Tim McDowell of Mother Jones interviews Chicagoan Maggie Anderson, who embarked on a difficult yearlong journey to shop only at black businesses. She says it was not easy.
The business consultant made the decision after living in the mostly white suburb of Oak Park left her feeling guilty about failing to spend in black communities. To put her mind at ease, she decided to spend only in impoverished black neighborhoods such as Chicago’s West Side, Mother Jones reports.
“The whole point,” she said, “was, ‘You know what, we care about the West Side. We need to help those people, those are our people, and we need to do what we can to make a difference there.’ So we thought, instead of buying groceries here in Oak Park we could go buy groceries on the West Side. And it was not that simple at all.”
The problem, Anderson realized, was that most businesses in predominantly black neighborhoods weren’t owned by African Americans; most of the money spent in those concerns would leave the community come closing time. So she persuaded her family to embark on a far more challenging mission: For a full year, they would attempt to spend their cash exclusively at black-owned businesses.
The ensuing adventure, dubbed The Empowerment Experiment and chronicled in Anderson’s book Our Black Year (coauthored by Chicago Tribune reporter Ted Gregory), took them from gritty corner stores at the epicenter of urban decay to Texas megachurches to the boardrooms of the nation’s most powerful trade organizations. By the end, the Andersons emerged from the maw of racial-economic inequality with powerful insights into how black Americans might better wield their collective $913 billion buying power to improve their communities. I spoke with Anderson, whose book comes out this week, about the backlash she encountered, economic segregation in the black community, and the near-impossibility of finding black-made products at Walmart.
While there are challenges, Anderson’s story should inspire all of us to do more to support black businesses.
Read more at Mother Jones.