Empowerment Experiment Shines Light on Black Business Blight - Black Enterprise
Black Enterprise Magazine September/October 2018 Issue

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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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Marcia Wade Talbert

Marcia is a multimedia content producer focusing on technology at Black Enterprise Magazine. In this capacity she writes and assigns stories to educate readers about social media; digital integration; gadgets, apps, and software for business and professional development; minority tech startups; and careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). In 2012, she received two Salute to Excellence Awards from the National Association of Black Journalists and was recognized by Blacks in Technology (BiT) as one of the Top 10 Black achievers in the tech arena for 2011 at SXSW in Austin, Texas. She has spoken about technology on panels for New York Social Media Week, at The 2012 Rainbow/PUSH Wall Street Summit, as well as at Black Enterprise’s Entrepreneurs Conference and Women of Power Summit. In 2011, SocialWayne.com chose her as one of 28 People of Color Impacting the Social Web, and through crowdsourcing she was listed as one of BlackWeb2.0's/HP's 50 Most Notable African American Tastemakers in Social Media and Technology for 2010. Since taking on the role of Tech editor in September 2010, she has conceived and produced five cover stories on Technology and/or STEM and countless articles, videos, and slideshows online. Before joining BlackEnterprise.com as an interactive general assignment reporter in 2008, she freelanced with Black Enterprise beginning in 2003 while working as the technical editor at Prepared Foods magazine. There she further honed her writing skills and became an authority on food ingredients, including ingredients used in food fortification and enrichment. Meanwhile, her freelancing with Black Enterprise and BlackEnterprise.com helped her stay current on issues pertaining to the financial and business welfare of African Americans. As a general reporter for Black Enterprise she attended and reported on the Democratic and Republican National Conventions, where she interviewed Valerie Jarrett, senior advisor and assistant to President Barack Obama and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. Marcia has a Bachelor of Science degree in Agriculture with an emphasis in food science from the University of Minnesota, and a Master of Science degree in journalism from Roosevelt University in Chicago. En route to her secondary degree, she served as the editor-in-chief of the Roosevelt University Torch, a weekly, student-run newspaper. An avid photographer and videographer, Marcia is one of several employees at BLACK ENTERPRISE who interned for the publishing company as a college student. She lives in New Jersey with her husband, a food scientist; her seventeen-month-old daughter; and “The Cat”, but still considers Chicago home.

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