Empowerment Experiment Shines Light on Black Business Blight

Chicago couple pledges to "buy black" for 2009

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John and Maggie Anderson are spearheading the Empowerment Experiment to support black-owned businesses. (Source: Maggie and John Anderson)

Like many other blacks in Illinois who live in areas where mainstream grocery stores are absent or distant, Maggie Anderson travels quite a distance to find a grocery store that sells fresh food. The difference is Anderson doesn’t live in a food desert.  She travels 14 miles into Chicago’s inner city to Farmers Best Market because it is black-owned.

Maggie and her husband, John, a Harvard graduate with an MBA from Northwestern University, made a pledge that for a full calendar year, starting Jan. 1, they would only “buy black.” This means the money they spend for food, gas, vacations, and all other purchases will be limited to purchasing products and services of black-owned companies. The couple has switched to Covenant Bank, a black-owned institution, and they even hope to have their debt from student loans transferred to a black creditor.

“The whole purpose of taking the pledge is to demonstrate that I believe in black businesses so much so that I want to live off them for a year,” Maggie explains. “We want to see if there is a possibility years from now if all of the names that we hear, the Walgreens, the Hiltons, the Walmarts … We want one day for those families to be of different races,” Maggie says.

Many people, white and black, have applauded the Andersons’ endeavor, which was originally called the Ebony Experiment. The duo changed the name to the Empowerment Experiment in an effort to refocus the discussion away from race and toward economic empowerment. “It was a strategic decision,” says Maggie Anderson. “This new name better communicates what the experiment is really about. Also, we want to clear up any confusion in the public’s mind about our personal reason for making the pledge.” They are documenting their challenges and triumphs via their blog.

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  • http://blackstylists.com/imaginetouch Lakesha Strait

    I thank you so much for spotlighting this empowerment move. We have been buying black for 3years now but not totally black it is hard to find a black owned grocery store here in atlanta. And some other things is hard to find but most of our money is spent on black owned business, oh when you find that black owned student loan creditor let us know.
    Thanks keep up the good work GOD BLESS.

  • http://blackstylists.com/imaginetouch Lakesha Strait

    IS THERE A WAY THAT IN THE PROCESS OF FINDING ALL THESE BLACK OWNED COMPANIES YOU CAN POST THEM ONLINE SO THE PEOPLE WILL KNOW WHERE TO FIND THEM WITH BLACK ENTERPRISE?

  • http://www.findmechicago.com Reginald Pulliam

    Hello,
    I am the creator of FindmeChicago.com, a website that offers small businesses a way to be online and accessible to potential customers. Over time, as one of our goals, we’d like to put as many African-American small businesses on our site.

    The Andersons discovered the dollar store they shopped at on my web site, and I am working to add as many more worthwhile businesses on the site as possible. Please have a look, and let me know what we can do to improve the experience.

    Reggie Pulliam
    FindmeChicago.com

  • http://branche-enterprises.com Wallace Branche

    Hellow,I own a cabinet manufacturing shop in Las Vegas.If you decide to put a directory of back owned business on line please include mine. thank you.

  • Fay

    If I buy from all (insert any race here) owned businesses, does that make me racist? I prefer not to look at the color of the person’s skin I’m purchasing from, but rather their quality of work or product. Black, white, hispanic, asian, we all bring something good to the table. Why separate it out and miss all that good stuff? To stick to one race is racist, no matter what color the race.

  • Edward

    Fay… I agree!

  • Rhody Vaughn

    And you are proud of this because?…..

    From the dictionary
    rac-ism:
    a belief or doctrine that inherent differences among the various human races determine cultural or individual achievement, usually involving the idea that one’s own race is superior

    segregation:
    The policy and practice of imposing the separation of races.

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  • Paul

    How smart is this? I shop everyday – you honestly think any good American looks to see if it is Black, White, Asian or other owned? This is the ultimate sense of racism. What next – Only Blacks can eat in a Black owned restaurant. Please, we have all been there, done that… can’t we move forward?

  • bill harrison

    As a white observer of the “black” saga, I can say without equivocation that this movement will give the black community a giant push forward toward joining your brothers and sisters who have already seen the light of republicanism. The republicanization of the black community continues forward apace. It’s about time!

  • Kelsey

    If white people only shopped at white-owned businesses, it would be called racism. When black people do the same, it’s called “empowerment”. Give me a break.

  • http://www.microsoft.com jason

    the biggest most long lasting scam of a particular race of all time has been going on since A. lincoln. America has had many programs for the black american for a long time now. Blacks have affirmative action, minority business benifits(which also include women and every race of man that isn’t white).Those two programs are the hugest in my mind because they show a great racism where you hold one races hand like a kid and the white male has to not have a fair and equal shot. When you dumb down a race or gender and desensatize them to working thier way up or being competitive you are destroying the guts of that race and gender in the long run mentally. The president we have is going to be the most racist of all..He is going to raise and expand unemployment benifits which we just read was twice as much black unemployed than white which WHAT? Another program to dumb down the black race till you will only have black elitist and poor black families, with a pinch of middle class black families.!!

  • robert

    If the white man started this, the black community would be up in arms yelling Racism! Jessie, Al and all the rest would be protesting. But the white man just takes it with a grain of salt. Let them do what they want. We don’t need their business. Signed…..White business owner

  • kizzy

    You are correct, if white people did something like this it would be called racism. Well, because it usually is. White need to work on their image, not our problem.

  • BOB

    I put a listing on FINDABLACKDOCTOR.COM Folks call all the time and ask if I’m black and my secretary tells them that’s racism and refuses to answer the question! I’m WHITE and proud of it. Also Cherokee, Scot, and who knows what else in the woodpile.

  • Cicero

    Judge not according to the color of one’s skin, but rather by the content of their chraracter. Let’s see, who suggested that?

  • Doug

    Sounds like a great idea! I think I’ll do it as well. Of course, since I’m white, I have to boycott any businesses that are not white-owned. Like with the Andersons, it will involve some personal sacrifice in my part, since the local discount grocery store is owned and run by a black man. He is the most courteous, helpful store owner/manager I’ve ever encountered. He can see the checkstands from his office through a one-way mirror, and when the lines get long, he comes out and begins checking groceries himself. He always has a smile and a kind word for everybody. His store has amazing bargains compared to the better-known store. Problem is, he’s the wrong color, so, in the spirit of what the Andersons are doing, he will no longer get my business. We gotta look out for our own, right?

  • Hizzie

    I’m tired of the double standard that blacks have. Your fathers and gransfathers fought hard to be equal and now all you do is fight to be seperate. You don’t have to work hard for anything. Everything is handed to you yet blacks still have to cry racism and take more. We even voted a black man president but that still isn’t good enough. When the hell are you people going to wake up and take responsibility for yourselves and try to be productive members of the community instead of seperatists, race baiting hate mongers. Slavery wasn’t first practiced on blacks yet your the only group that still dwells in it.

  • http://www.hokindi.com Tom

    Mark Zuckerberg, a white guy, created facebook so you can’t use that anymore. Come to think of it all those computers, made by the asians, have to go back to the store. You won’t be able to watch this on tv either as that will need to go back. Common sense is easy – hence it being called common – but so many people lack it these days. So here’s to the three words of the day HYPOCRISY – RACISM – IGNORANCE. And what’s this “we” on voting a black man into office – one he’s only partially black – people keep forgetting that – two I didn’t vote for him.

  • http://3-116thsniper.blogspot.com Mike

    So, if you’re mixed race do you have to spend half of your money at black-owned businesses and the other half at white-owned businesses or can you go with either? And what if you’re a half-Eskimo, half-Mongolian… should you try to seek out jointly owned Eskimo/Mongolian dry cleaners?

    This is racism folks. Excluding other races based soley on race is racism no matter what your skin color is.

  • http://www.hokindi.com Tom

    Yes, I almost forgot all the restaurants and types of great food you can’t have anymore. Good luck finding the following restaurants with black owners:
    Chinese
    Mongolian
    Sushi
    German
    Mexican
    Personaly, I love my diversity and my ability to buy from who I want. Admittedly there are no Soul Food restaurants around here – but I do have Soul Food seasoning. Yes, they really make it. I did my part for the man, the black man, by buying a spice most likely made by a white man.

  • John

    Yeah… If white people did this you would all freak out and get the NAACP and Rainbow involved. Why the double standard?

  • Laura

    How about investing your research on finding only eco-friendly products. Because honestly… is the research going as far as the manufacturer or just who owns it at the time??? Just cause the store owner is black does not mean the product is!!!! SOME PEOPLE NEED TO THINK BEFORE SPEAKING. I understand shopping in your own community to keep it alive but only to shop at black owned is still confusing to me. Not sure what the point is? GO ECO FRIENDLY, ORGANIC SAVE THE EARTH FORGET ABOUT EVERYTHING ELSE… MY GOODNESS!!!! GOD BLESS!!

  • JoAnne

    Maggie and John Anderson are ra cists in the 10th degree! Fine if they only want to buy from Black businesses, I say White people should start a new trend based on Maggie and John Anderson’s ideals and tell White people to only participate at White Businesses and see how they like this new tread if it catches on!

    They are the worst kind of ra cists and I think this will backfire because there are more White people than black people… and they are encouraging the races to split and become b igots and ra cists. They are disgusting to say the least. I wonder was this sparked because they now think they have a b lack president…hmm, he is actually bi-racial and his mother is was as white as snow! THIS MAY CATCH ON ALL RIGHT AND BLACK BUSINESSES WILL PAY THE PRICE OF DISCRIMINATION!

  • Terry

    Looks like its time to open a sign business. I will make signs that say Black only or White only.
    We can seperate the shops and resturants by who produces the items in them. We could then put a sign that says black only on one end and White only on the other. The people that support only black business has finally done what no white man has been able to do. Turn back the clock of time.
    Talk about degrading their on kind. What a dumb ass move.

  • http://aol Laura

    As a white person, I wonder what nonsense I would be accused of if I decided to shop at “white-only” owned businesses. “Racist” would be the top of black people’s adjectives hurled at me. Maybe I should start something on the internet so that we can test this theory. Sounds like you folks are racist, and anti-white business!

  • http://aol Laura

    oh wait, if you get this list together of black owned businesses, please post it online at Facebook, so we white people you call racists can make sure we don’t shop at any of them. I’m sure you don’t want our “white” money

  • Terry

    I just noticed State Farm is an advertiser on this site. Is State Farm a black owned business ?
    I have been a customer for over 30 years and I think I will call my agent and ask. If it is and they are helping to sponsor this site by advertising I will be changing.

  • Ken

    This is clearly racism and until these double standards of racial interaction are discussed and negotiated, we are never going to be truly working together as it should be. This kind of separatism only creates animosity (as witnessed by some postings), not solutions. We need to lift each other up, not segregate ourselves.
    I have done an experiment of my own and have been buying “American”, even when I pay more, because I want desperately to save “American” jobs and our way of life. And, yes, by American I do include all races, ethnicities, and cultures (all of which any I will do business with!).
    These old “separatist” ideals are outdated and we need to work together for a common good, not separately for individual racial goals. We have come too far for that.

  • Denman

    I have never really thought about who owned a business when I have done shopping. From now on I will think about it and not shop @ black owned businesses! Now can you get the feel of the Racism they are creating?

  • http://www.hokindi.com Tom

    They need to revise to make it a percentage. If you make it… say that nearly 15 percent of the people that own/run the company must be black then they can pretty much start shopping at Walmart again. There’s 15 on the board of which two are black guys so it’s 13.3% black unless you count the Chairman and then it’s 12.5% black.

    Wal-Mart is governed by a fifteen-member Board of Directors with Robson Walton as Chairman of the Board – he’s a White Guy

    Michael T. Duke – Chief Executive Officer (CEO) White Guy
    Lee Scott Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Board White Guy
    Aída Álvarez White Woman
    James Breyer White Guy
    M. Michele Burns White Woman
    James Cash Black Guy
    Roger Corbett Old White Guy
    Douglas Daft Old White Guy
    David Glass Scary Old White Guy
    Gregory B. Penner White Guy
    Allen Questrom Old White Guy
    Arne M. Sorenson White Guy
    Jim Walton White Guy
    Christopher J. Williams Black Guy
    Linda S. Wolf Old White Lady

    I’d like to see this “empowerment” group picket in front of Walmart telling the poor people not to shop there anymore because it’s mainly run by White people. You might have a riot on your hands. I’m not saying everyone at walmart is black or poor – I’m just saying they get more than their fair share.

  • hustleandfloe

    As usual, the comments reveal much more about us than about the issue. I think education in basic history and logic/reasoning would benefit those who vehemently guide this conversation straight to their most scandalous nerve and decry this as…racist. It’s, unfortunately, not worth beginning the discussion with someone so hurt by this brand of ‘racism.’ Not saying that you would even have to agree with the experiment, but the criticism as read on this page speaks, again, to a basic lack of ability to think. Am I the sharpest tack. No. Sue me. But I do appreciate when grown folks can calm down and discuss a couple of things with level heads with distorting argument based on selfish need to feel hurt.

  • http://www.hokindi.com Tom

    hustelandfloe – I agree you are not the smartest tack – when making any type of comment regarding anything it is always in your best interests to actually make a point. All my comments state facts that cannot be ignored and reveal the hyporcisy of these people – your comments are just like Obama’s – A LOT OF WORDS THAT SAY NOTHING.

  • Laura

    How about investing your research on finding only eco-friendly products. Because honestly… is the research going as far as the manufacturer or just who owns it at the time??? Just cause the store owner is black does not mean the product is!!!! SOME PEOPLE NEED TO THINK BEFORE SPEAKING. I understand shopping in your own community to keep it alive but only to shop at black owned is still confusing to me. Not sure what the point is? GO ECO FRIENDLY, ORGANIC SAVE THE EARTH FORGET ABOUT EVERYTHING ELSE… MY GOODNESS!!!! GOD BLESS!!

  • Bob B

    Regarding the Ebony/Empowerment BS:

    Let’s just say (god forbid) one of Anderson children were stricken with Sickle Cell Anemia.

    Following this flawed thinking, they would *NOT* be able to use the services of Dr. H. Franklin Bunn- a sickle cell blood specialist at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

    http://bunn.bwh.harvard.edu/

    I’ll go one step further.. why should Dr. Bunn even consider any further research because (by being “not-a-person-of-color”) black folks (who are afflicted with sickle cell) will shun his services.

    Here’s my take on the Andersons:

    hyp·o·crite

    Pronunciation: \?hi-p?-?krit\
    Function: noun

    1 : a person who puts on a false appearance of virtue or religion
    2 : a person who acts in contradiction to his or her stated beliefs or feelings

  • brad

    Some of you black folks have been reversing everything that MLK ever accomplished. It’s a shame.

  • http://WeThePeople.com Mark Christopher

    If you’re only buying from black people, are you buying everything Obama says? Or only half of what he says? I think you are racists in the third degree….. buying from only blacks…. shameful. Experiment????

  • ron

    I totally agree with the Andersons. We spend 95% of your monies, outside our communites. This destroys our businesses, and our communites. It is all ways about the money! Keep it the good work.

  • Ed

    Hi Maggie,

    I empathize with you on your project. When I go to Cincinnati or Chicago, there aren’t many African American own businesses to purchase items from and most businesses in black neighborhoods are run by non-African American business owners. I see some problems though: It is not easy to tell who the owner is. And even you know the owner, he/she might not be spending money in the neighborhood.

    I think the main emphasis should be in the increasing black business ownership and improving and expansion of the business.

    I think there should be an incubator(s) to help educate, design best business possible. And hopefully it would include other groups as well.

    Good Luck to you on your project.
    -E

  • http://blackenterprise.com Marcia A. Wade

    BlackEnterprise.com responds: To those who stated that the Andersons’ Empowerment Experiment is racist or anti-white, Maggie Anderson says: “Self-help economics enhances the collective self-esteem, and provides more role models while creating jobs, promoting entrepreneurship, and converting tax burdens into taxpayers. It’s no more racist than buying American; or lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender [consumers] buying from gay business owners to support them; or women seeking women-owned businesses.”

    Neither the Andersons – or Black Enterprise – believe that black businesses or black products are inherently better than those from other races. The Andersons have clearly stated in many interviews that the Empowerment Experiment is not about black supremacy. A key to lifting the black community out of poverty is guiding the growth and expansion of black businesses, and Black Enterprise wholeheartedly supports that mission, going so far as to make it one of its 10 Wealth for Life Principles. (http://blackenterprise.com/wealth-for-life/wealth-for-life-principles/2009/03/13/i-will-support-the-creation-and-growth-of-minority-owned-businesses/)

  • http://none Chirs

    I can’t believe you are doing this. Martin Luther King Jr. is rolling over in his grave. This is what he died fighting against it. This is the most racist thing I have ever heard of. You and everyone involved ought to be ashamed of them self’s. What if all the white’s did the same, bought only from white owners, look where we are at now back in the 50′s, and the we would be raising hell about it. Do we really want blacks against whites again, this is ridiculous. May God have mercy on your souls.

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  • Gnomesain?

    “The Andersons have clearly stated in many interviews that the Empowerment Experiment is not about black supremacy.”
    Then Why are you discriminating against non-black businesses?

  • http://none Brad Quinlan

    I LOVE this! Just saw the segent on CBS Early Show. God Bless this effort. It can only be positive! Racist this is not, in my opinion. This conduct is not harmful, in a direct fashion, to the businesses receiving patronage. This conduct is not promoting preferential treatment by an institution (government or commercial)…it is the exercise of choice, free will, and an effort to improve the lives of a specific segment of our society. God Bless, you have my support!!! :) )))

  • http://none Brad Quinlan

    By the way, are you going to construct a list (by zip code) of black-owned businesses. God Bless America and freedom of choice. I am certain that those claiming that this is racist do not understand that racism usually requires that harm is being done…just because money are going to black-owned businesses that otherwise may go to white or publicly-owned (stocks are traded) businesses does not constitute harm to the white-owned businesses.

  • http://none Brad Quinlan

    Intentional harm…the event here is a loss of business by white/corporate business because of exercise of free choice. Some persons choose do do business with onlybusinesses that support ‘green’ (environmental) practices. Some may only want to patronize white-owned businesses…none of this is racism as defined by law…freedom of choice.

  • http://empowermentexperiment.blogspot.com eexperiment

    Does this promote racism? America is ready for a change. Example: President Obama. Ideas like this help keep racism alive and strong.

    Check out this site: http://empowermentexperiment.blogspot.com

    During these hard economic times, Americans should be buying American goods. Not Blacks from Blacks.

  • http://empowermentexperiment.blogspot.com eexperiment

    Does this promote racism? America is ready for a change. Example: President Obama. Ideas like this help keep racism alive and strong.

    Check out this site: http://empowermentexperiment.blogspot.com

    During these hard economic times, Americans should be buying American goods. Not Blacks from Blacks.

  • http://na free

    This Louisville couple pledges to ‘buy white’ for 2009 and to vote that monkey out of office

  • James green

    Thank you guys so much for this.

    You have my support 100 percent.

  • http://www.FongangLegacy.com Fongang Francis

    Great job to the Andersons. Why are all these people writing about you not write the same about the Jews doing business only with Jews, Koreans doing business only with their community, Chinese doing business only in China Town…? Are they not tired of draining the Black community of their 900 Billions/year income which leaves them at the beginning of the next year broke because all other communities have positioned themselves to only make them consumers? When are you guys going to get enough of this Black Community? Please, grow up and be shameful of this 21st century moderm slavery. Blacks need to circulate their money in their community, so they can also sent their kids to private schools, afford good healthcare, improve their lifestyles.. This is not RACISM as you may frightening the world to think folks. This is about the betterment of a community. Having them understand and take control of their economics and help their community.
    Couarage Andersons. We throw our support behind you 100%

  • http://www.FongangLegacy.com Fongang Francis

    Great job to the Andersons. Why are all these people who are writing about you not write the same about the Jews doing business only with Jews, Koreans doing business only with their community, Chinese doing business only in China Town…? Are they not tired of draining the Black community of their 900 Billions/year income which leaves them at the beginning of the next year broke because all other communities have positioned themselves to only make them consumers? When are you guys going to get enough of this Black Community? Please, grow up and be shameful of this 21st century moderm slavery. Blacks need to circulate their money in their community, so they can also sent their kids to private schools, better colleges,afford good healthcare, improve their lifestyles.. The is the power of BLACK ECONOMICS we are talking about here folks. This is not RACISM as you may be frightening the world to think folks. This is about the betterment of a community. Betterment of a people. Having them to understand and take control of their economics and help their community.
    Courage to The Andersons. We throw our support behind you 100%
    Don’t settle for less. They have used the media, and all possible forums to enslave this community for 400 plus years(?) through false FEAR!. In the 21st TOO!!

  • http://WWW.HONBCITURS.COM HOWARD GUNN

    I AM A RETIRED BLACK AGRICULTURE EDUCATOR. I OWN AND OPERATE SEVERAL AGRICULTURE BUSINESSES. I HOPE EVEYONE WILL CONTINUE TO SUPPORT THE EFFORTS OF THE FARMER, PARTICULARY THE BLACK FARMER.

    PLEASE VISIT AND SHARE http://WWW.HONEYBCITURS.COM
    HAPPY HOLIDAYS

  • Mike

    I can see why you believe that this scheme will benefit black businesses.

    You are implying that people do not buy from black businesses even when they offer a product that is better or at least equal to what is on offer elsewhere (otherwise these businesses would be thriving). Therefore they need support from this scheme to stay in business.

    Naturally you may end up paying more in time and money to buy what you need, but is your time and money to use as you wish.

    However if the implication that people prefer to buy from non-black owned businesses is incorrect, then you are effectively making the whole community poorer by supporting these businesses.
    (by reducing the savings of many and rewarding the far fewer business owners).

    I personally believe that most shoppers are colour blind, looking for the best deal or the best product. There are better ways of promoting black businesses than this.

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