melissa Lowery, will discuss her documentary, 'Black Girl in Suburbia' (www.blackgirlinsuburbia.com); and there will be information about school and after-school resources, jobs, cultural awareness, gang prevention and health services.

While the school district does not host the event, they help get the word out to families, Spears says.

The family night is set for 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 16 at the Fir Ridge Campus, 11215 S.E. Market St. For more information, call Spears, 503-256-6530, ext. 8167.